Sam Bohlender’s parents were German-speaking immigrants from Russia who came to Colorado as children. His father, Philip, was a farmer.
He was born Nov. 10, 1919, in Greeley in north-central Colorado. His mother, Rica, died in 1927. The boy attended elementary school about 15 miles south in Beebe Draw.
Mr. Bohlender thought about joining the military and was persuaded by an older brother, Longly, to choose the Navy. Longly said, “At least you’ll always have a dry place to sleep and warm food to eat,” nephew Larry Bohlender recalled years later. Sam enlisted on Sept. 9, 1938.
Sam was a gunner’s mate and petty officer second class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. After his death his brother enlisted in the Army Air Force. Longly survived the war.
Sources: Greeley Daily Tribune, Veterans Administration death index, parents’ marriage license, US Census. Naval History and Heritage Command photo. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.