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Veterans of Icelandic Descent

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

I have two books in my library that celebrate the lives of Veterans of Icelandic Descent. Minningarbók Íslenzkra Hermanna 1914 – 1918 published in 1923 and Veterans of Icelandic Descent World War II 1939-1945 published in 1990. Both are by the Jón Sigurðsson IODE Chapter in Winnipeg. What a great accomplishment to finish these two books. Thank you to all the people who worked on these two books. They are such a good resource of information for genealogists and for anyone searching for more information or photos of their family.

The first book is over 500 pages and is written in Icelandic. This is a beautiful book with photos and stories including their birth date, birth location, names of their parents, rank, service dates, and more. It is a record from WWI. The second book is over 550 pages and is written about WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict. There is a section devoted to veterans of WWI who were previously not recorded. This second book is in English.

This next weekend, we will celebrate Memorial Day. The actual holiday is on Monday and is a day of remembering the men and women who died during their Armed Forces service. It originated after the Civil War and commemorated the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war. Many volunteers place flags on the graves of those who died in military service. The Legions in northeast North Dakota have ceremonies at many cemeteries. There is a long list of veterans of Icelandic descent and the two books the Jon Sigurdsson IODE Chapter have published are such great books for these special people. There was a very high percentage of Icelanders that served in the military. These books are important records of our family members and cousins in North America.

You can view the contents of one book here:

Both books can be ordered at or contact the Tergesen General Store in Gimli .. Phone: 204.642.5958.

On page 19 of the second book is a photo of my great-aunt, 2nd Lt. Anna T Olafson. She is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Steindor J. Olafson of Gardar, ND and was born 07 Dec 1914. She studied nursing and graduated in 1936 in St. Paul, Minnesota. She took a post-graduate course in surgery in 1940 at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. She enlisted in the US Army and Navy Corps in March 1941. She sailed from New York to Iceland in Sept. 1941, and served there. We were told that she was chosen for Iceland because she spoke perfectly in both languages – Icelandic and English. She served as a Captain in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and was stationed in Iceland where she met her husband, Roy B. Farrell. I was proud to become a Registered Nurse in the Operating Room just like Ann.

The following is from a newspaper clipping in my Amma´s scrapbook:


The Icelandic language, Lieutenant Ann T. Olafson, learned as a child in her home in ND, is serving her well, now that she is on duty with the Army Nurses’ corps in Iceland. She is the only member of her nurses staff who speaks the language and she frequently is called upon to supplement her professional duties by serving as interpreter.

She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Olafson of Gardar, and they quite frequently hear from her. She graduated from the Ancker Hospital in St. Paul and remained there after graduation. She also worked in a Duluth hospital before joining the army.

In a recent letter to her mother, she says: “I am thankful that I speak the Icelandic language, although one can get along easily here without doing so, as many speak English well, as well as several other languages. But the people treat you differently, their expression, their whole attitude changes when their language is spoken to them. They are a proud, reserved kind of people, but the hospitality in their homes is not to be surpassed.

“The glorious northern lights, steaming hot springs, snow-capped mountains touched by clouds, fields of lava, the profusion of colors in the sky at sunrise and sunset, rain and windstorms, characterize the land. But there is nothing to take the place of trees budding in the spring. In spite of the difficulties that of necessity accompany foreign duty, I wouldn’t give up this wonderful experience.”


Ann lived to the age of 84. A huge Thank You to all our veterans and best wishes to everyone for a safe Memorial Day.

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