Who the Hell is Ken Dahlberg?
Who the hell is Ken Dahlberg?” is a direct quote from the Nixon Watergate tapes posed by President Richard Nixon concerning Republican Party supporter Ken Dahlberg. Frankly, it is not surprising that Nixon, who was driven from his presidency due to the Watergate transgressions and cover-up, did not know Ken Dahlberg. Ken was a man cut from an entirely different cloth.
The question is, however, a good one. Ken Dahlberg, who passed away at the age of 94 in October 4, represents the greatest of the World War II generation. Growing up in poverty during the Great Depression, Ken rose to be a genuine war hero, a business entrepreneur, and a Minnesota legend.
Ken was born in 1917 on a farm owned by his parents that was foreclosed on and then redeemed by his father during the Depression. Ken worked on the farm while also having other jobs. One of those was shoveling sand for 19 cents an hour on a Depression-era federal work project.
Ken graduated from Harding High School in 1935 and joined the Army, where his intelligence and hard work parlayed into the opportunity to become a U.S. Army pilot. And what a pilot he became! Flying P15 Mustangs, he shot down 15 German airplanes, becoming a rare triple ace while flying missions in Europe. Ken himself was shot down three times. He once lived with a French family behind enemy lines until he was able to fly again.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Ken was shot down while protecting American tanks from the invading German army. Again he was rescued, this time by an American tank commander who crossed enemy lines and retrieved him as he was standing on the wing of his downed Mustang firing his 45 at invading German soldiers. After being shot down again, Ken spent the rest of the war in Stalag 7, a prisoner-of-war camp, where he was beaten and abused.
Returning to Minnesota with his Army pay unspent because of his imprisonment, Ken’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to invest in and start what would become a hugely successful hearing aid business, Miracle Ear. Ken then went on to start other thriving businesses, including Buffalo Wild Wings at the age of 80. Buffalo Wild Wings now employs more than 15,000 people.
Ken accomplished all of these achievements while he and his wife of 60 years, Betty, raised their family.
So, to answer President Nixon’s question: That is who Ken Dahlberg is! A true American hero who remains an example for all of us. I am proud to have known Ken and will never forget who he was, and what he meant to our country. TCB