Peter Martin Arnold (1919 – 1999): WWII veteran and family man

Peter Martin (Pete) Arnold was the third child of Peter Ernest and Magdalena (Wehner) Arnold. He was born April 26, 1919 near Gladstone, North Dakota, most likely in the sod hut that was the family’s home until the early 1920s.

One of Pete’s early memories centers around the strict discipline his parents maintained in the family home. He recalled the day he and his siblings threw a lit firecracker at someone’s window. It didn’t take long for their father to learn about the incident. The response was immediate and memorable: according to Pete’s account, they were whipped to the point where they could not sit down to supper. Needless to say, Pete lost all interest in fireworks from that point onward.[1]

Pete lived on the family farm through mid-January 1937 when he joined the the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at Bismarck, North Dakota. He then worked as a mechanic and field assistant leader in water conservation in Kramer, North Dakota. He returned to the family farm after his discharge from the CCC on March 31, 1939, helping with all manner of farm work, until October 5, 1939, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army.[2]

He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington in April 1940 when he and many other young soldiers were enumerated for that year’s national census.[3] He and his unit were transferred soon after for maneuvers at Fort Ord, California. Later that year, Pete was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was trained as a paratrooper. This video depicts U.S. Army paratrooper training during World War II.[4]

Arnold, Peter (far left hand jumper)

Hand jumping, Fort Benning, GA
Peter Arnold is the man at the far left

Pete qualified as a paratrooper in May 1941 and was subsequently assigned to the 501 Parachute Battalion. That unit was deployed to the Panama Canal Zone in 1941, probably after Pete met Lorene, his wife-to-be, in July 1941.[5] The Canal Zone assignment was fairly short because Pete was in Georgia on July 12, 1942, when he married Lilla Lorene Hall.[6]

He was deployed to the European theater in May 1944. He, along with other U.S. soldiers, parachuted into areas behind German lines in order to relieve troops and to secure local villages from German soldiers. It took a couple of days for his unit to drive out German soldiers whose assignment was essentially the same as the Americans’ mission. In August 1944, Pete and some of his unit were loaded onto a truck so they could go to Rome for some sightseeing. Along the way they spotted some other U.S. paratroopers walking and stopped to offer them a ride. One of those soldiers was Pete’s brother Tony. During their time together, Tony told Pete that their younger brother Bill had been wounded in battle.

He and many other U.S. paratroopers “dropped” into Belgium in September 1944 in a joint U.S./British operation code-named “Market Garden.” Their mission was to secure key bridges over rivers and dams so advancing ground troops could move as quickly as possible toward Berlin.[7] By late autumn 1944, Pete’s unit was deployed to the Little Maginot Line in France. He recalled an extremely harsh winter with frequent blizzards in the area where his unit was bivouacked. His unit, reassigned as the 517th Parachute Combat Team, walked 48 kilometers from Sospel to Nice and eventually to Soisson, France. They subsequently completed at least two jumps into contested territory including the Champagne Campaign. It was, by then, the worst part of winter. They retrieved their parachutes for whatever shelter they might provide and battled a combination of winter weather, German soldiers, and land mines.

Pete remained in France until the end of the war and returned to the U.S. on August 28, 1945. He stayed in the Army until June 1952 when he decided not to reenlist because he didn’t want his military obligation to take him away from his young family. By then, Pete and Lorene were nearing their tenth wedding anniversary; their firstborn, daughter Patricia (Pat), was nine years old, and their son, Peter Martin (Marty) was one year old.

Pete began his civilian life as a “grease monkey” at Cliff Averett Inc., the Buick-Cadillac dealership in Columbus.[8] During his employment there, he was promoted to service writer and, later, to service manager. He worked in similar positions in several cities in Georgia and Anderson, South Carolina, before he retired.

Despite the family’s Georgia residence, Pete insisted on a live Christmas tree and was quite particular about how it was decorated. He put the lights on first. Pat, Marty, and David added the ornaments. Pete then finished the tree, carefully placing each strand of tinsel to create what he considered a perfect tree.

1945 Pete, Lorene, & Pat w-motorcycle

Pete, Lorene & Pat Arnold
Arnold family farm, Gladstone, ND, mid-1940s
Does anyone recognize the motorcycle or know who owned it?

Pete and Lorene and their children traveled to North Dakota at least three times. The first time was the mid-1940s when their daughter Pat was about two years old. The last time they visited as a family was in about 1960 when Pat was about 16 and her brothers, Marty and David were 9 and three respectively. Pete and Lorene also attended the Gladstone Centennial in 1982 and Arnold family reunions in Bozeman, Montana (1992), Las Vegas, Nevada (1994), and Columbus, Georgia (1998).

Pete and Lorene celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1992 in the company of family and friends, including their three children and Tony and Margaret Arnold, Pete’s brother and sister-in-law.

50th Anniversary collage-gray

50th Anniversary Celebration, 1992
Right photo: Pete & Lorene Arnold
Top left photo (l-r) Marty, Pete, David, Lorene, & Pat Arnold
Bottom left photo (l-r): Tony & Margaret Arnold and Pete & Lorene Arnold

Pete had a series of strokes beginning in 1992. Later, as his health deteriorated, he was moved to nursing homes in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery (Alabama). He died in Montgomery on October 5, 1999, and is buried at Parkhill Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia.

Pete was survived by his wife, Lorene (Hall) Arnold, daughter Patricia (Larry) Little, sons Peter Martin (Marty; wife Karen) Arnold, and David (Donna) Arnold; grandsons Larry Little, Danny Little, and Eddie Arnold; granddaughters Kristan Arnold, Kacie Arnold, and Leah Kyle Arnold; and four great grandchildren. He was also survived by siblings Anna (née Arnold) Haman, Great Falls, Montana; Ernest (Darlene) Arnold, Benson, Arizona; Frank (Adeline) Arnold, Minneapolis, Minnesota; John (Dorothy) Arnold, Richardton, North Dakota; William (Irene) Arnold, Great Falls, Montana; Raymond (Barbara) Arnold, Napa, California; Walter (Clarice) Arnold, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Helen (née Meininger) Hassebrock, Dickinson, North Dakota. Pete was preceded in death by his parents, brother Antone (Tony; wife Margaret) Arnold, sister Margaret Maria Arnold, and grandson Randall Richard Little.

[1] Based on Peter Martin Arnold’s personal account as transcribed by his son Peter Martin (Marty) Arnold, Jr. Most of the information about Pete’s military service are based on that account.
[2] Family record provided by Pat Little: Honorable Discharge from the Civilian Conservation Corps for Peter M. Arnold dated 31 March 1939 at Kramer, North Dakota.
[3] 1940 U.S. census, West Spokane, Spokane, Washigton, population schedule, enumeration district 32-72, sheet 12B, Peter M. Arnold; digital image, Ancestry .com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 March 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T627_4363.
[4] YouTube Video Paratroop Training: “Paratroops” circa 1943 US Office of War Information, World War II ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzOdPPAkhW0
[5] Peter Martin Arnold personal account/transcription; previously discussed.
[6] “Cordele Girl Weds Sergeant,” Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, 19 July 1942, via NewsBank.com.
[7] Operation “Market Garden,” http://www.thedropzone.org/units/501history.html
[8] Polk’s Columbus (Georgia) and Phenix (Alabama) City Directory, microfilm reprint, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, 18, Arnold, Peter M (Lillia L).

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2 thoughts on “Peter Martin Arnold (1919 – 1999): WWII veteran and family man

  1. That is an Indian motorcycle which was owned or co owned by Frank. ( I have seen other pictures in Frank’s albums.) Two of them ? Pete got it and there was repair needed on it we think the brakes. Frank ended up with it in a town and had to work on it extensively. A local merchant allowed the ‘soldier’ to keep it in a store front window. On free weekends etc. Frank would work on it and people would come by and watch him. I remember Dad (Frank) being not too happy with a brother who did some damage to it and Frank had to do major repair on it when he was in the Army. Drove a long distance with no oil? During the MN Reunion trip we took Dad to the Harley dealership in Elk River. He spent 20 minutes or more just talking to a salesperson about that motorcycle.

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