Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 2
Rank:
Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Paul V A Mellblom 1
Death:
Buried: Buried at: Plot I Row 10 Grave 6<BR>Luxembourg American Cemetery<BR>Luxembourg City, Luxembourg 1
Death: 14-Jan-45 1
Death Date: 14 Jan 1945 1
Memorial Cemetery: Luxembourg American Cemetery 1
Memorial Country: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg 1
Memorial Location: Plot I Row 10 Grave 6 1
Residence:
State: New Jersey 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 2
Rank:
Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army 1
Service Number:
32590824 1
Awards:
Purple Heart 1
Regiment:
41st Reconnaissance Squadron, 11th Armored Division 1

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Stories

Date and Place of Birth: February 14, 1916 New Brunswick, NJ Date and Place of Death:    January 14, 1945 Houffalize, Belgium Baseball Experience: Minor League Position: Pitcher Rank: Technician Fifth Grade Military Unit: Troop A, 41st Cavalry Reconnaisance Squadron, 11th Armored Division US Army Area Served: European Theater of Operations

 

Paul V.A. Mellblom was the second of six children born to immigrants from Norway and Sweden. Growing up in Edison, New Jersey, brothers Paul, Oscar and Clarence pitched for the New Brunswick High School team. Paul was a gifted pitcher but he was also a talented artist and spent much of his spare time sketching and painting scenes around Edison. One admirer of his artistic talents told him, "You'll go farther with your art than with baseball."

Mellblom graduated from high school in 1935, and worked for the Bakelite Corporation in Bound Brook, New Jersey, where he also pitched for the company team. In 1938, he was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics' organization, and sent to the Federalsburg Athletics of the Class D Eastern Shore League, where he played briefly before being released. Late in the season, he joined the Milford Giants of the same league, and attended spring training with the club in 1939. In a series of letters to his family, Mellblom described just how tough it was being a minor league ballplayer. "We've got the afternoon off for the first time since we started," he wrote on April 25. "Up until today we trained two hours in the morning and about three in the afternoon. If anyone was caught sitting down during that time he was on the first leg of his homeward journey." Minor league teams were run on a tight budget and even caps were in short supply in those days. Mellblom had his stolen on the second day of spring training, there was no replacement available, and the result was his whole face was sunburnt. "It all peeled," he wrote his mother, "and now it is somewhere between red and tan. About two or three days ago I was bright red."

Wildness was a problem for Mellblom and while throwing batting practice in spring training he hit a player in the head and knocked him unconscious. The player had to stay in the hospital overnight for observation, while the advice Mellblom received from his manager, Val Picinich, a wily veteran who spent 18 years in the major leagues as a catcher, was to go back in there and throw them harder than ever. By April 25, the squad had been cut to around 30 players and that figure would get down to 17 for the start of the season on May 4 (with a further cut to 14 after a couple of weeks). By the beginning of May, Mellblom was one of ten pitchers still with the squad and Picinich was working him hard. "Yesterday, I had the hardest workout I ever had," he wrote his brother on May 2. "First I pitched batting practice, then Val made me chase flies, and he makes you run until you can't run any more."

Mellblom made the cut but saw limited service with the team and suffered from recurring arm problems. In one game he pitched, everything was fine for two innings until his arm went bad. "All of a sudden it seemed like I ripped the sore spot open again," Mellblom visited a doctor in Denton, a town about 30 miles from Milford. "He rubbed it and put a lamp on it and told me to give it rest and keep it warm."'

Due to the injury, Mellblom was put on suspension, allowing the club to bring in another pitcher, and during that time, Picinich tried to change Mellblom's delivery style from straight overhand to three quarters. However, his arm never recovered fully and at 23, he retired from the game.

Mellblom worked in the laboratories of the DuPont Corporation in Parlin, New Jersey, before entering military service with the Army on November 16, 1942. With the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 11th Armored "Thunderbolt" Division, Mellblom trained at Camp Polk, Louisiana, which was established to support the Louisiana Maneuvers. Mellblom learned to drive a jeep, fire a mortar and live with the wildlife at Camp Polk. "We have a harmless little lizard about six inches long," he wrote in April 1943, "that runs all over us when we are laying down."

Being out in the wilds of Louisiana also gave Mellblom an opportunity for some fun. One night he and two other soldiers took a walk about a mile from where they were bivouacked. They then started growling and howling at each other like cats. The next day all the guards were talking about the wildcat fight they had heard that night.

However, it was not all fun and games for Mellblom. All summer, he had been getting orders to come out for the baseball team but could never find the time. Playing on the Camp Polk team was pitcher Lee Porterfield, who had a couple of strong seasons in the minors and was with the Cincinnati Reds for spring training before being called into service.

Mellblom later trained at Camp Barkeley, Texas, and Camp Cooke, California, before leaving the United States for England in October 1944. The squadron was in training in England when the Germans launched their surprise attack in the Ardennes Forest on December 16. Allied reinforcements were desperately needed and within three days the 41st Cavalry was crossing the English Channel and racing across France to Belgium, where they engaged with the German forces in an effort to erase the bulge. At one point, Technician Fifth Grade Mellblom was riding in a jeep that hit a landmine and he miraculously escaped injury, but as the 41st Cavalry seized the key town of Houffalize in Belgium, during the final phase of the fighting in the Ardennes on January 14, 1945, he was killed in action.

Paul Mellblom was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery in Luxembourg City.

All of Paul's brothers - Oscar, Pehr and Clarence - also served during WWII. Oscar was also a pitcher and hurled for local teams before the war. He was wounded and missing in action for over 6 months. He went on to umpire the 1951 season in the Alabama-Florida League.

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