Memory of U.S. Army Private First Class
Michael Jerome Gruenwald was born in Aberdeen, South
Dakota, on November 24, 1943, to Jerome and Carolyn
(Moeller) Gruenwald. He was raised on a farm 8 miles west of
Redfield with his brothers: Wilfred, Francis, Joe, Richard,
Jerome, and Douglas; and his sisters: Mary, Karen, Janice,
Elizabeth, Jean, Irene, Margaret, and Norita. He was the 6th
of the 15 children. He had strong Catholic beliefs and
attended mass regularly on Sundays. During the week he went
to school in Zell until 8th grade. He, as well as his
siblings, had to stay in town during the school week and
then walked five miles to get home on the weekends. He then
went to high school in Redfield.
While at home Michael and his siblings had very little
play time because they had chores and homework to do. They
had no TV or stereos, just an old record player. So when
there was time to play, Michael and his brothers and sister
would make up games with the things they had.
According to his sister, Irene, “Michael was his own man.
He did as he thought, sometimes right and sometimes wrong.
He liked to party and dance with the young ladies; he was a
very good looking young man.” When he was 18, Michael went
to California, and he stayed with two of his older sisters
and their families. He had several jobs in and around San
Diego. While in California, Michael was in a motorcycle
accident that almost killed him. He was drafted into the
military before all of his scars were healed so he was not
taken in the draft the first time. In 1967, before being
drafted, Michael married and shortly after, he entered the
Michael Gruenwald was drafted around September 18, 1968,
at Redfield. He was sent to Fort Ord, California, for basic
training and then to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for artillery
school. He went over seas to Vietnam on February 5, 1969, as
an Army Private First Class, Battery A, 1st Battalion 30th
ARTY, 1st Cavalry, Air Mobile Division.
He served from February 12, 1969 – March 11, 1969. After
he went to Vietnam, he battled for 31 days until he died of
wounds in South Vietnam. He was in a “rocket and mortar
attack during the third battle of LZ GRANT.” For his bravery
and courage, he was awarded with a Bronze Star Medal and a
Purple Heart. Michael was only 24 years old at the time of
His funeral was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on
March 22, 1969, at 10 a.m. His casket was draped with an
American flag. As the pallbearers carried him out of the
church, many Honor Guard and Color Guard formed rows to
honor him and his service. He was buried in the Church
cemetery in Zell.
His survivors were his parents, six brothers, eight
sisters, and his two grandmothers.
This entry was respectfully submitted by Breanna Kaitfors,
8th grade student, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South
Dakota, October 3, 2005. Information for this entry was
provided by The Redfield Press issues March 13, 1969, and
March 27, 1969 and Vietnam Veterans Bonus Application.
Additional information and profile approval provided by
Irene Amundson, Redfield.