Retired U professor and former Army historian dies

Rodney Loehr proposed the Korean border at the Yalta Conference in 1945.

by Yelena Kibasova

Retired University of Minnesota professor and former Army historian Rodney Loehr died Saturday of natural causes. He was 97.

“When he was a little kid, he wanted to teach and he also wanted to be in the military and he just had a love of knowledge,” said Steve Loehr, Rodney Loehr’s grandnephew.

At 14, Rodney Loehr joined the Minnesota National Guard and served for seven years.

In 1938, Loehr received a Ph.D. from the University and began teaching American history.

He rejoined the Army in 1941 and took a position as a historical officer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

While serving, Rodney Loehr held many positions. He was a commanding officer for the Army Reserve’s 483rd Strategic Intelligence Detachment. He was also part of the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA.

“He was stationed in Germany as a special historian, but it was during that time that he was probably doing some covert operations,” Steve Loehr said.

In 1945, Rodney Loehr attended the Yalta Conference as an aid to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Steve Loehr said. There he proposed the dividing line between North and South Korea known as the 48th Parallel.

He was also a member of the Minnesota Historical Society as well as an executive director of The Forest History Society.

Rodney Loehr was known for his expertise in a wide range of topics, including agriculture, the U.S. Civil War and military history.

Rodney Loehr hosted “Trails West” on KTCA, Twin Cities Public Television, in the 1960s and was a regular reviewer of history books for the Minnesota Star and the Minneapolis Tribune.

“He didn’t really try to push any particular point of view; he just really wanted to put the facts out there,” Steve Loehr said.

In 1963, after retiring from the Army Reserves, Rodney Loehr became chairman of the University ROTC Committee.

“He could get up in the classes and lecture off the cuff without notes for quite some time,” Steve Loehr said. He was very knowledgeable because “he had experienced things firsthand.”

Rodney Loehr retired from the University in 1975.

Those who worked and served with him “respected his stature as both a historian and a teacher,” said John Krouss, who served under Rodney Loehr’s command in the Army.

Rodney Loehr became close with those he worked with.

“He was absolutely the most vicious hearts player I ever played against; a very kindly old gentleman except when he played hearts, you always lost,” Krouss said.

Rodney Loehr and Raymond Ploetz had been friends for more than 50 years.

“I have Doc Loehr to thank for my name. When my husband was thinking of proposing to me … he took me out to meet Doc Loehr,” said Lynne Ploetz, the wife of a friend. “After I left, he said to Doc Loehr ‘Well what do you think?’ and he said, ‘Ray, this one’s a keeper!’ “

Rodney Loehr was the best man in their wedding.

“At that point, he was probably my closest and longest friend in the military. Doc became a very, very close friend and mentor and I respected his opinion,” said Raymond Ploetz, a retired colonel in the Army Reserve.

Outside of work, Rodney Loehr was interested in impressionistic art and traveling. His wife, Nancy, a librarian for the St. Paul Public Library, died in 1986.