Testimonies from the Midwest

 

 Army Pfc. Gilbert Edward Mjoen, Co. F, 2nd Battalion, 414 Inf. Reg., 104th Division

  Army Pfc. Gilbert Edward Mjoen  Division Patch Photo of Gilbert Edward Mjoen

 

Gilbert Edward Mjoen was born on January 30, 1925, at Volin, South Dakota. Of Scandinavian ancestry and raised in the Lutheran faith, Gilbert was a high school student before he entered the service on April 23, 1943. The following is his own story, told in his own words.

Service Record: I entered the service at Ft. Crook, Nebraska, on April 23, 1943, and took 17-week basic training at Camp Roberts, California. I joined the 104th Infantry Division in the Bend, Oregon, area on maneuvers and then went to Camp Hyder and Camp Horn in Arizona. From there I went to Camp Granite in California and then to Fort Carson in Colorado. From there to New York to board George Washington for the European Theatre of Operations. We landed in Cherbourg, France, then fought through Belgium, Holland, and then into Germany to the Elbe River about 50 miles from Berlin where we met the Russian Army. I returned to the states on the ship Leif Erickson.

My duties were first gunner on the light machine gun squad and also the 50-caliber machine gun. My campaigns were in the European Theatre of Operations: Belgium-Holland, Siegfried Line to Rhine, Central Germany, and Junction with Russians. While in the town of Moerdiik, Holland, I was wounded in the thigh.

Camp Encounter:   While spearheading riding tanks of the 3rd Armored Division from the Rhine River to the Elbe River, we encountered a concentration camp near the city of Nordhausen, Germany. When the young ladies of the camp saw us, they came out and hugged and held on to us so that  they would not have to go back to the camp which had been deserted by the German troops. Inside the camp were bodies stacked like cordwood. I personally did not get into the areas where the bodies were left where they dropped, but heard many accounts from people who did get inside. We just kept on going and did not stop to check it out. That was up to the Medics to find as many living as they could and keep them alive. We saw many pictures of what it was like inside the encampment ....

Awards: I was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Good Conduct Medal.

 

After the War: Pfc. Mjoen  was discharged on December 15, 1945, at Camp Beale, California. He had this to say about his experiences:

I returned to South Dakota and went to Nettleton Commercial College from June 1, 1946, to June 1, 1947. I worked in accounting for 13 years and worked in banking for 32 years, retiring in 1992. I was united in marriage on February 20, 1946, to Lucille L. Sorensen at South Sioux City, Nebraska. We were fortunate to raised 4 children, Roger W., March 26, 1948; Pamella J., February 3, 1954; Robert D., September 18, 1956; Sheryl L., January 20, 1960. We have 10 grandchildren.

 

Advice from a World War II Veteran to Today's Youth:

World War II was necessary to stop Dictators and Emperors from trying to rule the world. Our younger generations need to know what people of the occupied countries had to go through and be lucky enough to survive. All people are created equal and no one person or country should be able to dictate to other countries or ethnic groups how to live their lives. The young people of our country have to be strong and not permit this to happen, or we will have WW III and that will be the end as countries now have the materials that can wipe out a nation in a flash. Be proud of your country and serve it with pride if the need should arise to preserve our freedom. I am proud that I was able to serve my country in time of need with the 104th Infantry Division. 

American soldiers file past the bodies of prisoners killed in the Nordhausen

American soldiers file past the bodies of prisoners killed in the Nordhausen
concentration camp, which have been laid out in long rows outside the central
barracks (Boelke Kaserne); photo courtesy of USHMM

An American soldier speaks with survivors in Nordhausen; photo courtesy of USHMM

An American soldier speaks with survivors in Nordhausen; photo courtesy of USHMM

A young Polish boy and his weeping father bury the body of

  A young Polish boy and his weeping father bury the body of
the boy's grandmother just outside of the Nordhausen
concentration camp; photo courtesy of USHMM

American soldiers walk along an open, mass grave prepared by the German

American soldiers walk along an open, mass grave prepared by the German
residents of the town of Nordhausen to bury the thousands of victims of the
Nordhausen concentration camp found at its liberation; photo courtesy of USHMM

http://www.104infdiv.org/