Marine 2nd Lieutenant Carleton Elliott “Sim” Simensen was a hero in every sense of the word. Born on January 25, 1919, in Grandin, North Dakota, Carleton was the son of Carl and Mabel Simensen. His father was the secretary and treasurer of the National Farm and Home Administration office at Devils Lake, North Dakota, and his mother was a homemaker.
Carleton was an exceptional student and athlete. He graduated from Grandin High School in 1936 and went on to attend the University of North Dakota, where he earned a degree in commerce in 1940. He played varsity basketball and participated in several service fraternities, including the Blue Key, Iron Mask, and Scabbard and Blade military fraternities. At graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.
Carleton then attended Marine training in Philadelphia before becoming a recruiter in Minneapolis. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Arizona in the summer of 1941 and had been on board for less than six months when tragedy struck.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the U.S.S. Arizona was severely damaged by a bomb dropped on the deck of the ship. Carleton was leading Marines up the ladders on the U.S.S. Arizona’s tripod mainmast when he was mortally wounded in the chest by shrapnel or bullets. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism that day.
Carleton’s younger brother, Kenneth, also served in the military, fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The Simensen family knew all too well the sacrifices that come with serving in the military, but they never could have imagined the pain and loss that they would experience on that fateful day in 1941.
Carleton is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, a testament to his service and sacrifice for his country. The VFW Post 756 in Devils Lake was named in his honor, and the University of North Dakota’s military history collection, dating back to 1862, is named in his memory.
Carleton Elliott “Sim” Simensen was just one of the thousands of servicemen who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. But his bravery and sacrifice will always be remembered. He was a son, a brother, and a Marine who gave his life in service to his country, and that is something that we should never forget. Carleton’s legacy lives on, and his story serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that are made every day by those who wear the uniform of the United States military.
Sources: The Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune; The Fargo (North Dakota) Forum; the Devils Lake Daily Journal; the Carleton Elliott Simensen Military Heritage Collection at the University of North Dakota; “Battleship Arizona, An Illustrated History,” by Paul Stillwell; Marine muster roll; Census. Special thanks to the University of North Dakota library, department of special collections, for the photograph of Mr. Simensen. This profile was rewritten by “Operation 85” from the original sourced profile written by Bobbi Jo Buel on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.