|Above: With no place name or inscription other than his name on the reverse, this photograph of Einer C. Opdahl is hard to date to within more that a few years. Given that he is
wearing his tropical service uniform the photograph may well have been taken in the Philippines c. 1910. The photograph's mount is of standard cabinet photograph size although
the image itself is smaller that what would be considered standard. The bottom portion of the card was trimmed off at sometime in the past probably to fit into a frame and the original
photographer's mark may have been lost as a result.
A somewhat unlikely looking soldier who had a 30 year career in the U.S. Army, Einer Opdahl (sometimes appearing as Einar or Elmer) was born to Norwegian immigrant parents
(Carl Christian Opdahl and Elizabeth Marie Halverson) in Wausau, Wisconsin on 3 April, 1875. As ayoung man he was employed at the family run boarding house. A gifted amateur
musician, according to family tradition he learned to play many stringed instruments and entertained boarders during their stay at the family establishment.
With the outbreak of the Spanish American War Opdahl enlisted as a private in Company G of the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. The 3rd Wisconsin would see active service in
Puerto Rico (arriving off San Juan on 25 July) at the capture of Ponce and Coamo, actions at Aibonita Pass before being ordered home on October 8. Private Einer Opdahl was
discharged from service on 4 January, 1899.
Much of Opdahl’s military record comes from a somewhat unusual source – the Office of the Quartermaster General application for his headstone. These applications usually list the
applicants first instance of military service (generally the period of service the family would like inscribed on the deceased’s grave marker) but in Opdahl’s case all of his subsequent
military service up until his retirement in 1930 was listed by a clerk at the Quartermaster General’s Memorial Division on the reverse side of the application in red pencil.
These notations are somewhat hard to read but the following can be made out. After mustering out of the 3rd Wisconsin in 1899 remained a civilian until 1905 when he enlisted in the
Regular Army on 7 February of that year. He had been promoted corporal in Company G of the 13th U.S. Infantry on 6 February 1908. By February, 1911 he had transferred as a
private to Battery D of the 4th Field Artillery at Camp Gregg, Pangasinan, Philippines. Sometime after this he was assigned to D Troop 4th U.S. Cavalry, remaining with that unit until
being discharged on 23 February, 1914.
Re-enlisting on 16 March, 1914 Opdahl would serve in Troop A of the 15th U.S. Cavalry in 3 August 1920 rising to the rank of sergeant. Opdahl would have gone overseas with the
American Expeditionary Force (AEF) given that the 15th Cavalry of one of four U.S. Cavalry regiments to serve with the AEF. It was of little surprise that the 15th was dismounted in
France and deployed as infantry during the war. The 15th performed occupation duties in Germany until June 1919.
Opdahl re-enlisted one day after he previous enlisted expired this time with the 16th U.S. Infantry as a private. His reduction in rank was probably due to the massive reduction in
strength that took place in the U.S. Army in the wake of the end of the war as opposed to an infarction on his part. He would serve in the 16th until 5 August 1923.
Einer Opdahl would serve another three enlistments, returning to the mounted corps with the 13th U.S. Cavalry as a sergeant – with Troop A, then being promoted to Staff Sergeant
with the Headquarters Company and finally as a Master Sergeant in Headquarters Company. Opdahl retired after more than thirty years of service and two wars on 26 march, 1930.
The July 1930 edition of The Cavalry Journal recounted the regimental events surrounding Opdahl’s retirement:
“A review of the regiment was held on May 29th in honor of Master Sergeant Elmer C. Opdahl, 13th Cavalry, who retired on May 26, 1930. An announcement of Sergeant Opdahl’s
retirement was published in a regimental general order giving a resume of his services. All of Sergeant Opdahl’s discharges bear the notation “Character Excellent.” He has had over
sixteen years’ service with the cavalry, all except three years having been with this regiment. During the Spanish-American War he served in Puerto Rico and during the World War
in France with the 15th Cavalry. On May 20, the Headquarters Company tendered a farewell dinner in honor of Sergeant Opdahl.”
After his retirement Opdahl returned not just to his home town but to the very family home in which he was born. Never married he lived resided with several of his brothers and
sisters and one would expect their families and no doubt regaled them with stories of his battles and travels around the world. Einer Opdahl died at home on 26 February, 1952 and was
buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Wausau, Wisconsin.