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Kenneth Dahlberg, WWII ace, Watergate figure, dies

In this April 1998 photo,Ken Dahlberg stands in front of a painting of a Mustang fighter he flew in WWII in St. Louis Park, Minn. Minnesota businessman Kenneth Dahlberg, an inadvertent figure in the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, has died. He was 94. In this April 1998 photo,Ken Dahlberg stands in front of a painting of a Mustang fighter he flew in WWII in St. Louis Park, Minn. Minnesota businessman Kenneth Dahlberg, an inadvertent figure in the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, has died. He was 94. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Tom Sweeney)
October 5, 2011

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MINNEAPOLIS—Minnesota businessman Kenneth Dahlberg, a World War II ace and an inadvertent figure in the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, has died at age 94, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Dahlberg died Tuesday at his Deephaven home of natural causes, Dahlberg attorney and family friend Warren Mack told The Associated Press. Dahlberg had broken his hip about a year ago and had pneumonia, but his hip had healed and his health had been "great," Mack said.

Even though Dahlberg did not commit any wrongdoing, he was swept into the Watergate scandal as Midwest finance chairman of Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign. The Star Tribune ( http://bit.ly/mWcAD5) reported that Dahlberg became linked to the scandal after a check he delivered to the Nixon campaign turned up in a Watergate burglar's bank account. The contribution was legal, and a grand jury cleared Dahlberg.

"He never did anything wrong, and he knew that. So he never minded talking about it (Watergate)," said Mack, who wrote Dahlberg's biography, "One Step Forward: The Life of Ken Dahlberg."

Dahlberg also was a World War II flying ace who was shot down three times behind enemy lines, escaped twice and was a prisoner of war in Munich for the last few months of the war. He founded Miracle Ear Hearing Aid Co. and spearheaded other business ventures, including Minneapolis-based restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., which he helped fund.

Dahlberg's political activities grew out of a wartime friendship with Barry Goldwater, the Star Tribune reported. Dahlberg was a deputy chairman of fundraising for the Arizona Republican's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1964.

He later was campaign chairman for Republican U.S. Rep. Clark MacGregor's unsuccessful run for a Senate seat in 1970 against Hubert Humphrey. MacGregor went on to become chairman of Nixon's Campaign to Re-elect the President.

Dahlberg grew up on a 120-acre farm near Wilson, Wis., and graduated from St. Paul Harding High School in 1935. Dahlberg was drafted, and on June 2, 1944 -- four days before D-Day -- he arrived in England to join the 354th Fighter Group flying P-51 Mustangs to support the invasion.

Survivors include his wife, Betty Jayne; daughters Nancy Dahlberg and Dede Disbrow; and a son, K. Jeffrey Dahlberg.

A memorial service is scheduled Oct. 12 at Colonial Church of Edina. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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