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A World War II Vet's Chance Encounter With Frank Sinatra - 1944
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Rapid City resident Bill Lofgren
Images Courtesy Bill and Jane Lofgren

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.