Friday, April 20, 2018

WW2 Fallen - Medal of Honor hero Arlo Olson, 3rd Infantry Division

Captain Arlo Olson earned the Medal of Honor while serving in Italy. 
Arlo Laverne Olson never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on April 20, 1918 in Iowa. His parents Frank and Vera were also both born in Iowa. His father worked as a bank cashier. He moved his family to South Dakota where he was also a bank cashier. Arlo's paternal grandparents were from Sweden. Arlo had one younger sister. By 1940 Arlo had graduated from the University of South Dakota where he participated in ROTC.

Arlo married Myra Boudreaux. They had one daughter.

He enlisted in the army on June 9, 1940. He became a captain in the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. The 3rd Infantry was one of the first US Army units to see action in the war. It helped free French Morocco in late 1942. Captain Olson would also have participated in the invasion of Sicily and Salerno. Things only got tougher when the 3rd Infantry took part in the fighting in Italy. 

On October 13, 1943 the 3rd Infantry attacked across the Volturno River. Once on the other side of the river, the 15th Infantry Regiment went on to take the high ground. His leadership over the next two weeks showed he did not keep to the rear at the company command post. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Captain Olson's Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 

On October 13, 1943, when the drive across the Volturno River began, Capt. Olson and his company spearheaded the advance of the regiment through 30 miles of mountainous enemy territory in 13 days. Placing himself at the head of his men, Capt. Olson waded into the chest-deep water of the raging Volturno River and despite pointblank machine-gun fire aimed directly at him made his way to the opposite bank and threw 2 handgrenades into the gun position, killing the crew. When an enemy machinegun 150 yards distant opened fire on his company, Capt. Olson advanced upon the position in a slow, deliberate walk. Although 5 German soldiers threw handgrenades at him from a range of 5 yards, Capt. Olson dispatched them all, picked up a machine pistol and continued toward the enemy. Advancing to within 15 yards of the position he shot it out with the foe, killing 9 and seizing the post. 

Throughout the next 13 days Capt. Olson led combat patrols, acted as company No. 1 scout and maintained unbroken contact with the enemy. 

On October 27, 1943, Capt. Olson conducted a platoon in attack on a strongpoint, crawling to within 25 yards of the enemy and then charging the position. Despite continuous machinegun fire which barely missed him, Capt. Olson made his way to the gun and killed the crew with his pistol. When the men saw their leader make this desperate attack they followed him and overran the position. 

Continuing the advance, Capt. Olson led his company to the next objective at the summit of Monte San Nicola. Although the company to his right was forced to take cover from the furious automatic and small arms fire, which was directed upon him and his men with equal intensity, Capt. Olson waved his company into a skirmish line and despite the fire of a machinegun which singled him out as its sole target, led the assault which drove the enemy away. While making a reconnaissance for defensive positions, Capt. Olson was fatally wounded. Ignoring his severe pain, this intrepid officer completed his reconnaissance, supervised the location of his men in the best defense positions, refused medical aid until all of his men had been cared for, and died as he was being carried down the mountain.

His grave is at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota. His widow and daughter have since died, but he has living grandchildren and great-grandchildren who never met him.

Thank you Arlo for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Arlo.

Last year on this date I profiled B-17 crewman William Hammack. You can read about William here.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

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