Albertson, Gerald V. (661st)

Gerald V. Albertson 4Gerald V. Albertson

Biography:  Gerald Vernon Albertson, “Vern”, was born on March 1, 1919, in Nunda, South Dakota. He was the son of Oscar Albertson and Mabel Josephine Grinde and attended Rutland High school. His mother passed away in 1927 when he was only 8 years old. Her death would make a lasting impact on his life, instilling compassion and kindness, which he would show to others in every situation.

He graduated in 1937, and went to work as a farmhand caring for livestock and maintaining the farm equipment. He also served as an assistant Scout-Master for two years.

Service Time:  Vern entered the service on January 23, 1942, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was sent to Fort Riley, KN, for basic training and specialized training as a mechanized cavalry soldier. His performance won him the position of training instructor and he was promoted to acting Corporal on July 8th, at the C.R.T.C. (Cavalry Replacement Training Center) with Troop A, 7th Squadron.

He was chosen for Cavalry Officers Training and began his instruction on July 13, 1942. He completed the course and was placed on active duty at the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on October 3rd. He was then sent to Camp Hood, Texas, and initially placed in the four week Basic Orientation Course, followed by another six weeks of Advanced Tactical Training. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on May 1, 1943.

On the evening of December 18, 1944, Vern was injured when the car he was traveling in crashed into a concrete pillar, at the intersection of Battalion Avenue and 50th Street, on the Camp Hood base. He had a concussion, lacerated forehead and an injury to his left ankle. He spent the next sixteen days in the base hospital. When he had recovered sufficiently, he was sent to New York and shipped out for the ETO on January 10, 1945, with the 661st Tank Destroyer Battalion. Vern was assigned to Headquarters Company, which arrived at Le Havre, France, 11 days later on the 21st.

Gerald V.Albertson 5The 661st was equipped with M18s and were committed to battle at Rocherath-Krinkelt, Belgium, on February 16th. They fought along the Siegfried Line near Helenthal, Germany, in March and crossed the Rhine on the 27th of that same month. The unit advanced across Germany to Leipzig, by April 17th, where the men saw their last fighting. Vern had served as the company’s Executive Officer for a period of six months and commanded the company for the last two months of his deployment. He received the EAME Medal with credit for each of the unit’s two campaigns of Rhineland and Central Europe. He also received the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp. Vern returned to the U.S. on July 6, 1945, and reported to Camp Stoneman, California. On February 8, 1946, he received his permanent promotion to 1st Lieutenant and was discharged two days later on February 10, 1946, at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

Separation Papers

Promotion to 1st Lieutenant

Vern went back to Nunda and in February of 1947, he married the former Pearl Maxine Olson, at the Prairie Queen Lutheran Church. The couple had twin boys, born in 1949, but sadly the two did not survive due to health reasons. In August of 1950, Vern was called back into service as part of the United States Army Reserves. He reported for a physical and was then placed back onto active duty for a period of 21 months beginning October 1st, 1950. He was assigned to the Tank Destroyer Unit Command assigned to Headquarters under the 5th Army, serving as an intelligence staff officer.

About a year and a half later, he transferred to Camp Carson, Colorado, where he served as a platoon leader with Company F of the 11th Armored Cavalry. On December 19th, 1951, Vern requested that he be released from active duty as he and his wife were expecting a child. In a letter to his commanding officer, Gerald asks that he and his wife be allowed to return to their South Dakota farm to prepare for their new baby. His appeal was granted and he reverted to inactive status on January 15, 1952. Gerald and Pearl returned to South Dakota. The couple had two more sons, Donavon and Greg and two daughters, Pam and Susan.

In 1961, Vern received a B.S. in Science from the General Beadle State Teachers College but after a brief experience as a student teacher, he realized this wasn’t the job for him. He worked for the Postal Service in both Madison and Wentworth, retiring from Wentworth in 1981. He was an active member of the Trinity Lutheran Church, participating in the choir and Men’s Brotherhood, and was both an usher and church council member. He was a member of the American Legion, the VFW, a Boy Scout Leader and Food Pantry Board Member. 

Gerald V. Albertson 2Vern passed away on January 28, 2003, and was buried in the Prairie Queen Cemetery in Nunda, South Dakota. I want to thank Henry Anderson for providing the information, documents and main photo for this tribute. I also a want to thank Paul Fiskum for the grave marker photo.