WESTMINSTER — Unlike Wendell A. Nye, another World War II casualty from Westminster, who was an only child, Urho Sakkinen was the tenth child in a farming family of 15 children.
Born in Bridgeton, Maine, the Sakkinens moved to Westminster in 1919 when Urho was just 4 years old and lived at 39 Bacon St. where his father Charles owned a dairy farm.
While their family was large, it endured more than its share of sadness with the infant death of a daughter at birth in 1921 and another stillbirth three years later. Another sister, Irène, died in 1928 at the age of 22.
Tragedy continued to beset the family as their mother Annie died in June 1938 at the age of 58. Then, four years later, their father, Charles, died in 1942 at the age of 69.
After:Edmund O. Nelson of Westminster was killed in France by a German sniper
Mark Landry, the Veterans Graves Officer as well as a member of the City Veterans Committee for the Westminster Historical Society, has provided extensive information to help complete this and each of the columns in this series. He is an invaluable resource and we are indebted to him.
This is the sequel to the Remembering Local World War II Heroes series.
Pfc. Urho Sakkinen (1914-1944)
Urho E. Sakkinen was born in Bridgeton, Maine on December 4, 1914, the 10th of 15 children of Finnish-born Charles and Annie (Kinnunen) Sakkinen. His family moved from Maine to Westminster in 1919 and operated a dairy farm in town.
Perhaps to provide extra income for the growing family, Urho took a job for the city at the age of 16, doing roadwork.
With his older brothers John and William serving in World War II, Urho was quick to join them, entering the service on November 7, 1942, six months after his father’s death.
Urho’s unit was stationed at Camp Blanding, near Gainesville, Florida, where he spent seven months training before moving to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. He was then transferred to Camp Forrest in Nashville, Tennessee.
After:The army was the destiny of Douglas Hicks of Westminster, who died in the Second World War
Before going overseas, Sakkinen was granted leave to visit family for Christmas in 1943. Unfortunately, his brother John, who had been a member of the US Army Medical Department before being honorably discharged, had died earlier that month of a brief illness at the age of 45.
Urho would join Company H, 2nd Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 30th “Old Hickory” Division as a Private.
On February 12, 1944, the regiment left Boston Harbor aboard the SS Argentina and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Glasgow, Scotland, which it reached in 12 days.
After:William F. Gilliland of Westminster perished in the United States during World War II
At the time of the D-Day attack in June 1944, the 120th Infantry Regiment was ordered to move to an assembly area 10 miles north of Southampton. From June 9 to 13, the men crossed the English Channel aboard various American and British troop transports.
The 120th launched an attack on the Germans that featured hand-to-hand combat. As the Germans threw hand grenades towards the American soldiers, they were picked up and thrown back at the enemy.
At the beginning of July, the regiment held the bank of the Vire canal. Once an attack began on July 7, the 117th Infantry Regiment on the left flank failed to take the high ground east of Saint-Jean de Daye. As a result, the 2nd Battalion, of which Private Sakkinen was a part, was placed under the command of the 117th.
Wounded in battle
It was during a new attack against the Germans on July 9 that Private Sakkinen was wounded in action.
His sister Linda Luoma learned on August 11 via a War Department telegram that her brother had been seriously injured, but no further details were provided.
It was later learned that Sakkinen died of his injuries three days later in France on July 12, 1944. He was 29 years old.
He was found to be one of three local soldiers to be killed in France that week, including Joseph R. LaFrenier of South Ashburnham, who died on July 10, and Walter P. Norskey of Baldwinville, who died on July 13.
Sakkinen is survived by six brothers, Peter, Howard, Eli, Herman, William and Waino, and three sisters, Linda Luoma, Mary Kultti and Sally Kamila.
A service was held at the Westminster American Legion on August 27, 1944, while his body was later brought to town for burial in 1948 and he was laid to rest in Woodside Cemetery in Westminster.
Urho Sakkinen Square is on the corner of North Common and Overlook roads in Westminster, not far from where his family’s dairy farm once operated on Bacon Street.
(Comments and suggestions for Remembering Local World War II Heroes can be sent to Mike Richard at email@example.com or by writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Rd. Sandwich, MA 02563)