The Alben and Gunda Borgstrom family is a story unknown by most, forgotten by some, and treasured by few. Whatever the case may be, it still remains that this story of loyalty, personal sacrifice, and courage portrays the leadership qualities of a man and his family with a strong conviction to live and die for what they believed in. It is a story of a man and his family’s price for freedom. A freedom enjoyed by those living in the U.S. each and every day.
The following family history of Alben Borgstrom from G.B. Bennett (personal communication, may 5, 1994) states he was born in Brigham City, Utah. His parents were immigrants from Sweden, who came to the United States looking for a better future for them and their family. Alben married Gunda who was an immigrant from Norway. The couple settled in Thatcher, Utah where they had ten children, seven boys and three girls. The family lived though the tough times of the depression, hoeing beets for farmers throughout the region in order to survive the hard times.
The oldest boy died of appendicitis at age nine. By 1944, the five remaining sons were enlisted into the military. Eldon, the youngest of the brothers was too young to enlist into the military at that time. During the six-month period between March and August, Alben and Gunda paid the greatest price they could for their countries’ freedom. Four of their sons were killed in action in W.W. II giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the bloodiest war of all time.
Clyde Borgstrom – Guadalcanal was one of the first major victories of the war. The first offensive was launched August 7, 1942, but the island was not secured completely until six months later. The allied forces used each of the captured islands as a springboard to launch an attack on the next island. Heavy equipment and men to operate that equipment were transported to each island to make runways and roads, providing supplies for the next battle. Clyde was a bulldozer operator. His job was to clear the land of trees and debris to construct the airports. Thick mud and heavy rains made the task difficult. Clyde was killed March 17, 1944 by a tree crushing him while bulldozing debris. He was awarded the Bronze Star with V device for valor against the enemy in one of the most famous battles of the war.
Leroy Borgstrom – Leroy was drafted into the Army in November 1942. He was serving as a medic with the 91st Division in Italy at the time of his death. The second brother to give his life for freedom was killed on June 22, 1944 in the battle of the Anzio beachhead. He was carrying a wounded soldier on his shoulders under heavy fire. He too was awarded the Bronze Star.
The twins, Rulon and Rolon, enlisted in the Army in 1943 just as soon as they turned 18.
Rolon Borgstrom – Rolon was known as the best shot of the family. He was assigned as a gunner on a bomber crew based in England. The air offensive played a major role in defeating Germany and Italy as the Allies developed bombers that could fly long distances. As many as 1,000 allied bombers would make daily raids over Europe by 1942. Rolon was the third brother to be killed after being shot while flying over Germany on August 8, 1944. He died in England and for his heroism received the Air Medal.
Rulon Borgstrom – When news of Rolon’s death reached Utah, Senators Elbert Thomas and Abe Murdock, Congressman Walter Granger, and Utah Governor Herbert Maw petitioned President Franklin Roosevelt to have the other two brother Boyd and Rulon, taken out of active duty or transferred statewide. Before action could be taken and just seventeen days after the death of his twin, Rulon was reported missing in an attack on La Dreff, France, on August 25, 1944. He died an infantryman as part of the big offensive that started on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He too was awarded the Bronze Star.
With the intervention of President Roosevelt, Boyd was allowed furlough and returned home. Through all the tribulations, Alben remained a strong moral leader. Four years after the last son’s death, four coffins were shipped to Thatcher. A special funeral was held in the Garland Tabernacle as a nation and community paid them honor. General Mark Clark was among those who spoke at this memorial service and as recorded in the Re-dedication Ceremony for the Borgstrom Hall (1987 – Ogden) summed up feelings when he said, “For us they willingly and nobly gave life, itself. They achieved what very few of us dare to hope will be our future, a share in the shaping of destiny. To them belongs a page of history, a page of courage and strength that will be forever read and reread by their fellow citizens.” Others in attendance at the memorial service were Governor Herbert Maw and L.D.S. Church President George Albert Smith.
After the Funeral service and before the burial a special dinner was held. During the dinner, in a conversation with the Borgstrom parents, General Mark Clark Records: Mrs. Borgstrom turned to me, and in a low voice said: “Are you going to take my young one?” (She still had one son who was yet in his teens) I knew what she meant and I was glad I had done my homework, But hated to tell her, that under law, with two sons remaining, he would be subject to call. But in almost a whisper I told her that as long as I Remain in command of the Army on the West Coast, If her boy was called I would do my best to have him assigned to duty at home.
In the middle of this whispered conversation with the mother, the father suddenly leaned forward and said to Mrs. Borgstrom: “Mother, I have overheard your conversation with the general about our youngest and I will make no deals about his service. When his country needs him, he will go.” The mother made no further comment. I could hardly contain my emotions. Here was a man with four sons lying dead from wounds received in battle, and he was ready to make the last sacrifice if his country required it. Here was a the personification of Americanism.