In Memory Of
U.S. Army Technician Fourth Grade
Sturgis, South Dakota
November 5, 1916 – June 5, 1943
Killed in Action in Algiers, North Africa
Leo Bestgen was born November 5, 1916, at Whitewood,
South Dakota. His mother and father were John and Jessie Bestgen; he had two
brothers, Philip and Steve Bestgen, and five sisters: Justine Bruch, Connie
Gray, Veronica Bogner, Patricia McDermott, and Elizabeth Bestgen. Leo attended
rural schools and St. Martin’s Academy in Sturgis, South Dakota, from where he
graduated with honors. Before joining the service, he worked as a carpenter. Leo
was considered “a fine, honest, hardworking and with the same spirit gave up his
life for his country,” according to the Sturgis Tribune.
On December 21, 1940, he
joined the National Guards. He was inducted into federal service on February 10,
1941. He was in Combat BN 34 DIV 109th Engineers, landing in Algiers,
North Africa, in November of 1942. He then oversaw carpenter work in his
company. The men who worked with him were preparing for the Allied-landing
onslaught in North Africa, building roads and bridges for the troops to follow.
While in action in Algeria,
Army National Guardsman T-4 Leo Bestgen was killed on June 5, 1943, by a
“butterfly bomb” while trying to dismantle it. Leo was the first soldier to be
killed from Meade County. He was buried at Plot I, Row 20, Grave 8, North Africa
American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia.
This entry was respectfully submitted by Nicole
Fonder, 8th Grade West, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South
Dakota, February 8, 2000. Information for this entry was provided by Philip and
Darlene Bestgen, Whitewood, South Dakota, brother and sister-in-law of Army
National Guard T-4 Leo Bestgen, and the Sturgis Tribune, 6/24/43 issue.