Testimonies from the Midwest

 

1st Sgt. Edgar G. Pedersen, 912 Field Artillery, 87th Infantry Division

       1st Sgt. Edgar G. Pedersen            Division patch           Photo of Edgar G. Pedersen

Edgar G. Pedersen was born on June 7, 1919, and was raised as a Lutheran. Edgar entered the service on February 21, 1941, after graduating from high school. The following is his story, told in his own words.

I was inducted into the Army at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. I was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for training in the Third Infantry Division. One year later I was on cadre to activate the 81st Infantry Division at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Following a year of training, I was transferred to assist in training troops for the 87th Infantry Division at Camp McCain, Mississippi. From Camp McCain we were sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Camp Kilmer, New Jersey and then shipped to Macasfield, England. We then proceeded across the English Channel to France.

The 87th was the first unit in the European Theater of War to take hold of German territory. Our unit, with the 35th Division on the left and the 44th Division on the right, replaced the 26th Division, who had suffered heavy casualties in battle with the 11th SS Panzer Division. This was followed with the disengagement of the battle in Saar Basin, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we moved into strategic reserve to defend Sheaf. Our next conflict was the Battle of the Bulge, then the Battle of the Ziegfried Line and from there the drive to Koflenz and the crossing of the Moselle, with the subsequent conquest of Koblenz. From this point we crossed the Rhine, drove across Germany and liberated Orhdruf and Buchenwald prison camps. Our mission concluded in Czechoslovakia at the end of the war. I spent 154 days on the front lines.

Pedersen and Company during Battle of the Bulge, Germany

Pedersen and Company during Battle of the Bulge, Germany; photos courtesy of Edgar Pedersen

Camp Encounter: For me, personally describing and discussing World War II is very difficult. The cold, the snow, lack of food, and constantly living with death and dying was unbearable. My encounters with actual German prisoners was limited, but I was an active part of the liberation of Camp Ohrdruf, near Stutzhaus, Germany. This camp held primarily American soldiers and was an experience I will never forget. To see the joy and jubilation on the faces of the liberated Americans is something I will never forget, but also I will never forget the death and decay at this camp. No American should have to be subjected to this type of treatment. My respect and admiration go out to all American POWs.    

 

After the War: 1st Sgt. Edgar Pedersen was discharged on October 19, 1945. He had this to say about his experiences.

I joined the US Army in February 1941 and served until October 1945, little knowing what I'd face in those 4 1/2 years. After receiving an Honorable Discharge I returned home to South Dakota and married Marie Thiesen. We immediately started farming in Kingsbury County, South Dakota and raising our family. John was born in September 1946, Jeanne in March 1949, Roland in December 1953, and Jerry in May 1960. Though I did not pursue further education after high school graduation, our four children all received college degrees.

 

Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today's Youth:

Life is precious and life is short. For some World War II soldiers, the short life meant departing this earth in one's twenties and thirties and for some of us fortunate World War II Veterans a short life is still being experienced in the 80s. I don't know if any war is right or just, but America's entry into World War II was right and just. Our people and our country were under attack and it was our responsibility to defend our shores. My parents both immigrated to this country in their twenties. They left their homeland for a better life and during the early 1940's a better life in America required sons and daughters to defend this great land with their lives. My war experience defined my patriotism; it taught and showed me that we are the greatest and strongest country in this world. We value life and we value freedom and to me this is what patriotism is all about. In closing, I would want students to appreciate our great country, study, and be knowledgeable about the conflicts and the sacrifices made during these conflicts. I would want them to be life-long learners and extend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

 

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Hayden Sears (R), a Colonel in the U.S. Army, with survivors in Ohrdruf

Hayden Sears (R), a Colonel in the U.S. Army, with survivors in Ohrdruf; photo courtesy of the USHMM

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and other U.S. Army officers view the bodies of executed prisoners while on a tour of the Ohrdruf concentration camp
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and other U.S. Army officers view the bodies of executed prisoners while on a tour of the Ohrdruf concentration camp; photo courtesy of the USHMM