Kenneth H. Dahlberg

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Kenneth Harry Dahlberg

Birthdate: (94)
Death: 2011 (94)
Immediate Family:

Son of Harry Dahlberg and Mamie Josephine Leander

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Kenneth H. Dahlberg

Kenneth Harry Dahlberg (June 30, 1917 – October 4, 2011) was an American businessman and highly decorated World War II fighter ace. 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 schoolhouse for 11 years. 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.

World War II

He was drafted into the army in 1941 and originally desired to become a cook. He eventually became an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), where one of his instructors was future Senator Barry Goldwater.

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.

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

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. Many years after the war, both Dardis and Dahlberg would become key figures in the Watergate scandal.

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.

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, Dahlberg wound up working for Telex, a company that made hearing aids. 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. 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. In the summer of 1993 Dahlberg sold his company to Bausch & Lomb for $139 million.

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


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 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 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 Watergate investigation because it led to the discovery of how the Watergate burglars were financed through a money-laundering scheme.

Kenneth H. Dahlberg was never charged with any wrongdoing as a result of the Watergate scandal.


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. In addition Dahlberg also earned two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with cluster, the Bronze Star Medal, and 15 Air Medals.

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. He was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997.

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. And, in 2009, Dahlberg was inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame. He died October 4, 2011.

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.

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Kenneth H. Dahlberg's Timeline

Age 94