A World War II Vet's Chance Encounter With Frank Sinatra - 1944

Last Updated by Brian Gevik on
Images Courtesy Bill and Jane Lofgren

Bill Lofgren (on the left in the photo below) grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

bill lofgren and high school friendsBill Lofgren (L) and High School Friends

Lofgren enlisted in 1944 believing he'd be drafted and in the service one way or the other.

Bill Lofgren YoungBill Lofgren in 1944

Lofgren received his military training in several locations, including Camp Roberts, north of Los Angeles.

Bill Lofgren Outside his Barracks at Camp RobertsBill Lofgren Outside his Barracks at Camp Roberts

On a brief leave from camp, Lofgren and several army buddies traveled to Los Angeles for a night on the town. They weren't disappointed.

Images of the Past A WWII Vet Remembers Frank Sinatra - 1944 Hitch-hiking G.I.s out for a night on the town in L.A. got more than they bargained for.

Lofgren (below, firing rifle) returned to Camp Roberts and completed his training  He earned rifle marksmanship and pistol certifications and was ordered to Europe.

Basic Training at Camp RobertsBasic Training at Camp RobertsSDPB File

He crossed the Atlantic on the luxury liner "Queen Elizabeth," which had been pressed into service as a troop transport. Lofgren remembers being crowded onto the ship with thoudands of other soldiers. The situation required sleeping in shifts - and a lot of time on deck with little to do but play cards.

Queen Elizabeth at New York HarborQueen Elizabeth at New York HarborSDPB File

Lofgren's first experience with combat came at the Battle of the Bulge. He says that the one thing he really needed and didn't have was appropriate footwear.

national archives battle of the bulgeU.S. Chow Line, Belgium, 1945National Archives

First U.S. Army men and equipment pour across the Remagen BridgeFirst U.S. Army men and equipment pour across the Remagen BridgeNational Archives

After crossing over the Rhine river at Remagen with a unit of the U.S. First Army, Lofgren fought his way across Germany. The photo below was taken during a pause in the city of Bamberg.

BillandSmithBamburg.jpgBill Lofgren (L) in Bamberg, GermanySDPB File

Lofgren also took part in an unusual night-time operation that led to the capture of the city of Bonn.

Lofgren and the First Army continued their push eastward through Germany, eventually turning south. He was hit by shrapnetl during a skirmish in Czechoslovakia that claimed the lives several of the men in his unit. He says he doesn't remember it, but knows that he was taken from the battlefield to a hospital in Paris.

Bill Lofgren recovered from his injuries, mostly, and returned home to Minneapolis. He decided to get into the construction business, building homes and a few commercial structures in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Bill married Jane Quick in 1946. On October 24, 2016, they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

Bill Lofgren and Wife on Wedding DayBill and Jane LofgrenSDPB File

The chance to build a particular house for a particular customer brought Lofgren to Rapid City in the early 1970s. Bill and Jane have lived there ever since.

Lofgren FamilyThe Lofgren Family

Bill still has the autographed post card Frank Sinatra gave him that night in 1944 in Los Angeles.

picture of frank sinatra and autograph

On another Southern California hitchhiking excursion, Lofgren was picked up by comedian Red Skelton and his wife. They rode together for some 200 miles.

But that's another story.