John H. Axelson

He maid the ultimate sacrifice on Saturday, March 31, 1945, just thirty-eight days before the war ended in Europe.
March 31st we ran into stiff resistance once again at the small town of Malsfeld, just 20 miles south of Kassel on the Fulda River. These rivers were not very wide perhaps no more than 50-100 feet but were armor opstacles when the bridges were blown by the retreating Germans. We had tank support in this town as well as artillery. We advanced to the stone an brick buildings at the west side of the rivers edge.
Germans were in the buildings on the east side. Our tanks would poke their guns around a corner of a building, fire a shot or two and then quickly back away behind a building for shelter of deadly German 88 mm artillery. Our rifle squad was in a large stone and brick building toward the edge of town. It was part farm building and had some big grey horses in stalls in the barn part of the building. No civillians were in the area -they had fled earlier. John and I set up the BAR with the bipod in the north side of the barn door opening in the shadows. He was with Sgt. Howard Ostrom and the ammunition was at his side. The gun was not visible across the river from the German side. However the deadly muzzle flash in the sheadows of the barn door opening would be visible. John and I had an agreement to not fire weapon unless we had a good target - and then move it fast as possible.
They asked our squad to go up in the adjacent connected building to fire at any German soldiers and see if we could locate the German 88's
that were firing at us. We carefully went from floor to floor in different windows firing at het Germans, which we could sometimes see running form buildings. We were careful to stand a yard of two behind the windows when firing to minimize muzzle flash - and then move to another location. We were afraid of showing our position, provoking a German 88 crew to fire at our window. I heard John firing the BAR when i was on the third floor. I told John Gettel, our sqaud Sgt. that I should go down quicly and help John move. I ran down the steps to the ground floor, got to the barn door where the grey horses were in their stall. I looked down to the end of the barn and saw John and just the heard the shell coming in.
It hit the barn cobblestone floor. The horses jumped and neighed from fright. After the explosion I got up to run down toward John and Dean Adams jumped out and stopped me. He said, "don't look, he's gone. You can't do anything!" Both John Axelson and Howard Ostrom died instantly by a direct hit. I was devastated even thoug we had all seen death and wounded around before.
Source: Five GI's in battle -World War 2- by George Hudson Wirth
Due to the manner in which they met their deaths, Sgt. Howard D. Ostrom and Pfc. John H. Axelson of Milaca, Minn., could not be individually identified. The two comrades in arms were interred together at the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold, France, in 1945. They were returned home to Minnesota in 1950 and re-interred at nearby Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, where they will rest forever in honored glory.

John H. Axelson

Service # 37600063

Private First Class, U.S. Army

50th Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division

Entered Service From: Minnesota

Date of Death: March 31, 1945

Buried: Fort Snelling National Cemetery ,Minneapolis

Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA

Awards: Purple Heart