Kenneth H. Dahlberg

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Kenneth Harry Dahlberg
Born June 30, 1917
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Died October 4, 2011 (aged 94)
Deephaven, Minnesota
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1941–1951
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit 354th Fighter Group
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Bronze Star
Air Medal (15)
Purple Heart (2)
Other work Businessman

Kenneth Harry Dahlberg (June 30, 1917 – October 4, 2011) was an American businessman and highly decorated World War II fighter ace.[1][2] According to reporter Bob Woodward, a check made out to Dahlberg was a key part in connecting the Watergate scandal to President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, though Dahlberg himself was not accused of any wrongdoing.

Early life

Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Dahlberg grew up on a farm near the village of Wilson, Wisconsin, in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, and attended classes in a one-room school for 11 years.[3] During his senior year, he moved back to Saint Paul to live with an aunt in order to graduate from an accredited high school (Harding High School). After graduation in 1935, he worked in the hotel business, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to food and beverage manager for a hotel chain.[4]

World War II

He was drafted into the army in 1941. He eventually became an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), where one of his instructors was future Senator Barry Goldwater.[5]

After training, Dahlberg flew the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang with the USAAF 353rd Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group Ninth Air Force in Europe. A fighter ace, Dahlberg was credited with 14½ aerial victories.[6]

He was shot down three times. The first time, he bailed out near Paris, and was sheltered by the French Resistance.[2] Disguised as a woman,[1] he rode a bicycle to Allied lines 40 miles (64 km) away.[2]

He received numerous awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a flight of 16 P-47 Thunderbolts (354th) against an attack of 70 German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters on December 19, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. Dahlberg accounted for four enemy planes that day, but was himself shot down. He was rescued by Martin Dardis and four other American soldiers.[7] Many years after the war, both Dardis and Dahlberg would become key figures in the Watergate scandal.[7]

On February 14, 1945, Dahlberg was downed for the third and final time, near Bitburg, and became a prisoner of war for the final three months of the war.[6]

Continuing his military service after the war, Dahlberg served with the Minnesota Air National Guard until 1951.

Business career

Fully expecting to return to the hotel business after the war[citation needed], Dahlberg wound up working for Telex, a company that made hearing aids.[4] In 1948, Dahlberg founded Dahlberg Electronics, a subsidiary of which is the Miracle-Ear hearing aids manufacturer. His company is credited with the first use of the newly invented transistor in a consumer product.[citation needed] By 1959, Miracle-Ear had evolved into a subsidiary of Dahlberg, Inc., with USD 100 million in annual revenues. A national advertising campaign that Dahlberg, Inc. ran from 1988 until mid-1993 was subject to charges of false advertising by the Federal Trade Commission, which were settled in 1995 when the company agreed to pay a $2.75 million civil penalty.[8] In the summer of 1993[8] Dahlberg sold his company to Bausch & Lomb for $139 million.[4]

In 1995, Dahlberg started the venture capital firm Carefree Capital, whose investments include the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant chain.[4] As of 2010, Dahlberg lived in Carefree, Arizona, and still piloted a Cessna Citation jet.[6]


During the Watergate investigation by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, chronicled in All the President's Men, Bernstein traveled to Miami to see Martin Dardis, the head investigator for Dade County District Attorney Richard E. Gerstein. Since most of the Watergate burglars were from Miami, the district attorney's office had launched an investigation. Dardis showed Bernstein a photostatic copy of a cashier's check for $25,000 that had been deposited into the bank account of a real estate firm owned by Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglars. The check was drawn on a Boca Raton, Florida, bank and was made out to Kenneth H. Dahlberg. Bernstein telephoned this information to Woodward who was back at the Post in Washington, D.C.

Woodward located Dahlberg's telephone number from information and called him[9] at home. At first, Dahlberg did not believe Woodward was actually a reporter. He later called Woodward back and explained that his neighbor, Virginia Piper, had been recently kidnapped[10] and it was an upsetting experience. Dahlberg told Woodward he had the check made out to himself while he was in Florida on business and did not want to carry that much cash around. Dahlberg could not explain how the check got into Barker's bank account, but said it was either given to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President or to Maurice Stans.

Dahlberg was the Midwest finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President during President Richard M. Nixon's 1972 campaign. In 1968, Dahlberg was the finance chairman for Clark MacGregor's unsuccessful Senate campaign in Minnesota. MacGregor was later appointed the head of the Committee to Re-elect the President in 1972, after former attorney general John Mitchell had resigned. It was later learned the $25,000 came from Dwayne Andreas, chief executive officer of Archer Daniels Midland, as an anonymous donation to the Nixon campaign. Woodward later commented that finding Dahlberg's check was a turning point in their investigation because it led to the discovery of how the Watergate burglars were financed through a money-laundering scheme.[2]

Kenneth H. Dahlberg was never charged with any wrongdoing in the Watergate scandal.[6]


Dahlberg died at his Deephaven, Minnesota, home. He was survived by his wife of 64 years, Betty Jayne (née Segerstrom), two daughters and a son.[11]


In 1967, Dahlberg was notified by the Department of Defense that he had earned the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945, but he had never collected it because he was in a prisoner of war camp. Dahlberg also earned two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with cluster, the Bronze Star Medal, and 15 Air Medals.[12]

In 1970, President Richard Nixon appointed Dahlberg to the board of visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He also served as a trustee to Hamline University.

In 1996, Kenneth Dahlberg was inducted into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame at the Norsk Høstfest in Minot, North Dakota.[13] He was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997.[14]

In July 2007, he was featured in the aviation series Dogfights on The History Channel, in the final segment of the episode on the P-47 Thunderbolt. In 2009, Dahlberg was inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame.[15] He died October 4, 2011.[16]

In 2012, the Kenneth H. Dahlberg Memorial to Service was built and constructed at Hamline University, where Dahlberg served as a life trustee and played an integral part of its construction, prior to his death.

Military awards

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
1st Row Distinguished Service Cross Silver Star Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster Bronze Star
2nd Row Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster Air Medal with 2 Silver and 4 Bronze oak leaf Clusters Prisoner of War Medal American Defense Service Medal
3rd Row American Campaign Medal European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal


  1. 1.0 1.1 Miller, Stephen (October 10, 2011). "Miracle Ear Founder and Unwitting Watergate Figure". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Kenneth Dahlberg". The Daily Telegraph. December 27, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Wilson's Ken Dahlberg park to be dedicated
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Stavig, Vicki (July 1, 2003). "Kenneth Dahlberg - Still Airborne". Twin Cities Business - 2003 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 29, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The Minnesota American Legion and Auxiliary
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Seth Robbins: Plane’s remnants unearthed, and a pilot’s tale emerges , Stars and Stripes Online Edition, March 27, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sullivan, Patricia (May 19, 2006). "Martin F. Dardis, 83; Investigator Linked Watergate Crime to Nixon". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "FTC Garners $2.75 Million Civil Penalty In Settlement Of False Advertising Charges Against Maker Of "Miracle-Ear" Hearing Aids". U.S. Federal Trade Commission. 1995-11-21. Retrieved 2010-03-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas
  10. Minnesota Historical Society
  11. Douglas Martin (October 8, 2011). "Kenneth H. Dahlberg, Link in the Watergate Chain, Dies at 94". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Valor Awards for Kenneth H. Dahlberg". Military Times. Retrieved August 16, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Kenneth Dahlberg". Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Kenneth H. Dahlberg". Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 3, 2010. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Super Sabre Society
  16. Shapiro, T. Rees (October 7, 2011). "Ken Dahlberg, Miracle Ear founder and unwitting Watergate figure, dies at 94". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links