Share Your Story

 

As part of constructing the South Dakota World War II Memorial, we want to preserve the stories of South Dakotans during that period. Please share with us a story of your experience during that time.

 

Ileen Wells Tarrell, Della Wells, and Charlotte Wells

Ileen, Della and Charlotte were all sisters from Canistota, SD that went to California during the war and worked in the Douglas Aircraft Defense plants.  They were known as “Rosie, the Riveters.”

Submitted by their sister, 4/12/01

 

Kenneth Adair Howard

Kenneth was killed in action at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

Submitted by his sister, 4/12/01  (Note: Kenneth’s full biography is listed in the Fallen Sons Section. )

Armed Guard Veterans  Finally Get Their Thanks

By Lacy McCrary INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

The first thing the white-haired veterans did was pledge allegiance to the flag.  They have remembered the words and continued the ritual even while they believed their country had forgotten about them.

Yesterday, about 60 veterans of the little-known U.S. Navy Armed Guard, who fought World War II in obscurity, fought back tears as they learned their government, more than 50 years later, has officially honored them for their service, sacrifice and heroism.

The Armed Guard was a special U.S. Navy unit in which nearly 145,000 Sailors served, manning deck guns on poorly armed, thin-skinned, fatally slow supply ships, struggling to deliver men and materials to allied forces around the world.

Since 1982, they have battled for some recognition, as their numbers dwindled with increasing swiftness.  U.S. Rep. James C. Greenwood (R., Pa.), who took up their cause last fall, told the Armed Guard veterans at an American Legion Post in Bucks County that Congress, in the fiscal Year 1999 defense authorization bill, commended the courage of the Armed Guard and Merchant Marines as “…deserving of the appreciation of a grateful nation.”

In November, Greenwood introduced a resolution expressing the appreciation of Congress and the American people for the service of the Armed Guardsmen.  The language of the resolution was folded into the defense bill which passed the House on May 21.  The veterans said that was all they ever wanted – a belated salute from their country – especially before they were all gone.

“When you’ve waited over 50 years, it’s an overwhelming feeling that our unit is getting the recognition it deserves,” said James W. Biscardi, 85, of Quakertown.

“I was unhappy it took so long,” said Ray Lorah, 74, of Mayfair.

“I’m very proud of it.  It’s been such a little-known part of the Navy,” said Harlan Ross, 72, of Exton.   “I never expected to get any recognition.  It’s just very good to get if finally.”

Arthur Coyle, 73, of Pemberton, N.J., said he feared that no one understood what the Armed Guard did in the war and that it was forgotten because the unit was disbanded quickly at war’s end.

“We will go down in history now.  It was well worth the wait.  I’m just glad I was around to get some recognition,” Coyle said.

Louis Fantacone, 72, of Bensalem, said he was upset the Armed Guard was so unknown.

“It was a disgrace.  There was not a day I was on the ocean that I thought I was not going to be killed.  It’s about time we got some notice, before we all die,” Fantacone said.

Greenwood, who was born after World War II, said he had benefited from just knowing the veterans’ stories.

“I didn’t understand what you people did.  It was a learning experience for me, too,” Greenwood said.

The Armed Guard was created by the Navy during World War I, and it was reactivated during World War II.  Its members served on more than 6,000 merchant ships, and nearly 2,000 members were killed.

“Today we can face the future with pride, knowing we will now take our place in history alongside those other heroic units of our country’s services,” said Biscardi, who was given a plaque for his efforts to get government recognition.

“This will be a legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren,” Biscardi said.

The Philadelphia Enquirer July 8, 1998

SHIPS ATTACKED ALONG THE NORTH AERICAN COASTS

IN MAY 1942

Ship Name         Registry              U-Boat Number                   Commanded by              Date of Attack

Bidev                  Nor                     U-752      1                        Schroeter                        5-1-42

La Paz +             Brit                      U-109      3                       Bleichrodt                        5-1-42

Worden                Duth                    U-109      3                      Bleichrodt                        5-1-42

Alcoa Leader       USA                    U-136      1                       Zimmerman                      5-1-42

Cythera                USA                    U-402      1                      V. Forstner                       5-2-42

Sama                  Nic                      U-506     10                      Wurdemann                      5-3-42

Ocean Venus      Brit                     U-564      6                        Suhren                             5-3-42

Laertes               Duth                   U-109      3                        Bleichrodt                        5-3-42

Norlindo              USA                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-4-42

Eclipse +            Brit                     U-564      6                        Surhen                           5-4-42

Munger T. Ball     USA                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-4-42

Jos.M. Cudaby    USA                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-4-42

Delisle +           Cand                   U-564      6                        Suhren                             5-4-42

Java Arrow +      USA                   U-333      4                        Cremer                            5-5-42

Amazone          Duth                   U-333      4                        Cremer                             5-6-42

Halsey              USA                   U-333      4                        Cremer                             5-6-42

Alcoa Puritan     USA                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-6-42

Ontario              Hond                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-7-42

Torny                Nor                     U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-8-42

Ohioan              USA                   U-564      6                        Suhren                            5-8-42

Greylock +        USA                   U-588      4                        Vogel                             5-8-42

Lubrafol             Pan                    U-564      6                       Suhren                           5-9-42

Kitty’s Brock     Brit                     U-588      4                        Vogel                             5-9-42

Clan Skene       Brit                     U-333      4                        Cremer                           5-10-42

Aurora               USA                   U-506     10                       Wurdemann                   5-10-42

Bedfordshire      Brit                     U-558      1                        Krech                            5-11-42

Nicoya              Brit                     U-553      2                        Thurmann                        5-11-42

Leto                  Duth                   U-553      2                        Thurmann                        5-12-42

Virginia             USA                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-12-42

Gulfpenn           USA                   U-506     10                       Wurdemann                      5-13-42

David McKeloy   USA                   U-506     10                       Wurdemann                      5-13-42

Potrero del Llano Mexc                 U-564      6                       Suhren                             5-13-42

Stavros             Greec                 U-593      2                        Kelbling                            5-14-42

Anapala            Hond                   U-507      8                        Schacht                          5-15-42

Nicarao             USA                   U-751      1                        Bigalk                              5-15-42

McTarnaban      USA                   U-506      10                          Wurdemann                  5-16-42

Sun                  USA                   U-506      10                       Wurdemann                      5-16-42

Fort Qu’Appelle  Brit                     U-135       1                       Praetorius                       5-16-42

Gulf Oil             USA                   U-506      10                       Wurdemann                      5-16-42

Foam                USA                   U-432       2                       Schultze                         5-17-42

Peisander          Brit                     U-653       1                       Feiler                              5-17-42

Heredia             USA                   U-506      10                       Wurdemann                      5-19-42

Ogontz              USA                   U-103       1                       Winter                              5-19-42

Halo                  USA                   U-506      10                       Wurdemann                      5-20-42

Faja de Ora       Mexc                  U-106       1                       Rasch                               5-20-42

Plow City          USA                   U-588       4                       Vogel                                5-21-42

Zurichmoor        Brit                     U-432       2                       Schultze                         5-22-42

Margot              Brit                     U-588       4                       Vogel                               5-23-42

Haakon Hauan   Nor                     U-753       2                       V. Mannstein                        5-24-42

Persephone       Pan                    U-593       2                       Kelbling                              5-25-42

Hamlet              Nor                     U-753       2                       V. Mannstein                        5-27-42

Yorkmoor          Brit                     U-506      10                       Wurdemann                      5-28-42

Alcoa Shipper    USA                   U-404       1                       V. Bulow                            5-30-42

Notes + = Damaged or sunk, refloated, repaired and sailed again.

53 Vessels attacked along North American coasts in the Month of May 1942

Total U-Boat attacks world wide in May of 1942 totaled 150 Vessels.  This was a very good month for the Kriegsmarine U-Boats..

Did you know that German U-Boats planted mines at the entrance of 3 Harbors during WW II? They were New York’s Ambrose channel, Chesapeake Bay and Jacksonville, FL

Numbers alongside U-Boat # is number of ships attacked by that U-Boat.

Submitted 4/12/01

   

Knights

Unsung the knights of valor
Were the men of pawn
Within the game of chess's armor
Under fire they were never known to fawn

Of seven continents, six were under fire
Coming forth from a deep depression
Lives were hurled into chaotic mire
Economy was bankrupt, needing revision

Curdling were atrocities of rancor
Leaving our world reeling in a daze
Hitler was in his bunker
His mind reduced to craze

As you trace a name
It seems to slice your heart
For the memories seem to display national fame
It's a story that mapped a chart

Young love was torn asunder
How long the time left to live
War's game of chess came to plunder
Hopes and dreams evaporated as through a sieve

Hearts bled and arms ached
Passion upon lips the kiss
A child conceived in passion's slake
Stolen was hope for a moment's bliss

These were babies left with no goodbye
Unyet known of being born
No Daddy to bend o’er a crib or shoe to tie
From their tomorrow, Daddy was torn

December 7 came as a tidal wave
A Sunday of warmth and family bliss
Shattered! ! As Roosevelt came forth to pave
Pearl Harbor was bombed, becoming a famed tryst
 

Bread and milk their supper's fare
Our nation beginning to emerge
From depression's hideous scare
Shoes from soles of cardboard merge

  Flung into war's game of hell
Boy's become knights of chess
Strategists played the board well
Valor's recognition freely given will press
 

Dignity and remembrance upon granite
While a picture silently gazes with youth's wonder
As she with dignity recites
Prayers that no one can put him asunder
 

As Uncle Sam said, "I need you"
Beside the furrow the plow was laid
As youth walked from the field he knew
"Dad and Mom, I must go," the lad said
 

Embracing the uniform of a knight to charge
He placed his courage upon dignity's choice
For his flag he'd destroy the carnage
In carrying Old Glory forth he'd rejoice
 

She was raised on Iwo Jima
Gracing our ships on the bounding main
Betsy Ross saw her charisma
Knowing even then her greatness free of stain
 

Fighting Seabee’s stormed the Philippines
Mighty the sight of power coming ashore
Enough to quake fear it would seem
Into the enemy's core it deeply bore
 

Now his name grace's a memorial
A Gold Star of honor and dignity comes forth to posses
A piece of homage so long ago over
Our knight's fought with courage now in recess
 

Rows of crosses herald the names
Are those crosses angel wings
Watching o’er those knights that came
To defend America from the sorrow that evil brings

A war that lasted 4 long years
Usurping youth from her roots
Marching them forth to rest fears
To taps, reveille, and marching boots
 

Many a young heart forever stilled
And that unborn child yet to be filled
Today he traces a name belonging to a face unknown
 

That face represents America's fate
Of that long ago battle fought
America's knight's came forth and cleaned the slate
The price was high for freedom sought

  World War II was a victory all sides sought
America persevered, filling the victor's slot
The price was high, but she couldn't be bought
America's youth wouldn't be lost for naught
 

America fought from beneath the evil's tide
Youth today must glean our history dry
Tyranny was an affliction America couldn't abide
America's knights heard Uncle Sam's outcry

  Victory gardens were planted
Scrap iron America's mainstay
In America's homes the word CAN'T
Was a word that never came into play
 

From people's mind CAN'T was banished
War bonds bought to help our boys over there
America's image must never be tarnished
We'd fend off the most vicious scare

Gas, meat, sugar, shoes were on ration
Ration books came with stamps of red and blue
For four years they governed our nation
But from America's fortitude came a clamoring hue
 

World War II's end was a glorious victory
At long last our troops came home
Many a wedding held at the church rectory
America was in rebirth, generosity was full blown
 

Jubilation coursed mind and vein
Depression at long last over thrown
Optimism and vigor came forth to name
America!! Was alive, she was grown

Unfurling on the nation's breeze
Rests a bed of blue, whence stars gleam
To one's eye the sight pleases
Her stripes flow as a stream
 

Let's never let grow within us a passive mood
Thinking that never again, evil won't fester and grow
Keep the thoughts of Old Glory for which our knights stood
Upon America's hearth, keep the victory our knight's bestowed

Melancholy thoughts always surface
Red stripes a symbol for life's blood shed
White is for purity's grace
America's cloak is heaven's blue with white and red
 

America's knights are becoming few
They were a strong and silent breed
But their hearts bled for America so true
Gallantly they bled for America's creed

So in essence let me say;

  America's youth so gallantly played
The game of chess Uncle Sam fervently displayed
When gunfire ceased, crosses were laid
Like angel' wings they've stayed

  From the sorrow of this tragedy
Came forth the gleam of prosperity
America's knights were played in chess's strategy
Don't let us forget our knight's blood blessed us for our eternity

Written by Dorothy J. Colling, Spearfish, So. Dakota

This poem was written in honor of my husband Jerald L. Colling who was a World War II Vet. He is now deceased, but lies with grace and dignity, at the Black Hills National Cemetery.