Colorado Springs veteran honors local World War II hero
The Gazette February 28, 2023
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — A Colorado Springs veteran recently completed a years-long mission to celebrate the World War II exploits of one of the city’s greatest heroes.
Keith LaMee, former commander of the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom American Legion Post 5 in downtown Colorado Springs, traveled to Italy in late January to trace the path the war hero took during the 1943 battle that earned Lindstrom the Medal of Honor.
The journey, aided by Italian members of the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, was the culmination of 15 years of research and advocacy on LaMee’s part.
“Everyone in Colorado Springs should know Floyd Lindstrom’s name and what he did to earn the Medal of Honor,” he said.
In 2008, LaMee received a phone call from a resident who wanted to know why Lindstrom, a Cheyenne Mountain High School graduate, was not being properly honored.
“I grew up here in Colorado Springs, but I had never heard of Lindstrom,” LaMee said. “So I decided to find out what I could.”
The more research LaMee conducted, the more he needed to know. With a determination bordering on obsession, he has pored over websites, microfilm and old newspaper clippings for a decade and a half. He has Lindstrom’s initials tattooed on his right forearm.
LaMee is likely the foremost authority on the life, wartime service and death of Lindstrom, who never had children. (Lindstrom was killed in action during the landing at Anzio Beach, Italy, on Feb. 3, 1944.)
“Keith has made it his life’s mission to learn everything he can about Lindstrom, so he can share it,” said Andrea Finnegan-Fosse, Post 5 commander. “I just find that amazing.”
Floyd K. Lindstrom was born on June 21, 1912, in Holdrege, Neb. His mother, Anna, moved him to Colorado when he was a toddler. After his graduation from Cheyenne Mountain High School, Lindstrom worked as a truck driver for 11 years. He was engaged to marry a woman named Mary Jane Wackenhut, but she died of a heart attack in 1942.
“He must have been really torn up about her death,” LaMee said.
Lindstrom joined the Army on June 22, 1942, a day after his 30th birthday.
On Nov. 11, 1943, Lindstrom’s unit found itself engaged in battle with German machine gunners near Mignano, Italy. When enemy gunfire from the crest of Monte La Difensa scattered much of his unit, Lindstrom picked up his machine gun, which reportedly weighed more than 100 pounds, and ran up the steep, rocky slope, “completely ignoring enemy small-arms fire which was striking all around him,” according to his Medal of Honor citation.
Despite the fact that the enemy had the high ground, Lindstrom engaged in an “intense duel” with two hostile machine gunners from about 10 yards away. When he realized that the shooters were protected by a large rock, he pulled his pistol and charged uphill. He killed both gunners with his pistol, took their gun to his own men, and went back up the hill to the machine gun nest for two boxes of ammunition. He gave his men the German ammunition, then went up the hill again to retrieve his own machine gun.
“The hand of God must have been protecting him,” LaMee said.
While looking at the Find A Grave website, LaMee discovered a posting that announced an upcoming ceremony honoring Lindstrom. The ceremony was to take place in Italy.
“I could see that they used a lot of the information that I had posted,” LaMee said.
Thus began a long-distance friendship between LaMee and Luigi Settimi, the author of the post. Settimi implored LaMee to make a trip to Italy to see the site of Lindstrom’s heroic deeds.
“Before my wife passed (in 2020), she made me promise that I would make this trip,” LaMee said.
In January, LaMee flew out to Italy and met with Settimi and other members of the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division Outpost 16. While there, he visited Anzio Beach, the site of Lindstrom’s final, fatal battle, and he walked up Monte La Difensa. The walk up the steep hill was the culmination of “15 years of chasing this guy,” he said.
The walk was a treacherous one for LaMee, who has had knee and shoulder replacement surgeries. But he was determined to get up that hill, even if he had to crawl, he said.
“I’m 63 years old, and I don’t have all my original parts,” he said. “But I wasn’t about to let that stop me. My legs did not like it. But I wouldn’t have traded (the experience) for the world.”
Standing on the hill evoked the sights and sounds of the 1943 battle in a way that research never could, LaMee said.
“When you actually stand where the German machine gunners were, and you look down, you can really tell how steep that hill was. And (Lindstrom) carried that heavy machine gun up there. ... It just blows your mind. I mean, how could an individual do that?”
LaMee brought home a few treasured keepsakes, including sand from Anzio and soil from La Difensa, and has forged a lasting friendship with Settimi and others from the Italian outpost. He said he would recommend the trip for anyone who wishes to know more about the war hero for whom Post 5 and the VA Clinic are named.
In the meantime, LaMee intends to keep spreading the word about the war hero, whose remains are interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.
“As long as I’m around, I plan to keep (Lindstrom’s) name in the public eye,” he said.
(c)2023 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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