Arthur R. Blom, 88, counterintelligence teacher for Army

March 07, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Arthur R. Blom, a retired Army colonel who landed with North African invasion forces during World War II and directed the military intelligence school at Fort Holabird, died Monday of cardiac arrest at the Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson.

The former Towson and Glen Arm resident was 88.

Born and raised in Seattle, he earned a degree in business and economics at the University of Washington in 1936. An honors graduate of his ROTC program, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army. His career was devoted almost entirely to intelligence service.

At the outbreak of World War II, he was a regimental intelligence officer with the Third Infantry Division. Family members said he drew upon athletic training to swim and land safely in North Africa after German gunfire sank his landing vessel. He remained an excellent swimmer throughout his life.

He received the Bronze Star for "meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy on Nov. 8, 1942."

He later served in the invasion of Italy. Gen. Mark Clark, on whose staff Mr. Blom served, pinned a Legion of Merit award on him in 1944.

During the Cold War, Mr. Blom had overseas assignments that took him to Stuttgart, Germany, and what is now Islamabad, in Pakistan, where he lived with family from 1959 to 1961. He was detailed to a unit called the Military Assistance Advisory Group, a training team involved in intelligence gathering.

"He attended receptions with the president of Pakistan," said his daughter, Kathryn R. Blom, a Monkton resident, who detailed her father's career using clippings from the Pakistan Times. "But when he sat down to dinner with the family, and we asked, `Hi, dad, what did you do today?' he would say, `Nothing.'"

He settled in Baltimore initially in 1949 -- and had other assignments in San Francisco, Atlanta and elsewhere. Before his 1966 military retirement, he was deputy chief of staff for operations at the Fort Holabird Intelligence Command in Southeast Baltimore. There he taught in and directed the counterintelligence school.

He attained the rank of colonel. At retirement, his superior officers praised him for his "keen perception, objectivity and professional competence."

He received an additional Oak Leaf Cluster for "exceptionally meritorious service," the Army Commendation Medal, Order of the Crown of Italy and the French Croix de Guerre.

"He loved life and exuded exceptional positive energy," said Susan Rosebery, a friend of 15 years who lives in Homeland. "It was hard to keep up with him. He knew what he wanted and accomplished his goals. He never had anything bad to say about anyone. He was open-minded, a hard worker and fastidious."

After his Army retirement, he had a 10-year career as a Maryland Department of State Planning capital improvements programmer. He coordinated construction and improvements to schools and parks.

In the mid-1970s, Gov. Marvin Mandel named him chairman of the state's Maryland Fire Rescue Education and Training Commission. He also was a real estate salesman for Piper & Co. and sold homes in Baltimore County.

An intrepid traveler, he sailed down the Danube two years ago. When family members asked why he was traveling alone, he told them, "Because I wanted to see Budapest."

A singer and whistler, he enjoyed Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performances. He was to have attended a Vivat! Baltimore concert last week, but ill health prevented him.

His wife of 53 years, the former Kathryn Rakow, died in 1998.

Services will be held at 10:45 a.m. April 1 at Fort Myer Old Post Chapel adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

Survivors include another daughter, Barbara A. Blom of Homeland, and a grandson, Matthew L.B. Shiver of Catonsville.

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