Yesterday, I posted the first of three Medal of Honor recipients from September 13, 1943, Private William J. Crawford. Here is the second man to receive our Nation’s highest honor for his actions that day following the Allied invasion of Italy on September 9, 1943.
Arnold L. Bjorklund was born on April 14, 1918 in Clinton, Washington. United States Army enlistment records show that he was a landscaping or nursery worker when he joined the Army on February 20, 1941. Bjorklund was eventually commissioned as an officer. He was a First Lieutenant with the 36th Infantry Division‘s 142nd Infantry Regiment when they landed at Salerno for their first combat action during World War II.
Four days later, he exemplified the best quality of a commander of men in combat: leadership can only be from the front. When his platoon was pinned down by multiple machine guns and then a mortar, Lieutenant Bjorklund ordered his men to give him cover as he dealt with the enemy alone.
|Photo from Military Times’ Hall of Valor|
BJORKLUND, ARNOLD L.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 36th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943. Entered service at: Seattle, Wash. G.O. No.: 73, 6 September 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943. When his company attacked a German position on Hill 424, the first platoon, led by 1st Lt. Bjorklund, moved forward on the right flank to the slope of the hill where it was pinned down by a heavy concentration of machinegun and rifle fire. Ordering his men to give covering fire, with only 3 hand grenades, he crept and crawled forward to a German machinegun position located on a terrace along the forward slope. Approaching within a few yards of the position, and while continuously exposed to enemy fire, he hurled 1 grenade into the nest, destroyed the gun and killed 3 Germans. Discovering a second machinegun 20 yards to the right on a higher terrace, he moved under intense enemy fire to a point within a few yards and threw a second grenade into this position, destroying it and killing 2 more Germans. The first platoon was then able to advance 150 yards further up the slope to the crest of the hill, but was again stopped by the fire from a heavy enemy mortar on the reverse slope. 1st Lt. Bjorklund located the mortar and worked his way under little cover to within 10 yards of its position and threw his third grenade, destroying the mortar, killing 2 of the Germans, and forcing the remaining 3 to flee. His actions permitted the platoon to take its objective.
The present day 36th Infantry Division is an Army National Guard unit comprised of guardsmen from Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. Elements of the 36th have been federalized on numerous occasions since September 11, 2001 and have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.