Harold Joseph Dahl
PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D, 2nd Platoon
Born 1913 in NJ, Died 1972
County of enlistment: Newark, NJ
Other residence(s): Towaco, NJ in 1942
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: purchasing agents and buyers, n.e.c.
College education before the war: Pace Univ. 2 years; Ellerhusen School of Art 2 years
Harold Dahl was born on September 3, 1913 in Montclair, NJ, the youngest of four children. His father was born in the US, while his Norwegian family was visiting, but he was raised in Norway.
Harold grew up in Towaco, NJ, and lived there most of his life. He suffered a serious bout of pneumonia when he was two and he was a sickly child. Then his father died in 1918 of spinal meningitis triggered by the influenza pandemic.
Harold graduated from Boonton High School in 1930, where he ran track for four years and served as class salutatorian and yearbook editor. He was a talented sculptor and violinist as well. He then got a job at Stone & Webster in Manhattan, and from 1932-1934 studied accounting and law nights at Pace Institute (now Pace University).
In 1937, he took a job with R.K. Carter & Co., investigating claims and losses on shipments of merchandise, and also took some courses in economics and social philosophy at Henry George School of Social Sciences. He remained at R.K. Carter until he enlisted in the Army.
From 1940-1942, he studied sculpture part-time at the Ellerhusen School of Art in Towaco with famed sculptor Ulric Ellerhusen, who ran the school with his wife.
He registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, and enlisted on September 23, 1942, where he served in the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion—selected for the unit because of his art studies.
Harold wrote numerous letters home during his 1942-1945 service in the Ghost Army—directed to his mother and sister. Rick Beyer made good use of these letters in The Ghost Army of World War II, and the full collection of letters resides in the Ghost Army Legacy Project archives. He was intrigued by the art skills of his fellow soldiers--buying some of George Vander Sluis's work to take home, and raving in his letters home about the sketches and paintings done by his friend Cleo Hovel.
He was discharged from the Army on October 19, 1945 with the rank of SGT. After the war he worked for a while as a sculptor's assistant to Ulric Ellerhusen in Towaco. He organized the 603rd Engineer Association, and as Executive Secretary organized an exhibit of GI art for charity in the City of Luxembourg in February 1948. Also in 1948, he took a job as a fine arts appraiser with Equitable Appraisal Co., Inc.
Harold married Carolyn "Carey" Hink on December 28, 1949 and settled down in Towaco. During the 1950s they became the parents of three children: Robert, Nate, and Janet.
In 1955 he bought the Equitable Appraisal Company where he had previously been an employee. 1955 was also the year that Harold started building his family's house in Towaco. As a young man he'd dreamed of becoming an architect, and now he got to put his brain and brawn to work, working from the ground up with soil and cinder blocks.
Harold and his company appraised many famous collections, including those of the Frick Museum, the Juilliard School of Music, the Helen Keller Collection of the American Foundation for the Blind, and all historic preservations in the state of New Jersey, including the Governor's Mansion.
In addition to his appraisal work, Harold was active in his community and in the state of New Jersey. He was a member of the Montville Historical Society, serving as president in 1964. He was a member of the museum committee of the New Jersey Historical Society and in 1971 was nominated to the Historic Sites Council for the state of New Jersey.
He was also a member of the local First Aid Squad and was president of the Montville Township Board of Health from 1969-1970.
He was the co-author, with George Connor, of "The Falls of the Passaic," an article in the October 1958 issue of Antiques magazine, which looked at early prints and paintings of the falls, including items from his own and his co-author's collections.
Sadly, Harold died at only 59 of a brain hemorrhage, on March 2, 1972, and he is buried at Bloomfield Cemetery in Bloomfield, NJ.
A friend's memorial at the time of his death says of Harold that he had "an extraordinary range of interests which became an extraordinary range of effectiveness. Not only was Harold an officer of most of these organizations, but also a founding member. . . . First came his family and his home, and then his business and some of his boyhood friends, and then . . . there came continual contact with literally hundreds of people over a span of years who were caught up in his enthusiasm for getting things going, keeping them going and making them work."
1930 Boonton HS yearbook
1940 draft card
1942 enlistment record
1948 Harold Dahl resume
1949 marriage record
1958 article in The Herald-News (Passaic NJ) re his "The Falls of thr Passaic" collection and article
1964 article in The Item of Millburn and Short Hills (NJ) with background about his appraisal and historical work
1971 article in The News (Paterson NJ) re his appt to Historic Sites Council
1972 VA death record
1972 Find a Grave record
1972 obituary in The Herald-News (Passaic NJ)
Very thorough family tree entry in ancestry.com
Harold J. Dahl memorial comments by friend, on the above ancestry.com family tree (first two pages of the document)
Letters from Harold J. Dahl on Ghost Army Legacy Project website