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.

 

Juleen J. Eide

 J.J. was a farm boy from Kingsbury County that joined the Navy in 1942.  After training to be a radioman and attending anti submarine warfare school, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Donaldson, a destroyer escort serving in the Pacific.  He returned to the states on a liberty ship, the S.S. Henry Bergh, which sunk off the Golden Gate.  He was then assigned to the U.S.S. Sibley, an attack transport, form the commissioning until the end of the war, including service in the Solomons, the Mariannas, the invasion of the Phillippines, and the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.   He left the Navy in January, 1946 as a Radioman First Class. 

Submitted by his son, 5/30/01

Ernest E. Bates

Ernest served as a Technician 4th Grade in Hy Co. 82 Sig. Bn. First Army Infantry.  He served from December, 1944 to August, 1946.

Submitted  5/30/01

 

Henry Biegler

The following memoirs are compiled and typed from a large brown photo album, which my father, Henry A.Biegler had put together in the last few months of his life in 1986.  I really didn't know he was doing this.  He had gotten cancer and must have had the need to be sure his progeny had something to remember of him and probably to know of the sacrifices he had experienced.  He, like many other veterans, didn't talk much of his service days except to tell of the good times--plenty of them.   
(There are many pages and some may take a bit to load, please be patient.)

Corporal Henry Biegler Memoirs

Submitted  5/30/01

Eddie Kodet
A Journey to Freedom

December 7, 1941 was an eventful day that changed the lives of millions of Americans forever.  We had just gone through the dust storms of the 30’s after making it through the depression of the late 20’s and 30’s.  During this period of my life, I had organized and traveled a great deal with my first dance band Eddie Kodet and his Kadet’s.”  It was made up of some outstanding musicians.

            Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, war was declared.  The result was rationing of gas, tires, food, and other necessities.  The dance band ended.  All efforts turned to surviving a global war.

            My dear wife Marjorie and I were married on June 2, 1942.  I was inducted into the United States Air Force on September 29, 1942 and entered the service at Fort Crook, Nebraska.  This was followed by several months of aircraft mechanical training at Sheppard Field, Texas and Baltimore, Maryland.

            One of my most exciting but disappointing moments was at Sheppard Field, Texas.  I just missed an Airforce Base band audition.  That audition may have altered the direction of my army career.

            I was trained in flight with test pilots in Omaha, Nebraska at a B-26 bomber assembly plant and an airfield.  Following that, I was sent to Panama City, Florida for aerial gunner training.  Troop trains carried us all over the United States.

            Upon completion of this training, combat crew assignment was next.  This took place at Clovis Air Base, Clovis, New Mexico.  Ten men made up the crew of our B-24 Liberator bomber.  These men were to be my constant companions and life long friends through what was the worst conflict in the history of the world.  They came from different walks of life and each had a different story to tell.  I’m not sure they were all true, but most of them were pretty interesting.  The position I was given on the aircraft was the top turret.  It was equipped with two 50-caliber machine guns.  I was also given aerial engineer duties.

            Our air flight training was made up of three phases.  It was concluded at Langley Field, Virginia.  Much of our training at Langley was over the Atlantic.  I remember one flight in particular.  We had an extremely strong tail wind.  After arriving back at our base the maintenance man that refueled our plane remarked, “This thing must have been flying on gas fumes.  There isn’t any gas left in it.”

During all these transfers from base to base, Marjorie followed me.  The housing and transportation was a challenge.  We looked for whatever we could find and rented rooms here and there.  One crewman remarked, “ We will expect Marjorie when we get settled overseas.”

            We left Mitchell Field on Long Island, New York, February of 1944 in a brand new B-24 bomber, flying over the Statue of Liberty and heading down the coast to Florida.  As we looked down on the symbol of freedom, I am sure the crew thought, “Will I ever see it again?”  That day our flight to Europe took us to Trinidad, Brazil, Africa, and finally to Southern Italy.  It rained almost every day resulting in mud everywhere.  We lived in tents with heat from make shift stoves using lots of wool blankets for added warmth.  There was no shortage of good Italian wines.

            We were assigned to the 459th Bomber group of the 15th Airforce.  My first combat mission was over Vienna, Austria.  At that time it was the third most fortified city in Europe.  It was a long mission and the anti-aircraft fire was extreme.  Many planes did not return.

            As time went on the oil fields of Ploesti, Rumania became our primary target.  These oil fields supplied petroleum for the German army.  I’m not sure how many flights I made over the Balkan States, But it seemed to me the Germans always expected us.  Every flight we took, they were always there to greet us.  Any lame bombers were an easy target for the waiting German fighter planes.  From the ground the 88-millimeter anti-aircraft flack shells fired continuously.

            On April 15th, 1944 on a mission to Bucharest, Romania, our aircraft was hit by what I think may have been rocket fire.  The plane was hit in the number 3 engine resulting in fire.  The plane took a dive, falling quickly from an altitude of 20,000 feet to 1,000 feet.  After leveling off, we bailed out.  Our captain was the last to leave the aircraft.  He lost his life along with my closest friend, the nose gunner, who died after landing.

            Eight of us were gathered up by Rumanian and German soldiers with the help of Rumanian civilians.  We were now prisoners of war.  The trip to the prison in the city of Bucharest was extremely frightening.  The people jeered, harassed, and ridiculed us.  Rocks were thrown at us.  We were spit upon, cursed, and threatened.  It was easy to understand their actions when you saw all the destruction and loss of lives that we had caused from our falling bombs.         

            Prison life was rough.  There was very little food, but an abundance of lice and rats.  Air raids were continuous.  British planes flew over at night and American planes flew over by day.  A diphtheria epidemic weakened many of us.  Many wounded airmen died in the prison camp.

            The Liberation was a full fledge assault incorporating ground and air troops from the Russian army.  Our prison was completely demolished by bombs dropping from the skies overhead from the German airforce.  We were completely on our own during this assault with survival as our only thought.  As I remember, this took place the last days of August 1944.

Through extreme hazardous conditions, an officer of the US Airforce and a Rumanian pilot flew a German fighter plane to Italy to tell our commanders that there were 1100 American POW’s in Bucharest.  In a few days, all 1100 prisoners were flown out of Rumanian in modified B17 bombers to Bari, Italy.  We were the first repatriated prisoners of World War II.

            Delousing was the first thing to happen and then we were back in the army with newly issued uniforms.  Food sure looked good to our highly deteriorated bodies.  Following good care and high hopes, we departed by boat for the good old USA.  I survived the battles and campaigns of Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Southern France and Air Offensive Europe.  Seeing the Statue of Liberty once again brought a new meaning to the phrase “ Freedom is not free.”

On August 10th, 1945, I was honorably discharged from the United States Airforce at camp McCoy, Wisconsin.  I have been a member of the American Legion for fifty-three years.

Submitted 6/2/01

 

Roger Frank Coffin

Roger was raised in Corson County, South Dakota.  He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served as paratrooper.  He attained the rank of Corporal.  He was killed in action on September 20, 1944.  He is buried at the military cemetery in Molenhoek, Holland.

Submitted by his sister, 6/4/01

 

Edwin M. Larson

Edwin served as a Staff Sergeant with the 358th Infantry of the 90th Infantry Division.  He died on June 15, 1944 from wounds received at Normandy Beach.

Submitted by his nephew, 6/5/01

 

George W. Lupkes

George died in action in France on April 16, 1945.  He served in the U.S. Army

Submitted 6/5/01

 

Leo Robert Friebel

Leo gave his life on April 8, 1945 in Germany and has been laid to rest in St. Avold Cemetery in France.  He entered defense work in Chicago and then enlisted in the Army.  He received his basic training at Camp Wallace, TX and Ft. Meade, MD.  In July, 1944, he was sent overseas to England and then to France.  His unit was in constant combat from December, 1944 until the time of his death on April 8, 1945.  He was first reported missing on December 14th but rejoined his unit three days later.  He was again reported missing on April 8th and the official notice of his death came on May 4, 1945.  On April 2, 1945, he had been awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and had also received the Bronze Star fo bravery in action.

Submitted by his sister, 6/5/01

 

Howard B. Munger

Howard is a native of DeSmet, South Dakota.  He served in the air force during World War II.  He participated in 33 bombing missions over Germany.

Submitted 6/5/01

 

Leonard M. “Spike” Mason

Leonard is a retired Marine corporal bird Colonel.  He is the holder of the Navy Cross as a result of the invasion of Bougainville.

Submitted by his stepson, 6/9/01

 

Floyd Meek

Floyd is a Pearl Harbor Survivor.

Submitted 6/9/01

 

Harold Bawdon,

Harold is a native of Highmore and was a pilot in World War II.

Submitted 6/9/01

 

Harry R. Woodward, Jr.

Harry attained the rank of Major.  He served with the 214th Coast Artillary (AA).  He received the
Soldier's Medal for his service in the Southwest Pacific. On May 30, 1941, Major Woodward entered the Army as a 2nd Lt. after graduating from college with ROTC training.  His Regiment (90 mm. rifles plus searchlights, etc.) was set up to defend the Los Angeles area on December 6, 1941. He later went to the Southwest Pacific (Guadalcanal) where his Regiment led the Pacific theatre in downing enemy aircraft. Major Woodward was awarded the Soldier's Medal when he rescued a drowning  officer at Morotai just prior to the landing at Leyte in the Phillipines.
Harry Woodward was rotated back home just prior to Christmas, 1944. 

Submitted by his children, 6/9/01

 

Donald H. Hawley

Donald served in the army in WWII.  He was inducted on February 8, 1945 from Jerauld County, Wessington Springs.

Submitted by his wife, 6/5/01

 

Glen Schooley

Glen was killed in France in 1942.

Submitted by his brother, 6/5/01

 

Raymond A. Oehler

Raymond was killed June 12, 1944  in  Carenton, France.  He was a paratrooper with the 101st.

Submitted 6/5/01

 

Virgil Burke

Virgil attained the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Corps.  He was a B-24 pilot in World War II in North Africa and Europe.  He flew twenty five missions, was shot down, and then a POW in Germany for eighteen months.  As an Air Force Reservist, he was recalled to service during the Korean War.  He is entered into the SD Aviation Hall of Fame at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, SD. 

Submitted by his wife, 6/5/01

 

Paul Joseph Fergen

Paul was a lieutenant who was killed on December 12, 1943 while training military pilots in Georgia.  His only child was born June 21, 1943.

Submitted by his son, 6/7/01

 

Thomas Fergen

Thomas was a sergeant in Darby’s Rangers and one of six of the total of 600 soldiers at the Battle of Cisterna, Italy.  The other 594  were killed or captured.

Submitted by his nephew, 6/7/01

 

Louis Behrend

Louis was a lieutenant who was shot down in the Pacific and drowned before he could be rescued.

Submitted by his nephew, 6/7/01

 

Victor Fergen

Victor served in Brussels and said that his “Welcome Home” was a piece of his mother’s pie and a bed to sleep in.

Submitted 6/7/01

 

Lyle Reagan “Jonesy” Jones

Lyle served on the island of Cebu until 1946.

Submitted 6/7/01

 

Eugene J. Krall

Eugene enlisted in the Navy November 16, 1938.  He was first assigned to the USS Raleigh and in 1940 was transferred to the USS Detroit.  On December 6, 1941 his ship docked in Pearl Harbor, His birthday was December 1 and he had received a package from his mother, canned pheasant and birthday cake.  Late he and some friends went on shore to celebrate.  They were sleeping at the YMCA when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  They all made a mad dash for their ships.  He was a Fireman Second Class at the time.  Luckily he survived the attack.   Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he went to submarine school in New London.  His First sub was the USS Stingray.  He returned for more schooling and was then assigned to the Darwin to patrol the seas around Indonesia.  That was the last official contact.  On December 2, another US ship reported seeing a sub in the Capelin’s assigned area. On December 29, 1943 our family was notified that he was declared missing in action.  On January 10, 1946, he was officially declared dead. 

Submitted by his sister, 6/7/01

 

Leo Elton Campbell

Leo was killed in action.  He was first buried overseas then moved to Mitchell “Campbell Plot” , South Dakota.  He was drafted as a married man with two children.  He first went to Camp Polk, Louisana and eventually overseas with the 11th Armored Division, Medical Corps.  He was killed by a sniper after the war ended.  The sniper did not know that peace had been declared. 

Submitted by his widow, 6/7/01

 

Peter DeVaal

Peter DeVall married the widow of Leo Campbell.  He helped raise the two daughters that Pete left behind after being killed in action.

Submitted by his widow, 6/7/01

 

Albert A. Schamens

Albert served in the Marine Corps, Third Division.  He was awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action on Iwo Jima on March 14, 1945.

Submitted by his wife, 6/7/01

 

John Perssons

John was in the Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945 in Europe and Africa. 

Submitted by his sister, 6/7/01

 

John Philip Casey

John enlisted in the Navy in September, 1942 in Mitchell.   He was a signalman in the amphibian fleet.  He took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima, Okinawas, Shima and was headed for Japan when the big bombs stopped the Japanese.

Sumbitted by himself, 6/7/01

 

Lee Patrick Casey

Pat enlisted in the Navy in Mitchell with his brother in September, 1942 in Mitchell. He was training to be a pilot but broke his eardrum in training so with one good ear he was sent to radioman school. He served on troop transports and was in combat zones in the Pacific.  He was in Okinawa when his brother was but they did not see each other.  His ship left early the morning when his brother found where they were anchored. 

Submitted by himself, 6/7/01

 

Ray Howard Sandve

Ray was a staff sargeant in the Army Air Force from February 18, 1942 to October, 1942.  He was in Central Europe, Normany, Northern France, Rhineland and the Ardennes.  He grew up in Langford, Day County.

Submitted by his sister in law, 6/7/01

 

Lloyd Sandve

Lloyd was in the Army Infantry from February 28, 1942 until January 11, 1946.  He was in the European-African Middle East as a Combat Infrantryman.  He was injured on July 26, 1944.  He received the Bronze Star, Combat Infantry badge, WWII Victory Ribbon, Purple Heart, American Theater Ribbon, and Good Conduct Medal.  He attained the rank of sergeant and grew up in Langford, Day County.

Submitted by his sister in law, 6/7/01

 

Marvin Harris Sandve

Marvin was a private in the Army.  He was in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the Silver Star for bravery.  He grew up in Langford, Day County. 

Submitted by his sister in law, 6/7/01

 

Tamlin Sandve

Tamlin was in the Army Infantry from February 26, 1947 to June 25, 1948 and was stationed in Germany.  He received the Army of Occupational Medal. 

Submitted by his sister in law, 6/7/01

 

Albert H. Bud Folger

Albert was a private first class serving in SV Co. 311th Regiment 78th Division from March 11, 1943 to March 19, 1946.  He served in battle and campaigns in Adennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe.  He received the following decorations and citations:  American Theater Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal. 

Submitted 6/6/01

 

Erma Powers

Erma served with the North American Aviation from 1943 to 1944.

Submitted 6/6/01