I have been researching the Weber County servicemen and women from World War II for almost three years. One thing I have come to appreciate is that I (a baby boomer) have only a very shallow view of the times that my grandparents and parents lived in.
I know that the depression had a great impact on my Dad. I saw it while he was alive, but did not understand it until years later. I know the history of my grandparents during the depression but I cannot even imagine the fear and pain that it caused them.
Then came World War II. Times were different. It was no longer difficult to get a job that paid well. But now the sons (and daughters) were leaving to fight in far away lands against two brutal enemies. And in the Ogden Standard Examiner, every day, were the stories of the wounded, the missing and the dead.
I start each story with a name. I do some research to put the story into context. Sometimes it is easy. Other times, the stories don’t make any sense. And sometimes I find a whole different story that I really didn’t expect.
That is why this one is a little different. Private Edgar Dale Erickson was born in Ogden to Conrad and Bertha Erickson. They lived at 2849 Childs. Edgar attended Ogden schools and graduated from Ogden High School
Private Erickson was drafted and entered the army on November 2, 1942. He was a member of the 8th Infantry, the 121st Infantry Regiment, serving in France shortly after D-Day. They disembarked on Omaha Beach on July 4, 1944, four weeks after the initial invasion. Their first attack came at the Battle of France. With all objectives taken they began moving against the Germans. On July 28th, while advancing, Private Erickson was killed in action. He was one of 2,852 from the 8th Infantry killed in the war.
The story took a slightly different turn when I read an article about his mother.
Bertha Erickson is shown at the bottom center of an article about railroaders (and their families) supporting the Sixth War Loan by buying bonds. The article reads, “..another mother has announced her intention of buying a bond in memory of her son who died on the battlefields of France in July. Mrs. Erickson , a widow of 18 years, has two other sons in the military. The eldest son, Jim, is stationed at Washington D.C. while Richard, the youngest, has seen action in North Africa, Sicily and entered France on ‘D Day. He is now fighting in Germany.” Another daughter worked in the war industry.
Now curious about her husband I did a little more research. The Weber County 1920 Census showed the family at the Childs address. Conrad, the father was employed by the railroad. The next article came on November 28, 1924. Conrad Erickson, age 49, despondent over his inability to find steady employment, attempted suicide by shooting himself in the heart in the couple’s bedroom. He was taken to the Dee Hospital in critical condition, the bullet lodged in his back. The next week he was removed to the State mental hospital in Provo, by order of his physician. The article reported that he had become combative in the hospital, had to be restrained and it had been necessary for a deputy to stay with him. His recovery, they reported, is said to be doubtful. The article ended with, ‘his condition has become such that as a precautionary measure it was thought best to return him to the mental hospital where he was formerly a patient.
I am not sure how long he stayed there. I couldn’t locate the family in the 1930 census. Conrad Erickson died in January of 1937. The 1940 Census shows Bertha Erickson as a ‘domestic’ in a private family dwelling.
This is such a tragedy that I hesitated to write about it. But this story is about Bertha. After dealing with the mental illness of her husband and the physical problems and death that resulted years later, she sent three sons to war. And in addition, after losing one, she worked with the railroad employees, as a Gold Star Mother to sell war bonds.
The strength and commitment that came from the mothers of this generation is truly inspiring to me. Even in the worst times, they were out there helping, in whatever they could do, to support their sons in war.
Private Erickson is buried in the beautiful American Cemetery in Normandy, overlooking Omaha Beach.