See more of the story

Jerome D. Granlund survived a plane crash, a German prisoner-of-war camp and a 600-mile march in winter during World War II.

But like many men who survived the war and returned home, Granlund rarely talked about the hardships he endured.

"It was so painful, and there's probably things you don't want your children to know about," said Granlund's daughter, Jane Larson. She and her brother, Mark Granlund, both of Edina, learned little from their father or their mother, Adeline, about their father's ordeal.

"She just always protected him and said, 'Daddy went through a lot,'" Larson said of her mother. "I think she just felt like, if he wanted to, he would talk to us about it."

Granlund, a longtime resident of Edina, died of complications from heart disease May 27. He was 86. Born Dec. 30, 1924, in Brandon, Minn. Granlund didn't attend college, and his children are not sure whether he finished high school.

They do know from records that he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in February 1943. Larson said her father was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 bomber, and his plane was shot down on May 30, 1944, over Germany. He was held captive for 338 days.

Granlund was imprisoned in Stalag IV in Poland, said Bob McWhite, commander of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War, a congressionally chartered veterans' service organization. Granlund was a member of the group, he said.

As the war in Europe drew to an end and Soviet troops began their push toward Germany, the Germans moved their prisoners out of areas threatened by the advance, McWhite said.

Granlund's group was forced on a 600-mile trek through parts of Germany and Poland in brutal winter conditions. The march began on Feb. 26, 1945, and ended on April 26, 1945, when the prisoners were liberated by the 101st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, McWhite said.

"The life of the POW was rough enough, but imagine the hardship of the long march and difficulty of finding sleeping facilities and food ... the terrible wear and tear on one's body," McWhite said.

"We're losing 1,000 WWII veterans a day," he said. "About 1 million to 800,000 WWII veterans are still living. Jerry [Granlund] was one of the younger ones."

After the war, Granlund came back to Minnesota. He began selling men's suits at Dayton's department store in downtown Minneapolis from the 1950s until the late 1960s. He and Adeline married in 1958. After his stint selling suits, he worked as a lumber salesman for an Edina company until 1980. After that, he did marketing work for a Florida-based company until 1991, when he retired.

Granlund spent his remaining days helping to care for his grandchildren, traveling and spending time at his summer cabin at Lake Ida in Alexandria, Minn.

Besides his wife and two children, Granlund is survived by three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Friday at Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel.

Rose French • 612-673-4352