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Robert Arnold Thorsell

S/SGT in Army Experimental Station at Pine Camp : HQ and HQ Detachment

Born 1920 in NJ, Died 1991

County of residence at enlistment: Morris County, NJ
Other residence(s): Oradell, NJ; Wood-Ridge, NJ; Dover, NJ; Budd Lake, NJ
United States Army, did not accompany the unit to Europe
Occupation before the war: electrician
Notes: Rank per Army Separation/Qualification Record
Source: AES 1944 Christmas Dinner Program; photo courtesy Ann Thorsell Drzik

Bob Thorsell was born on December 15, 1920 in Oradell, NJ, the elder of two sons. His father was an auto salesman and later ran Thorsell Heating Service, a small business that installed and repaired residential and commercial heating systems. His mother, and three of his grandparents, had been born in Germany.

Bob grew up in Wood-Ridge, NJ and later in Dover. He grew to be 6'4" and was an accomplished athlete, finishing 4th in the 1939 NJSIAA NJ State High School Wrestling Tournament and playing on the Dover High School football team in his senior year. He graduated from Dover High School in 1939 and went to work for his father, doing electrical work.

He registered for the draft on February 15, 1942 and enlisted on August 3, 1942, giving his profession as electrician. He spent four weeks training as an auto mechanic in the Signal Corps and earned a rifle marksmanship badge early in 1943. (He had been taught to shoot by his father as a young child.) Eventually, with the rank of Staff SGT, he became NCO in charge of motor transport at the Army Experimental Station at Pine Camp, near Watertown, NY, where the Ghost Army trained. His Army Separation/Qualification Record says that he "instructed men [in] Army vehicle engines, engaged in secret military investigations." He was a member of the Headquarters Detachment there.

Bob Thorsell (right) with the boat he built at Pine Camp.

Bob's younger brother, Richard, served as a Naval hospital corpsman during the war.

Bob's daughter, Ann, reports that because of his size he often attracted attention from other patrons at local bars near Pine Camp, and had a natural talent for drawing people into conversations. She says that he told her he would then try to extract relevant information from anyone who might possibly know something about German 5th column spies in the area.

While at Pine Camp, he built a small boat with an outboard motor which he named the Slug; it was registered with the Coast Guard in Cleveland in May, 1945.

Bob was discharged from the Army on September 22, 1945 and returned to Dover, NJ. His father's health was in decline due to injuries sustained in World War I, and Bob took over as President of Thorsell Heating Service shortly after completing his military duties. He married Veronica Zalasky on February 17, 1954 in Wharton, NJ; they would become the parents of a daughter, Ann.

Bob was a member of the American Legion Post 175 of Rockaway, NJ, the Vasa Order of America (a fraternal Swedish/American cultural organization), and the Roxbury Rifle and Pistol Club in Roxbury, NJ. His hobbies included target shooting, reading (especially about American history), and North American traveling.

After retirement from Thorsell Heating Service in 1979, Bob and Veronica moved to Vasa Park in Budd Lake, NJ.

Bob died on November 15, 1991 and is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Dover, NJ.


1930 census

1939 New Jersey Wrestling History (see 175-pound class)

1939 high school yearbook (includes photo)

1940 census

1942 draft card

1942 enlistment record

1954 marriage record

1991 obituary in the Daily Record (Morristown NJ)

1991 VA death record

1991 Social Security death index

ca 1991 US public records index

2024 (April 7) GALP Veteran Biography Worksheet from daughter Ann L. Thorsell

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