14 Names to Remember Project

14 Names to Remember | John M. Swensen

Posted on May 23rd, 2024 By:

14 Names to Remember Project. Layout by Tonya Strickland. Historic graphics attributed.

Gig Harbor Now columnist Tonya Strickland researched and profiled the 14 local men whose names appear on the World War II monument at Kenneth Leo Marvin Memorial Park. Find all 14 profiles here.

Hometown: Gig Harbor

Branch: U.S. Army

Rank: Private

Died: Dec. 24, 1944 | Age 21

Pvt. John Swensen was born April 13, 1923 in Gig Harbor to Norwegian parents Albert and Hilma (Maurseth) Swensen. In the 1930 U.S. Census, he had four siblings: Ragna, Grette, Harold and Alfred “Alf” Swensen.

Before entering the war, John Swensen worked as a clerk at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.

In 1941, he graduated from Gig Harbor Union High School and was touted in the local newspaper for receiving a bronze plaque from the Lions Club alongside classmate Ray Edwards, who is also listed on Gig Harbor’s WWII Memorial. The community group praised the young men for being “outstanding (in) sportsmanship and citizenship.” Swensen and Edwards shared several common activities including working on the yearbook staff, landing on the honor roll, and leading the Boys Club.

When Swensen registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, he was 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds; with brown hair, gray eyes and a light complexion. He enlisted on Feb. 8, 1943 in Tacoma, joining the U.S. Army’s 80th Infantry Division as a rifleman in Company ‘K’, under the 319th Infantry Regiment’s 3rd Battalion.

When his combat division deployed to Europe, they endured brutal winter conditions — fighting in knee-deep snow and walking

Peninsula Gateway newspaper, Friday Jan. 12, 1945. Photographed at the Harbor History Museum.

on icy roads for miles. In December 1944, the 80th Infantry pushed through German-occupied Luxembourg to fight the Battle of the Bulge.

Swensen died on Christmas Eve after he was shot in the chest near the village of Tadler. Earlier that day, military records said his unit encountered a “fierce counterattack with tanks and infantry” from German forces.

Pvt. Swensen was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously and buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Germany.

Status: KIA – Killed in Action