Local WWI Hero Served in France
By Teddie Meronek
While doing research at the Superior Public Library, I pulled out several old copies of the Gitche Gumee. The “Gitch” was the yearbook produced each year by the students of the Superior Normal School (now UWS). As I looked through the 1916 edition of the book, I came across a section called “Senior Class Statistics.”
These statistics listed the names of members of the senior class, their chums, their amusements and their destinies. Amusements were things like “flirting” and “breaking hearts” and destinies ranged from “keeping house” to “professor of hieroglyphics.”
I looked through the names of the graduates and as I scrolled down the list, I wondered if I would recognize any of them. I did. There, near the bottom of the column, was the name Henry Blomberg. Henry’s destiny, according to his classmates, was “heaven.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I knew Henry because during the many years I’ve been researching the history of Superior, I’ve become familiar with the names of many of its citizens. I recognized Henry’s because I remembered that there had been a VFW Post named after him and the only way to have achieved that honor was to have died in service to your country. I knew then that I had to find out more about this young man who was destined for heaven.
Henry Blomberg was born in Superior on August 3, 1892. He was the child of Swedish immigrants and his father, Claus, had no more gotten off the boat from Europe in 1864 before he quickly found himself fighting in the American Civil War. Soon after Henry’s birth, the family moved to Aitkin County, Minnesota to farm.
By the time he had graduated from Aitkin High School, Henry had decided to return to Superior and continue his education at the Normal School. While attending the Normal, Henry became a top debater, played football and baseball and served as athletic editor on the Gitche Gumee staff. He also joined the Wisconsin National Guard and after his 1916 graduation went with them as part of the group that was patrolling the United States/Mexico border.
After his service with the Guards, Henry took a teaching position in Virginia, Minnesota. His career in education didn’t last long since the United States was soon pulled into the war in Europe. He registered for the draft and in the summer of 1917, he rejoined the boys of Company I of the Wisconsin National Guard and went to train at Camp McArthur in Waco, Texas. He was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant and soon found himself on a boat to France with the 32nd Division.
While in France, Henry’s commanding officer recognized his abilities and promoted him to commander of Company M. The company needed reorganization and he knew that Henry’s natural leadership and education would help him to accomplish this task.
By August 30, 1918, the company found itself engaged in battle at Juvigny which was north of Soissons, France. Throughout the fight, Henry displayed acts of personal daring that inspired his men to “carry their line forward under heavy fire and machine guns.” He was promoted to Captain, but was too busy at the front to accept the commission.
On October 5, 1918, Henry’s company entered the battle of the Argonne. During the fight, Henry exposed himself, time after time, to hostile fire while trying to reorganize the line. He captured a German machine gun, set it up and used it against the enemy while under terrific fire himself.
Unfortunately, Henry’s luck had run out and he was seriously wounded. He died that day in France, a little more than a month before the end of “the war to end all wars.”
After his death, Henry was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross which, after the Medal of Honor, is our nation’s highest military honor. For his bravery on the field of battle, France awarded him the Croix de Guerre. His old friends from the Lyceum Debating Club of the Normal School commissioned a portrait of Lieutenant Blomberg which they presented to the college.
On the day of its dedication in September of 1919, G.M. Palmer, who had been Henry’s English teacher, said that Henry “could see his duty and never hesitated to do it.” His portrait would remind others of the sacrifice that so many young men had made in the name of freedom.
In addition to the many honors he had received, Henry would be given one more by his fellow soldiers. A group of men who had seen service with the United States Army in Europe decided to organize a local branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Superior.
In October of 1921, Robert Craik was elected commander of the new Post and it was decided that it would be named after Lieutenant Henry S. Blomberg. A final honor for a young man who had made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Henry is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. This is the largest United States military cemetery in Europe and most of the 14,246 people who are buried there died in the Meusse-Argonne offensive of World War I.
In August of 1919, Henry’s mother, Josephine, applied for a passport. When answering the question why she desired a passport, Mrs. Blomberg replied that she “wished to visit her son’s grave in France.” Her son, Lieutenant Henry Blomberg, who had served so bravely on the field of battle, had certainly attained that long-ago predicted destination of “heaven.”
Mr. Blomberg was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for action taken on August 30, 1918 according to the 32D “Red Arrow” Veteran Association. The following information is displayed on their website:
Blomberg, Henry S.
First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army
Company D, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: 30 August 1918
“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Henry S. Blomberg, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Division, A.E.F., near Juvigny, north of Soissons, France, 30 August 1918.
Inspiring his men by his own personal bravery, Lieutenant Blomberg vigorously led his company forward in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, capturing the heights overlooking Juvigny, with many prisoners. After reaching the objective he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire time after time in reorganizing the line.
During the defense of the position won he personally set up and operated a captured German machine gun against the enemy while under terrific fire.”
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 143 (1918)
Born: 3 August 1892 at Superior, Wisconsin
Hometown: Superior, Wisconsin
Death: 4, or 5, October 1918
Interred: Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery
He graduated Aitkin, MN, H. S.; enrolled in State Normal School at Superior, WI where he was a top debater, played football and baseball, and was athletic editor of the school yearbook,Gitche Gumee, graduated in ’16; teacher at Virginia, MN during brief period between Mexican Border Crisis and mobilization for WWI; enlisted in Co. I, 3D Wis. Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Superior, WI; Sgt. in that unit during Mexican Border Crisis; 1st Sgt. in that unit when it mobilized 15 Jul. ’17; assigned to Co. I when 127th Inf. was organized; commissioned at some point; 1st Lt. assigned to Co. D by the time the 127th Inf. sailed for France aboard USS George Washington; also awarded Croix de Guerre “In operations at Juvigny led his command in a brilliant manner and captured prisoners.”; may have been promoted to Capt.; may have been assigned to Co. M, 127th Inf. at some point; namesake of Henry S. Blomberg Post No. 847 of VFW in Superior.