Keep Them Rolling: World War II letters from Louis Solberg

COLFAX — Louis Solberg, who passed away in 2008, grew up in Albertville, owned a farm north of Colfax and later on farmed on the Rusk Prairie. He and his wife, Alda, who passed away in 2006, operated the farm in the Town of Otter Creek during the 1940s and 1950s.

Here is Part 11 of Louis Solberg’s book, “Keep Them Rolling” (Company 314) (A World War II Story 1941-1945).

December 23, 1943 — The Chaplain put on a Christmas party for the kids in school near the camp. I had forgotten about that Bob Bell was in charge, and Steve Kostelac was Santa Claus. They treated the kids to bags of candy.

Christmas Eve we had a candle-light service in the mess hall.

Christmas Day, Johnson, Sivey, and I went into Belfast and had Christmas dinner at the Megaws. They were friends of Larry, and they treated us royally. We had turkey and all the trimmings.

I think that must have been our first and only home-cooked meal as long as were in the E.T.O.

The next day was Sunday. R.J. Murray and I went for a walk. We must have walked seven or eight miles. This was our second Christmas in Ireland.

Our Company got a card from the people in town. They wished us a Merry Christmas and hoped we would be there the next Christmas. Everyone hoped their wish wouldn’t come true.

January 27, 1944 — Ernie Dorrance and I went into Belfast to the Grand Opera House to see the show, “This is the Army,” put on by Irving Berlin. I don’t know how long it ran. It started January 13 and put on two shows nightly, one at 5:45 and one at 8:15. It was very good.

Mumps

February 25, 1944 — Johnson, Ranum, and I took a train and went to see the Mountains of Mourne. They are down by the Irish Sea. It was a very interesting trip.

I spent from March 1 until March 18 in the army hospital near Belfast, ten days on my back: I got the mumps from someone who came after parts, I suppose.

A few days after I came back, Drauden got them, then Johnson, and Heil followed. No one in any of the other huts got sick.

Port Rush

Sometime between March 19 and March 25, Corporal Hill, Woodring and myself went to Port Rush on a three-day pass.

The Seventh Wonder of the World is there in the form of the Giants Causeway, a stone formation that crosses the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland.

There is also a rock formation there known as “The Giant’s Chair.”

The first day we went to see some old castle ruins, and the guide told us of the history connected with them.

The next day we went to Londonderry and saw sights, took a ride on the Toonerville Trolley, out along the coast. That was fun. It is a narrow gauge railroad with small open cars, pulled by a trolley car. This is the same railroad that the comic strip, showing the Toonerville Trolley, when we were kids. It used to run out of power and the passengers would get off and walk until the power came on. Then it would start up and come along, and we get on and ride aways. Just like it was in the funnies.

We were real fortunate to be able to get a pass quite regularly here, so we enjoyed much of the sights of North Ireland while we were there.

Party

June 18, 1944 — We had a party here Friday night, in the hall across the road from the camp.

Corporal Smith, better known as G.I. Smith, and some of the other guys, I don’t remember who, got a hold of a couple white feeder pigs, somewhere along the way from England to here. They kept them at the farm on which this camp sat and fed them on garbage from the mess hall. So now they are full grown.

To make a long story short, they butchered the hogs, and I suppose, roasted them, hence the party.

They brought in a bunch of Irish gals and a band form somewhere, so the boys tripped the light fantastic and lunched on roast pig.

I was Sgt. of the Guard that night, but I at least got in on the lunch.

July 12, 1944 — We have been listening again to the sound of the Orangemen beating the drums. They are celebrating William of Orange Day again. No St. Patrick’s Celebration here in Ulster.

July 13, 1944 — Some of us attended a horse show. The Irish are noted for their nice horses.

July 15, 1944 — Many of us went to see Joe Louis put on a boxing exhibition. I can’t remember just where it was, but it wasn’t at our camp. Very likely it was in or near Belfast.

Sunday, August 6, 1944 — We had church in the mess hall as usual. In the afternoon, some of us went to Loch Neigh and went swimming. The water was pretty cold, about like well water. You can imagine when the average summer temperature is 60 degrees.

September 30, 1944 — It was always payday, the last day of the month, and as usual, we get paid before supper, and then get in the chow line. Some of the boys just couldn’t wait to get rid of their money, so as they waited for supper, they would be rolling dice along the way. More than once, some of them would get cleaned out before they sat down for supper.

The last of September and the first part of October found the combat troops all leaving Ireland. We were busy crating up the equipment we had on hand and shipping it out.

(In Part 12, Louis and the other soldiers return to England).