Excerpt from Roland G. Ruppenthal, American Forces in Action: Utah Beach to Cherbourg. Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, War Department, 1945: "While parachutists attempted to assemble in the labyrinth of the Normandy hedgerows and marshes, troops aboard transports prepared to transfer into landing craft for the assault on the beach. At 0430 (H minus 2 hours) detachments of the 4th and 24th Cavalry Squadrons under Lt. Col. E. C. Dunn landed on the Iles St. Marcouf to capture what was suspected to be a hostile observation post or casemate for mine-field control. Prior to the landing four men armed only with knives swam to what was supposedly an enemy held shore to mark the beaches. No enemy was encountered, although both islands were found to be heavily mined and some casualties were suffered. All elements of the detachment (numbering 132 men) were ashore and the island occupied by 0530." The 4th Cavalry Recon trained on horseback in Ft Meade, South Dakota. After the Pearl Harbor bombing, they became a Mechanized Outfit. After additional training in England, 4 troopers volunteered for a hazardous mission of landing on the Marcouf islands armed only with knives.
Corporal Harvey S. Olson and Private Thomas C. Killoran of A Troop and Sergeant John W. Zanders and Corporal Melvin F. Kenzie of Troop B, swam ashore to mark the beaches for the landing craft. Harvey is very likely the first man to step on French soil from the sea that morning. Newspaper clippings from the 1944 Lake Bronson Budget, includes his citation and receiving his Silver Star from Major General Lawton Collins. In 1996 Harvey Olson, of Lake Bronson, MN is interviewed by the Karlstad North Star News and he talks about one of his buddies Tommy Killoran. They volunteered for a hazardous mission, in which they practiced with the Navy. Day after day, they were taken out several miles, by what Harvey referred to as a real "hot shot Navy man" and dumped off the boat to swim to mock up beaches in preparation for when the DDAY invasion would take place. He talks about going ashore with only a knife and flashlight and the first man he seen killed that morning, Troop A Sergeant John Onken, after Harvey handed him a rifle. Harvey was promoted to Sergeant. Also killed on the Marcoufs was Anton Elvesaeter of Troop B.
Sgt. Harvey S. Olson, Troop A, 4th Cavalry Reconnaisance Squadron, Mechanized
On June 6, 1944, Sgt. Olson with one companion, displaying the highest courage in the face of unknown dangers, became one of the first American Soldiers of the ground forces to land on French soil. He volunteered for the mission of the landing on D-DAY on the (should read Iles St Marcouf) a stragtegically placed island commanding the beach where assault was to be made. Sgt. Olson and his companion paddled through heavy surf and mined waters in a small two-man rubber boat to within 100 yards of the island. Sgt. Olson then destroyed his craft by slashing it open, and swam the remaining distance armed only with a knife. Once on the island, which was heavily covered with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, Sgt. Olson and his companion signalled the assault forces and marked the beach with lights. The skill and courage with which he carried out his hazardous assignment, made possible the successful landing on schedule of his detachment; denying the use of the island to the enemy. This was a vital factor in the opening phase of fortress Europe.
In Columbia, S.C., as a part of the 4th Cavalry reunion at Ft. Jackson in 1994 in commeneration of the 50th Anniversary of the DDAY Invasion, a plaque and a tree was planted near Heise Pond in honor of these 4 horsemen. Here is what the inscription on the plaque reads......
Dedicated to the memory of the first Americans to land on French soil, D Day, June 6, 1944
CPL HARVEY S. OLSEN, TROOP A, 4TH CAVALRY
PVT THOMAS C. ELLERAN, TROOP A, 4TH CAVALRY
SGT JOHN W. ZANDERS, TROOP B, 4TH CAVALRY
CPL MELVIN F. KENZIE, TROOP B, 4TH CAVALRY
These four brave men swan ashore at 0430 (2 hours before the invasion) armed only with knives to secure and mark the beaches for the landing of troops on the St. Marcouf Islands. These islands had to be secured before the landings at Utah Beach could begin at 0630." Later that morning Harvey fought at Utah Beach and linked up with the 82nd Airborne , which he talked about in his 1996 North Star News interview. Harvey fought throughout the Normandy breakout. Harvey was awarded the Purple Heart at the battle of Mortain and at the battle of Vielldieu from grenade sharpnel with Oak Leaf Clusters for wounds received. He fought in heavy fighting throughout the Hurtgen Forest, while the attention to the world was on the Battle of the Bulge and finally into Germany. He earned 6 battle stars for battles in the European Theater of WWII. After the war, he returned home, but then volunteered and fought with the 8th Army Ranger Company in Korea, which Harvey said had heavy casualities and disbanded.
Harvey served out his career as an MP in France in the late 1950's and his last post was at Ft Rucker, Alabama before he retired from the Army in May of 1963. He lived in Lake Bronson, MN, with his wife Arlet and had 3 sons and 2 daughters. On September 6, 2002 , he died , after a long battle of failing health and he is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Lake Bronson, Minnesota in line with his father Herbert and his brother Luverne.
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