Finding Private Hagen Part III – Hardship, Tragedy and a Remarkable Legacy

The legacy of Albin Bernard Hagen is far more than a grave marker and an official government record. Albin Hagen was the second child and the oldest of 11 boys born to Ditlof and Anna Hagen. Albin Hagen’s short life of 35 years was marked by hardship and tragedy. Ditlof was a farm hand who bounced from farm to farm picking up whatever he could from 1908 through the 1920s. Albin was born June 13, 1909 in Carpio, North Dakota. From Albin’s birth on, the family moved over and over again to live on the various farmsteads where Ditlof was able to find work. Ditlof finally gave up on North Dakota and moved the family back to Minnesota in late 1920s. Interesting enough, the large size of the family dictated that some children had to make the move via car, others by train.

Albin was married to Mildred Anderson in 1937. Albin and Mildred’s life was touched by tragedy in December 1938 with their son LeRoy dying shortly after birth. I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child, but Albin may have experienced just that. His wife Mildred passed away from pneumonia the following March, less than four months after losing their baby.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stirred the greatest generation into service with his immortal words that December 7, 1941 was “a date that will live in infamy.” The sons of Ditlof Hagen not only were stirred into service, but provided a record of remarkable service that is unmatched.  An incredible find from the Saturday, December 11, 1954 edition of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal offers a glimpse into the remarkable legacy of the Ditlof Hagen family. (Click on images to read. PDF Format)

Fergus Falls Daily Journal page 1

Fergus Falls Daily Journal Page 3




Ten of Ditlof and Anna’s sons served in the US Military from Albin down to the youngest Twins Gaylord and Gordon. One son, middle son Carl, was not called into service, remarking that he felt discriminated against because he did not serve his country.

As a group, the legacy of service by the Ditlof Hagen family is unmatched. Stories of tragedy, service and sacrifice such as those of PFC Albin B Hagen’s story are woven tight into the American experience. The children of immigrants proudly served their country overseas. Those who did return home provided generation of leadership that is sorely missed to this day by this country.

Tom Brokaw very eloquently described the generation that grew up in poverty and hardship who went on to serve in World War II in his 1998 book The Greatest Generation,

“it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” His premise was that “these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. When they came back they rebuilt America into a superpower.”

At the end of the journey that started with a random turn and a remarkable find in the American Cemetery at Normandy, there is no doubt in my mind that the story of PFC Albin B Hagen and the legacy of the Ditlof Hagen family is indeed one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation.

I want to thank my aunt Sheila for providing me with her personal copy of the The Hagen/Holm Family History published in the late 1980s that allowed me to finish this journey.