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.

 

Walter Douglas Amiotte

Oldest son of Levi & Louise (Janis) Amiotte
Born: Jan. 4, 1920 Martin, South Dakota
Died: Sept. 16, 1994 Phoenix, Arizona
U.S. Army Feb. 1943 to May, 1945

Medals:

¨       Purple Heart /Wounded in Action March 1945 Magdeburg, Germany. Received medal in Feb.1993, 48 years later. 

Commendations & Campaign Medals:

¨       Belgian Fourgerre Shoulder Lanyard.

¨       French Fourgerre Shoulder Lanyard,

¨       European/African/Middle Eastern Campaign,

¨       Army Good Conduct, Army of Occupation,

¨       Armed Forces Reserve, National Defense Service,

¨       WW II American Campaign, & WW II American Defense,

¨       WW II Victory,

¨       Expert Tank Driver & Weapons,

¨       Life Time Member of Disabled American Veterans

U.S. Army Service:

       Entered the U.S. Army in Feb. 1943 and due to his experience with operating bulldozers as a youth for the Conservation Corp. during the Great Depression he was earmarked for the armored corp. where he learned to operate  the newly developed 30 ton M4 Sherman Tank.

After extensive training in the states Doug shipped out of the Philadelphia Naval yard in early 1944 aboard the Queen Mary which had been converted to the largest and fastest troop ship of the war. Like a lot of US soldiers of the time he landed in Scotland and then was shipped down into England via a troop train. It was in England where he was assigned to the U.S 2nd Armored Division, 67th Regiment, Maintenance Company  as a  Tech Sgt. and received more training for the upcoming invasion of Europe.

         Doug entered France when he came across Normandy’s Omaha Beach on June 28th, 1944 with the last elements of the 2nd Armd. Division.  Shortly before his death in Sept. 1994 Doug was interviewed by the magazine Native Peoples for an article on American Indian WW II veterans in their Winter 1995 issue. In his own words, he said this about his landing on Omaha Beach,

“ All I saw from my tank was what lay ahead. The French had barricaded themselves in. We were unable to talk because of the explosions, the smoke, the frenzied haste. We had to keep moving so the Germans were not given time to recover. We advanced as fast as we could. It was chaos everywhere.”

       His first major battle was the one known as the St. Lo Breakout, where the entire U.S. Army pushed out of the Normandy Beachhead on July 27th and spread fast and far encircling the opposing German forces with in a matter of a few weeks. It was the 2nd & 3rd Armd. divisions that led the charge at the beginning of this campaign clearing the way for the follow-up Infantry Divisions to make their mark. Due to the veteran status of the 2nd Armd, they were kept on the front line for as long as possible. This included Tech Sgt. Doug Amiotte and his tank now known as “Momma” where he saw action in a number skirmishes both large and small. 

                        By the fall of 1944 Tech Sgt. Doug Amiotte and the rest of the 2nd Armd. Division where situated in Northern Belgium waiting for the final push on into Germany as were all Allied units. During the famed, Battle of the Bulge in Dec of 1944, all units of the 2nd Armd. had been turned to attack in a south ward direction to help relieve the pressure from the entrapped troops within the Bulge area. It was on Christmas day of 1944 that Tech. Sgt. Doug Amiotte with the other members of his division met and destroyed the German 2nd Panzer division. This was a day long tank battle that took place in temperatures way below freezing and after the division had traveled over 120 miles in three days on frozen, snow covered forest roads. With no warm food, little sleep and freezing weather they fought a battle that kept the German armored spearhead from reaching it’s final destination. As stated in the Time/Life WWII series volume 15,

” On this day the 2nd Armd. Division had earned it’s well deserved nick name, of “Hell on Wheels”. For Sgt. Doug his memories were of it being,” Just Cold, just down right Cold,  everything else seemed unreal but the cold. That type of cold was worse than anything I had experienced growing up in Pine Ridge.”

       One other action that Sgt. Doug remembers vividly is in early March of 45’ when he was with the lead elements of his Division and they were the first to liberate the German Concentration/Death Camp known as Buchenwald. He describes it best himself,” It was early in the morning, not even sunrise yet. We did not know for sure where we were, all we knew was that it was a camp of some sort. The smell was nothing I had ever smelled before. There were smokestacks with smoke still curling out of them. The Germans gave a brief fight before fleeing. I climbed a flagpole to get this German flag that was flying. I wanted it as a souvenir. After that we took off chasing the Germans. But that smell just stayed with me. It was later on that day that we found out it was Buchenwald.”  

        It was towards the end of March 1945 that Tech Sgt. Doug was wounded in action near Magdeburg , Germany as the Allies closed in on Berlin. His tank had hit a mine that had been hidden on the roadway, which then caused it to flip over on its side. As the tank caught on fire Sgt. Doug pulled himself free of the piece of metal that had jammed itself in to his kneecap and drug himself from the fiercely burning tank. At that moment Tech Sgt. Walter Douglas Amiotte ’s war was over.

      Again in his own words,” The tank overturned; I was unable to free myself. Not daring to look, I pulled with all my might. I was free. But a part of my leg stayed behind.”

     After recovering in a hospital in Southern France he remained in Europe for the following 10 months as part of the Allied occupation force. It was in this period that he was reassigned to the 2nd Armored which became the honor guard for President Harry S. Truman has he attended the Potsdam Conference along side Joe Stalin of Russia and Winston Churchill of England. Doug Amiotte was a spectator and participant to all this and more. At the time he was 25 years old.

Submitted by his son, 6/29/01

Ida Belle Nelson Amiotte

Youngest daughter of William & Mary (Martinez Red Nose) Nelson,
Born: Dec. 19, 1922 Pine Ridge S.D.

Now resides in Phoenix, Arizona in the house she and Doug Amiotte purchased with their VA benefits.

U.S. Navy Nov.1944 to May 1946

Rank;

¨       Mailman 3rd Class

 Commendations:

¨       American Theatre Campaign Ribbon,

¨       WW II Victory Ribbon,

¨       Honorable Service Lapel Button,

Certificate of Satisfactory Service (Good Conduct)

U.S. Naval Service:

     Entered the U.S. Navy in May of 1944 while living and working in Omaha, Nebraska. On a whim Ida and three of her girlfriends, all American Indians, went to the local recruiting station and signed up for the service. It was only after all the tests were completed did Ida realize that she was the only one accepted for Naval duty. As she states now, “That was due to her Holy Rosary Mission School Training. The other three went to a regular boarding school.”

Her basic training was at Hunter’s College in the Bronx section of New York City. For 6 weeks starting in May 1944 she and the other new recruits were trained in the ways of the U.S. Navy. Her first full dress uniform marching exercise was viewed by the then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Her class was held over for two weeks just so the First Lady could make a special appearance at the dress parade. From New York Ida was assigned to further duties and training in Farragut, Idaho.

It was on this train journey west that Ida and her troop of newly assigned WAVES were stopped in Chicago and made to march in full dress uniform just so they could be filmed for the movie, “Here Comes the Waves”. In Ida’s own words, ”What made us mad was that it was the middle of the summer and we had to wear those heavy wool uniforms as we marched through those baking streets of pavement and the awful muggy weather of Chicago.”  It was also on this trip that all the WAVES were disciplined for the actions of a few, who broke the code of silence. Again in Ida’s own words,       ” We were told to keep quiet and not tell any of our family where we were headed. As luck would a have it and humans being humans, a few of the ladies informed there families that they would be coming through Minneapolis/ St. Paul. Sure enough there at the train station where all these parents, sisters, aunts and uncles waving flags making noise looking for their daughter/sister/niece on the train. Well, this didn’t sit well with any of the commanding officers and all through the rest of the journey the WAVES were made to do marches at each and every stop.” Needless to say Ida was in on the punishment to those guilty of breaking silence. As it turned out the reason for such strict punishment for the WAVES was that the train was loaded with a couple thousand troops destined for the Pacific theatre of war.

             It was in Farragut, Id. that Ida acquired the skills needed to sort, deliver, and censor all the various packages, parcels and letters bound for and from U.S. Naval personnel. It was here where she earned her rank as Mailman 3rd Class. After 7 months of training she was then assigned to work out of the Seattle - Bremerton Naval base. Being within the 13th Naval District, Seattle was home port for many of the Pacific theatre war ships. It was here after the Battle for Okinawa that the air craft carrier Enterprise was towed for repairs due to kamikaze attacks by the Japanese air force.  When it came time for the removal of the many pouches of mail from the ship, it was 3rd Class Mail-person Ida B. Nelson who stood on the deck next to the damaged ship waiting for the mail and watching in awe as the dead were still being removed. Again in the words of Ida,” I just stood there with tears streaming down my face as the bodies of all those young American sailors were removed. The stench of death was overbearing. And then this one stretcher came down with this Military Police detail surrounding it. As they walked right by me, I realized it was the body of the Japanese pilot who had flown his plane into the carrier. For sticking out from underneath the covering sheet was his scarf with Japanese emblem of the Rising Sun. It was a sight that I shall always remember.”

Shortly after the Enterprise episode Ida was transferred to the Tongue Point Naval Air Base in Astoria, Oregon where she finished out her U.S. Naval enlistment tour as by then the war had ended. It was then that she returned home to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation for a long awaited reunion with not only her sister Mary Cottier. But also her two brothers Tom Nelson, who had joined the Navy and served in the Pacific theatre and Cleveland “Moot” Nelson who had served in the North African & Italian campaigns with the U.S. Army. At the time she was 23 years old.

Submitted by her son, 6/29/01

 

Mervil R. Bennett

Mervil served as a radio repairman with the U.S. Army Signal Corps from June 15, 1945 to March 9, 1946.  He served in the Pacific Theatre in the Phillippines, New Guinea, Nagaski, Hiroshima, and Tokyo, Japan.  He received the Victory Ribbon, American Theatre Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Theatre Ribbon with one bronze star, the Good Conduct Medal and three overseas bars.  He attained the rank of sergeant.

Submitted 7/3/01  

Joseph F. Jandell

Joseph died in October, 1943 in World War II.

Submitted by his daughter, 7/3/01

Paul M. Anderson

Paul served in the Pacific Theatre as an airplane mechanic in World War II.

Submitted 7/3/01

Gordon Baldry

Gordon served in the Army Air Coprs from 1940 to 1945.  He was active during the Guadal Canal Campaign from 1942 to 1943 as a Staff Sergeant Pilot.  He received a battlefield commission in 1943.

Submitted 7/3/01

Dennis Baldry

Dennis served from 1943 until 1946.  He was a radioman third class on the sub-chasa ship SC650 in the Asiatic Pacific Campaign.

Submitted 7/3/01

James Baldry

James served from 1943 to 1946 as a MM/2/C on the USS Bougainville in the Asiastic Pacific Theatre.

Submitted 7/3/01 

Oran Baldry

Oran served from 1945 to 1946 in the 96th NCB in North China.

Submitted 7/3/01

John C. Schanck

John died as a Japanese Prisoner of War in the Phillippines.

Submitted 7/3/01

Lyla Siebrecht

Lyla was a grade school student during World War II.  He gathered milk weed pods, scrap metal, aluminum and bought war stamps at school.

Submitted 7/3/01

Lieutenant Harold Glenn Schooley

Harold was killed in action in France during World War II.

Submitted 7/2/01  

Robert H. Schooley

Robert served in the U.S. Army in France during World War II.

Submitted 7/2/01

John R. Johnson

John served in the Air Force from 1942 to 1946.

Submitted 7/2/01 

Everett Mossefin

Everett was in the quartermaster division.  He received a medical discharge.

Submitted 7/2/01

Wallace Mossefin

Wallace was a Sergeant for three years in Africa, Sicily, Italy and France.

Submitted 7/2/01

Quetin Mossefin

Quentin served with General Patton’s Third army in Germany.  He attained the rank of Corporal.

Submitted 7/2/01

Verle Mossefin

Verle was a Corporal with a ground crew in a bomb squandron of the army stationed in England.

Submitted 7/2/01

Lewis Mossefin

Lewis was hospitalized in Texas after serving in the Aleutians, the Phillippines and Marshall Islands.  He took part in three major combats and received seven stars.

Submitted 7/2/01

Eldon Mossefin

Eldon served as a Marine in the South Pacific.

Submitted 7/2/01

Quentin Davidson

Quentin served as a air pilot in the army air corps.  He died November 30, 1944 on his 17th Mission in a B17 bomber over Germany. 

Submitted 7/2/01 

Floyd B. Gulbrandson, Jr.

Floyd served aboard the USS South Dakota from 1944 to 1946.  He also served in the US Army during the occupation of Germany from 1947 to 1949.  He was with the 1st Infantry Division.

Submitted 7/2/01

Jesse H. Dawes

Jesse was a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.  He served as part of the ground crew that was stationed in Alaska providing telegraphy.

Submitted 7/2/01

Clarence E. Jansen

Clarence was a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army.  He was a platoon leader through Africa, Europe and received various ribbons.

Submitted 7/2/01

Glen Lawrence Smith

Glen served as Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Marines during World War II.  He saw action in the Pacific Ocean on Marshall Islands, Saipan, and Tinian.  He was killed in action on Iwo Jima Island on February 23. 1945.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.  He was with the Reg W Company 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division.  He joined the Marines so that his older brother would not have to go.  His family lived on a isolated ranch near Faith South Dakota and his mother was a widow.  His older brother was the primary caretaker of the ranch for his Mother.  He was a Chaplain’s helper at first and would always ask for prayer around the time of another invasion.  He had written home to his family prior to the family receiving notification of his death.  He said they were going on an invasion and that there had not been the usual pre-bombing in the area.

Submitted 7/2/01

James Earl Smith

James served as a private in the US Army.  He saw action in Mariannas Islands. 

Submitted 7/2/01

Benjamin Lyman Smith, Jr.

Benjamin served in the US Navy with action in the Pacific.

Submitted 7/2/01

Maynard Justice

Maynard served from August 7, 1941 until October 22, 1945.  He was at Utah Beak to the Elbe River.

Submitted 7/6/01

Walter J. Anderson

Walter died on the Kwajalain Islands in World War II and is buried in Honolulu.

Submitted 7/6/01

Leslie G. Scott

Leslie served in the Army Air Corps in World War II.

Submitted 7/6/01

Earl E. Larson

Earl spent four years as a Tech Corporal of the United States Army.  He was drafted in 1941 and discharged in August of 1945.  He was in carpentry and artillery.

Submitted 7/6/01

LeRoy Bak

LeRoy was killed in action in World War II.

Submitted 7/6/01

Howard Marquardt

Howard was Missing in Action in World War II.

Submitted 7/6/01

Anthony (Tony) Sindelar

Tony was a prisoner of war during World War II.

Submitted 7/6/01

Eugene Kurle

Eugene served in the South Pacific for 3 ½ years.

Submitted 7/6/01

Milford Vrooman

Milford was killed in action.

Submitted 7/6/01

Joe Janak

I was 20 years old when I was drafted and left for the service.  I was in the Army's 752 Tank Battalion (1944).  We were pushed into combat off the Angio Beach Head (spelled correctly??).  After our Battalion took a good beating, my tank happened to be one of the first into Rome with the newsreel.  At that point Rome had been declared an open city for 48 hours.  We had the opportunity to spend a full day in Rome after things quieted down a bit.  The Italian women bid the German soldiers goodbye and then welcomed the American soldiers with flowers.  We were considered heroes, although the war had far from ended.  It was a big morale boost for all of the military during the 48-hour cease fire.  This was one of the highs I can recall before spending 387 consecutive days on the front line without relief.  Our tank battalion was the first to receive the Presidential Citation in Europe during WWII.

Submitted 7/9/01

William E. Clark

William joined the Navy at 18 years of age in 1943 and served in World War II.

Submitted 7/9/01

Marion Victor Voelker

Marion served in the Pacific for three years during World War II.

Submitted 7/9/01

William Raymond Voelker

William served in Germany, Italy and the was sent to the Phillippines after the European Campaign was settled.

Submitted 7/9/01

Raymond C. Jensen

Raymond was a Staff Sargeant with Company A, 723rd Railway Operating Battalion during World War II.

Submitted 7/9/01

Wilbur A. Hunt

Wilbur was a Tech 5 with the Headquarters Company of the 723rd Railway Operating Battalion.

Submitted 7/9/01

Robert N. Beals

Roberts served in the US Army from February. 1943 to April, 1946.

Submitted 7/9/01

Jean W. Mehegan

Jean is a Pearl Harbor Survivor having served on the U.S.S. California.

Submitted 7/9/01

Lovell “Bud” Horn

Bud served in the Army infantry at the Battle of the Bulge.

Submitted 7/9/01

Lyle V. Tarrell

Served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific for more than 3 years. He had basic training in Hawaii and was in 3 major invasions including Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa. After a typhoon hit Okinawa shortly after the invasion, Lyle's tent was the only one left standing after the storm. We always joked with him that he must have "welded it to the ground!" He was the sort of person who always built things to last, and could build or fix anything, and do it extremely well. In the U.S. Army he was assigned to the "motor pool" and worked at repairing trucks, Jeeps, tanks and other equipment.

Submitted 7/9/01

Lloyd W. Wibben

Lloyd was killed in France in 1944.

Submitted 7/9/01

Robert (Bob) Schofield

Bob was in charge of anti-aircraft gun at Los Angeles, Ca.  He is one of ten sons of Harry Schofield who were registered fpr the draft.

Submitted 7/9/01

Matthew (Mike) Schofield

Matthew was at Fort Lewis, Washington with the 56rh Medical Battalion. He is one of ten sons of Harry Schofield who were registered for the draft.

Submitted 7/9/01

Martin Schofield

He is one of ten sons of Harry Schofield who were registered fpr the draft.

Submitted 7/9/01

Cecil H. Harris

Cecil was killed in action in Germany on April 23, 1945.

Submitted 7/9/01

Frank Charles Aukerman, Jr.

Frank volunteered for the Army Air Force.

Submitted 7/9/01

Keith Merlin Frank

Keith was drafted into the army infantry and was killed on Okinawa in May, 1945.  He is buried at the Punch Bowl, Oahu, Hawaii.

Submitted 7/9/01

Harley F. Taylor

Harley served in World War II.  He received a bonus of $350.50 on January 16, 1950 from the State of South Dakota.  Harley figures that if he had taken this check and invested in treasury bills or certificates of deposit with an average interest rate of 5% from the day he received the bonus until July 4, 2001, he would have cashed a check in the amount of $4,057.63.

Submitted 7/9/01

Harold Simunek

Harold entered the service on October 3rd, 1943.  After basic, he received training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri as an Engineer in the Automotive Mechanics School.  His training continued at Camp Clarborne, Louisiana as an Engineer for an additional 4 weeks.  He left for Australia August 8th, 1944 on the USS Gen. George M. Randall and arrived there and waited for an escort to continue on to his next station.  He arrived in theatre and was stationed with the 3731st Quarter Master Truck Company with the US Army Engineers in China/Burma/and India for the next year and a half. He worked with/supervised 6 other enlisted mechanics and approximately 200 Chinese laborers during his tour.  They repaired all types of military vehicles used in conjunction with supplying the troops into Burma/India/and the Pacific War theatre.  On the 3rd of January 1946, he was shipped home and was honorably discharged from active duty on the 2nd of February 1946 with the rank of Technical Sergeant.  He served as a member of the Guard in Canton for a short period of time in the inactive reserve.  Among the decorations he received were the Good Conduct Medal and the Asiatic/Pacific Theatre Ribbon. He has a few pictures from his service time but the one we all know and are the most familiar with is the one of him seated upon an elephant doing road work somewhere in India/Burma.  His family thinks he is the originator of the phrase, "clean your plate, people are starving to death in China" as we heard it so much while we were growing up.  We are all very proud of him and of his service to this great country.

Submitted by his children