ILLINOIS/THATCHER - December 8, 2022
It was 1944.
World War II was raging overseas, and many Utah families had sent their sons into battle, praying they would return safely. Immigrants Alben and Gunda Borgstrom, residing in Thatcher, were the parents of five who donned uniforms. In less than six months, four telegrams were delivered to their rural farmhouse notifying the Borgstrom family that four of those five had been killed in action.
The Borgstroms became the only family in World War II to display a service flag with four gold stars, each one signifying a serviceman lost while serving their country. The fifth son was sent home to his grieving family in what President Franklin D. Roosevelt would later hale as "an inspiration to the parents of all soldiers."
It is a story that has almost been forgotten outside of Box Elder County.
But author Mark Hutson of Woodstock, Illinois, tells that tale of sacrifice in his new book, So Costly a Sacrifice. The book was recently named the 2022 Nonfiction Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association.
"Earning this award is one of the most significant accomplishments of my life. But more important to me is that the forgotten story of the Borgstrom family, who sacrificed so much for this country, finally receives the recognition they justly deserve," said Hutson.
Hutson is a military veteran himself, and began collecting service flags, trying to uncover the stories of the men behind the stars. Late one night, Hutson stumbled upon the obscure Borgstrom story. After years of research, Hutson used Gunda Borgstrom’s own letters, family interviews, military correspondence — even a rare 1944 radio broadcast featuring the sole surviving Borgstrom son — to piece together the astounding, heartbreaking journey of this local family.
Local historian, author and retired schoolteacher, Tamara Newman, also assisted Hutson with some of the background story of the family while they were living in the Thatcher area.
"It is my hope," Hutson said, "that we continue to spread the story of the Borgstroms tremendous sacrifice to everyone who will listen."