27 May 2013

In memoriam, Lieut. L. Stanley Finseth, 1920-1943

Born Jan 31, 1920 and raised on the family farm at Kenyon, MN, my uncle Levi Stanley Finseth graduated from Byron High School in 1938. He then enrolled at St. Olaf college and later enlisted in the Air Force in 1942. As navigator of a bomber crew he flew 35 missions in North Africa, but died with his crew when their plane was brought down by a combination of enemy action and friendly fire over Switzerland on October 1, 1943.

Memorial gifts in his honor were directed to St. Olaf's WCAL, the first listener-supported public radio station. In 1946, when I was born, my parents named me after him.

Reposted from 2009 for Memorial Day.


  1. Every time I see a photo of the men who fought in WWII I think of how very young they were. The fate of the world rested on such young shoulders. I guess that's always the way of war.

    This was a lovely tribute to your uncle.

    1. And there's an irony which I didn't spell out in the post. My understanding is that his plane was severely damaged by German forces, then turned back toward neutral Switzerland, where it was shot down by the Swiss...

    2. Switzerland was the target of a few allied bombing raids during WWII. There have been (unconfirmed) rumors that some of them were targeting industries delivering critical materials for the war effort to the Germans (bombing of Maag, manufacturer of high precision gears)and being a little bid too friendly with Nazi Germany at that time.
      The official version was that the bombers lost their bearing in bad weather and high winds and so on. I guess that is possible.

    3. Interesting. Thank you. I'll try to do some research on this flight.

  2. The Greatest Generation.

    1. I've heard the phrase (especially from Tom Brokaw), but I don't know that I agree that that generation was any greater than for example the one before it.

  3. Thank you for posting. What a good guy.

    The mom from Chicago

  4. If I had to guess, I'd say that 2nd Lt. Finseth was in the 99th Bomb Group. Just based on my own research on my grandfather, a copilot on a B-17 in the 15th AF, 483rd BG(H), 816th Squadron. He didn't arrive in North Africa until late 1943 or so. He had many stories of harrowing missions across the Alps (they ended up in Foggia, Italy, and flew over the Alps, across France, into Germany, and back the same way, mostly to avoid Austria and Switzerland). His group shared planes and an airfield with the 99th BG(H).

    It is sobering to think that so very many men were topi young to buy themselves a drink, but were carrying the free world on their shoulders.

  5. As we say in my country, "Lest we forget". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_of_Remembrance)

    With all due honour and respect, i hope you won't be offended by my saying that this photograph adds further weight to my impression that you seem to be a member of an all together strikingly handsome family!

  6. Stan -

    In the Wiki article on bombing of Switzerland during the war, there is this mention:

    "On 1 October 1943, bombs were released by the USAAF over Samedan leading to property damage."

    Same day. It sounds like that might likely be the raid.

    No source given.


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