By Al Nelson
He led one of America’s most famous generals into his first gun battle. He escaped a firing squad on several occasions. He fought for multiple causes on at least three continents. He was linked with the death of legendary Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa for nearly half a century and a military march was dedicated to him.
His life was a cliché for adventure.
His name was Emil Ludwig (Lewis) Holmdahl and he was born Aug. 26, 1883, in the “Swedetown” area of Fort Dodge. His father, Frank, worked for the Fort Dodge Gas and Electric Company as did two of his brothers. Frank might be described as a marital mercenary as he had three or more families and abandoned his Fort Dodge family to start another in California after doing the same in St. Paul, Minn. His father’s gallivanting may have influenced Holmdahl’s extraordinary wanderlust that led him to China, Central America, Mexico, Europe and the jungles of the Philippines. There are years missing in the timeline of his exploits with some evidence that he fought in Cuba and Venezuela, too.