Swedish immigrants as commanders – The story of Nels G. Sandelin

Published: 5 January 2024

By Jocke Hallberg
via the Swedes at the Western Front web site


Major Nels G Sandelin

In my research, where I follow up the Swedish born soldiers who fell in the Great War, I have found out that especially individuals in the American Expeditionary Forces had the opportunity to become more than privates. When it comes to those Swedish born individuals who fought and fell for the German Forces, almost everyone of those where officers in the Swedish army and also became officers in the German Army.

Some of them became commanders on different levels, from squad leaders up to company commanders or staff members. Not all of the them fell in the war, and below I will tell you the story about one who survived.

This is the story about Major Nels G Sandelin.

Nels G Sandelin with his family.

Nels G Sandelin was born as Nils Gustaf Sandelin. He was born on December 1st, 1887, in Pjätteryd parish, Älmhult, Sweden. He was raised by his parents Elna Larsdotter Sandelin and Gustaf Johansson Sandelin. The family left for North America quite early after Nils was born, on April 22nd, 1889.

I have managed to find more information about the history of Major Sandelin, especially from the books from the local counties in the US. Below you will find parts from the books. Some of the parts are citations direct from the text.

The family, Mr. and Mrs. Gustav Sandelin and their children, Christ, Julia, Edward, Oscar and Nels, moved to the United States in 1889 and settled on a homestead in the town of Svea. Erick the youngest was born in Kennedy in 1890. Mr. Sandelin died in 1892.

Mrs. Sandelin then took up the burden of proving up the homestead and supporting the family. Although it was a hard struggle, she lived on the farm until the children could support themselves. She sold the farm in 1905 and moved to Donaldson where she still lives, one of the brave pioneers of Kittson County.

Major Sandelin spent his early days on the farm until at the age of seventeen he followed the example of three of his older brothers and enlisted in the United States Army. He spent three years in the 32d Field Artillery, where he received his gunner’s medal, his first military distinction. He came out of the army at the age of twenty, a tall, broad-shouldered, keen-eyed soldier and every inch a man.

In 1908 he went to Des Moines, Iowa, to visit his brothers there. He remained here some years. While in Iowa he met and married Elsie Mitchell, of Boxholm, Iowa. In 1914 they moved to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, to the town of Brigham Lake, for the sake of furthering his business career. Here he remained until the United States declared war. Major Sandelin was a keen student of current history and was “Anti-Kultur” from the time that word began to have a special meaning. Only his duty to his family and business kept him out of the Canadian Army.

When the United States declared war he made arrangements to leave his family and discontinue his business and enlisted.

When the Government called for men of previous military training, he enlisted in the First Officers’ Training Camp at Fort Snelling. He spent three months of intensive training with two thousand student officers. Only twenty-one received a higher rank than the major, notwithstanding that the other students were college and university graduates. He had practically no education, having merely finished the grammar grades. He was commissioned as First Lieutenant in August, 1917.

He was granted a two weeks’ furlough, which he spent with his wife and two children. He sailed for France September 6, 1917.

Read the entire article on the Swedes at the Western Front web site here:

External Web Site Notice: This page contains information directly presented from an external source. The terms and conditions of this page may not be the same as those of this website. Click here to read the full disclaimer notice for external web sites. Thank you.


Share this article

Related posts