Friday, January 1, 2021

The Uncle I Never knew

Arne Gerhard Benson, the uncle I never knew died when I was seven, and I didn’t know he existed until I was a teenager. His military service was revealed to me when I was given a stack of letters in 2008. I believe it is best to tell what I can of his story with excerpts from those letters.


Cordova Alaska, July 2, 1942,
Dear Mother
… As you know I cannot say much about what I am doing except that it’s in the line of defense. … I may be deferred if my work is important enough, … I will try and get home after this business is over. …
Your Son, Arne


Ft. Lewis, Wash, Dec 2, 1942,
Dear Mother,
… I’m in the Army now. Just four weeks tomorrow. … I was rather sorry to leave Alaska, … It was pretty lonesome up there. …
Your Son, Arne


Ft. Lewis, Wash, Jan. 16, 1943,
Dearest Mother,
This is the first time I’ve had off for some time so will write a few lines. … I’ve still got Pay Checks coming from the Army Engineers. … We had some pretty tough going up North, and also in the Orient … I can’t tell you much about it now but hope to be able to soon. …
Your loving Son, Arne,


Ft. Lewis Wash, Jan. 16, 1943,
Dear Dot (Arne’s sister),
… I’m in intensive training once more so guess my back will be all right. I didn’t tell Mother as she would have worried. I transferred my service when I got out of the hospital. I was with the Army Engineers in Alaska waters and the Far East. I got broken up … in the Bering Sea. My collar bone, three ribs, two vertebrae in my back and my left leg below the knee. It sounds like a lot but wasn’t so bad….
Your Bro, Arne


Apr. 24, 1943,
Dear Mother,
Just a line to let you know that everything is O.K. with me. … I’m getting rather skinny from too long hrs. and too much work, but as soon as I get the stripes I want, I’ll take it easy again (maybe).
As always, your son, Arne


Office of the Chaplain, May 7, 1943,
Mrs. Josina Benson, Sanish, North Dakota,
My dear Mrs. Benson Last Wednesday morning at 10:00 o’clock I conducted the funeral service for your son Arne G. Benson SN 39194057, who passed away Sunday morning May 2. … interment was made in Fort Lewis Cemetery. …

Uncle Arnie’s military record shows that he died of Scarlet Fever with a secondary cause of Bronchopneumonia. With no living relatives to answer questions, knowing that the Japanese invaded parts of the Aleutian Islands, the Corps of Engineering built landing strips there, and Japanese radio was monitored from fishing boats, one can only wonder what experience was behind some of his statements.

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