War filled with terrible memoriesLUVERNE — Sixty-five years have passed since Gordon Tobiason boarded a ship to bring him back home after World War II had ended in the European Theater, and to this day the Rock County veteran still does not want to talk about the horrific sights of war.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Sixty-five years have passed since Gordon Tobiason boarded a ship to bring him back home after World War II had ended in the European Theater, and to this day the Rock County veteran still does not want to talk about the horrific sights of war.
Tobiason gets a bit misty-eyed when he thinks about everything he went through as a soldier with the U.S. Army. He says people don’t want to hear his war stories. In fact, he’s certain they wouldn’t believe them.
In six and a half decades, he never shared with his family the kind of hell that is war.
Tobiason’s son, Lyle, joined his father at the Minnesota Veteran’s Home in Luverne late last week to talk about the war. Lyle said, “He’s still not over it.”
There have been times when Lyle has approached his father from behind, and when Gordon sensed someone was there, he’d practically jump through the roof. Once, Gordon said, he turned around and punched someone in the face — and it was done out of fear.
Living in fox holes and hiding out from the German soldiers in the midst of a war will do that to a person.
Gordon Tobiason grew up on a farm a few miles west of Kenneth. He dropped out of school by the time he was 16 and went to work alongside his dad on the farm until he was drafted at the age of 23.
“I was still a young man,” he said.
He was inducted into the U.S. Army on April 15, 1942. After training in Fort Sill, Okla., and the Mojave Desert, he spent time on both the East Coast and the West Coast before being shipped to Europe.
“I ended up in France,” he said, adding that they landed in Le Havre and headed inland to Rouen.
Most of the time the soldiers traveled by truck, Tobiason said. As a member of the 105th Field Artillery, he was a bazooka man, but it was the rifle he carried most often. They’d sleep in canvas tents or in fox holes, depending on where they were sent.
“I dug (fox holes) and I slept in ’em,” he said. “We used to get hay and straw to put in the bottom. That was my living quarters.”
The fox hole was about three feet deep, and just long enough that he could sleep.
“It wasn’t too wide, either,” he added.
Tobiason recalled one time, when they were supposed to set up camp and an American plane flew overhead.
“The Germans shot the airplane,” he said, drifting off and pausing for a moment. “I saw guys sitting by the trees that had been burned.”
To this day, Tobiason still feels helpless for those soldiers who were injured. He also speaks of being very fortunate to have not been injured in war. He saw a lot of injuries, and he saw a lot of death.
Once, when some German civilians got caught in the cross-fire, Tobiason said he watched as two brothers came to get their dead family members and haul them home in wheelbarrows.
For a time, Tobiason’s job was to guard German prisoners of war.
“They did the cooking at the camp I was at,” he said. “The Germans did the work. I was a body guard.”
When the war ended, Tobiason was one point short of being sent home and had to spend the Christmas of 1945 in France.
“I should have been out in December,” he said. “That was pretty hard to take.
“When the war was over, my outfit broke up. We sent guys to the Pacific and other guys went home,” he added.
Tobiason ended up spending his last remaining days in a cigarette camp in France, located between Le Havre and Rouen.
“There was four different camps,” he said. “Camp Twenty Grand, Philip Morris, Lucky Strike and I think Pall Mall.”
The camps were typically known as staging areas or replacement depots during the war.
Tobiason received his honorable discharge in January 1946 from Camp McCoy, Wis., and for his nearly three years of service he was awarded the Good Conduct, American Campaign and European Theater medals.
He returned to Rock County on a Sunday afternoon in late January, and walked to his uncle’s barbershop to see about getting someone to come and pick him up.
Reuniting with his family was wonderful, said Tobiason. “I had good parents.”
He started farming once again with his father, and was married that summer. He and Loretta had been dating before he was drafted, but he sent very few letters home during his time in the service.
“My writing is very poor,” he said. “I scribbled a little bit so they’d know I was still alive.”
After they were married, the Tobiasons remained in Rock County, eventually settling on a farm near Magnolia. As any true farmer, Tobiason never really retired, helping his son on the farm in more recent years.
In December, Tobiason became a resident at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Luverne. At 92, he will be among more than 100 World War II veterans embarking on the third flight of Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota later this month.