Kenneth H. Dahlberg’s amazing life has taken him from the farmlands of Wisconsin to the skies over Europe as a World War II triple ace and on to a hugely successful career as a business entrepreneur. Dahlberg was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1917 but grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. Following high school he pursued a successful career in hotel management. Drafted in 1941, he manned a coastal artillery battery in Virginia and attended cooks-and-bakers school until he seized an opportunity to become an aviation cadet with the Army Air Corps. After earning his commission and wings at Luke Field, Arizona he was chosen to train flight cadets at nearby Yuma instead of proceeding to combat immediately.
His colorful exploits at Yuma included crashing an AT-6 trainer while demonstrating low altitude flying, serving as both base policeman and jailer during his subsequent punishment, and becoming lifelong friends with fellow pilot Barry Goldwater. Just before departing for Europe he received P-47 transition training in Florida. In the spring of 1944 Dahlberg joined the 353rd Fighter Squadron in the 354th Fighter Group in England, just days before D-Day. Surprisingly, the squadron he was assigned to flew P-51 Mustangs, so after a short orientation flight he was deemed ready for his first mission. That first mission was dive bombing in support of allied forces, just six days after D-Day. Dahlberg scored the first of many kills when he downed a Me-109 on his fourth mission. In August Dahlberg found his flight of eight P-51s in a massive dogfight with about 40 Me-109s over Paris.
Dahlberg had downed four of them and was going for his fifth when he fell victim to one of the German’s guns. He bailed out safely and floated onto a French estate outside Paris. The family of the estate hid Dahlberg until American forces neared the area and he made a risky bicycle ride back to safety through the lines of the retreating Germans. In September 1944, following a strafing attack on a German airfield, Dahlberg scored an additional four kills of Fw-190s when 10 P-51s took on 40 Germans. The 353rd squadron made the change to the P-47 in the fall of 1944 and Dahlberg continued to score aerial victories. He downed five more Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in December before being hit by ground fire on the 26th and crashing in enemy territory. He was quickly rescued by an American tank.
In February 1945 Dahlberg was completing a dive bombing mission near Metz, Germany when he was again downed by German flak. After evading for several days on foot, he was captured by the Germans and spent the remainder of the war in a German POW camp. He made two daring but unsuccessful escape attempts. Following the war, Dahlberg spent time in the National Guard as a squadron commander while pursuing a civilian career in the electronics industry. The electronics company he and his brother started in 1948 developed the Miracle Ear brand, and became one of the largest manufacturers of hearing aids and other electronic products. Dahlberg has served as director of many companies including Buffalo Wild Wings, on the boards of several universities and foundations, and fundraising chairmanships for two presidential campaigns. He and his wife Betty Jayne have been married for 60 years and have three children, and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.