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Colfax Messenger archives: Selmer Larson writes home about heroic death of Victor Olson

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Selmer Larson, who some readers of the Messenger may remember as a rural mail carrier in Colfax, wrote a letter to the Colfax Messenger describing the death of Staff Sergeant Victor L. Olson.

The letter was published in the February 24, 1944, edition of the newspaper.

Selmer Larson died December 28, 2010.  He became a rural mail carrier in 1948 and retired in 1975.

According to his obituary in the Messenger, Selmer was born November 18, 1917, in Colfax. He was nine days older than Victor Olson, who was born November 27, 1917.

The subtitle of the article containing Selmer’s letter reads, “Sgt. Selmer Larson Tells of Olson’s Death in River Crossing.”

“Vividly describing the heroic death of T/Sgt. Victor L. Olson in New Guinea on January 28, Sgt. Selmer Larson writes a very interesting letter to B.C. Gullickson, commander of the local Legion Post.

Sgt. Larson’s letter, which follows, describes Olson’s death and many other interesting facts of his heroism in service:

“Somewhere in New Guinea; 6 February 1944.

“Dear Mr. Gullickson:

“I should like to take this opportunity to thank the Legionnaires of your post for their generous gifts of cigarettes which I received last week. It is gratifying to know that we, now serving overseas, have been well remembered by the people at home.

“It is also felt that you should be informed of the splendid record of achievement established by the late Technical Sergeant Victor L. Olson, of our village, who was killed in action on January 28th last while assisting other members of his patrol to withdraw across a swift mountain stream after having encountered superior enemy forces on the opposite bank. Though he himself could have reached safety he remained in the river to form a human chain with several others, enabling patrol members to grasp the hand of the last man and thus be pulled ashore. While so engaged the group which constituted the chain was under intense enemy fire from the opposite bank, making its task an extremely hazardous one. I ask that this singular act of high courage and heroism be brought to the attention of Colfax’s citizens. The memory of his deeds have been an inspiration to his fellow-soldiers and should be a continued source of pride to our community.

“His brilliant record as a combat soldier in the battle of Buna last year, I believe, is well known and his combined accomplishments have set him apart as a fine soldier, both off the battle field and upon it.

“To his family goes the sympathy of many of us here who knew him. They may rest assured that his contribution to our cause was a noteworthy one. — Sincerely yours, Selmer Larson.”

Selmer Larson was discharged from the U.S. Army in June of 1945 and married Vernetta Fanetti at St. John the Baptist Church in Cooks Valley in November of 1945. The Larsons lived their entire lives in Colfax and raised six children.

Vernetta Larson died July 28, 2014.