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.


Collette Wieser Klein

There were two war stories my father told the first was when he returned from the war and on the ship a few participated in rolling craps.  One of the soldiers won over $12,000.00 and asked my father if he would escort him to the Captain.  He offered to pay dad $100.00 for his assistance.  My dad walked with him and the gentleman asked the Captain to put him in the Brig for the remainder of the trip home.  This man came home and bought himself a farm, home, and all the machinery with the money he won.  The second thing he talked to me about, we were in church one Sunday morning about six years ago and he leaned over, in a quiet voice, stated, “I wonder if God will forgive me for breaking one of his commandments?”  Here is my perfect father stating this to me and I said, “which commandment?”  He stated, “Thou shalt not kill.”  I looked into his eyes and said you did that for love of your country Dad, of course he will forgive you. 

Submitted by his daughter Collette Wieser Klein


Oscar Daniel Hartman

Oscar served in the Army Infantry in 1942-1944.  He was wounded in the war and feel he did his duty for his country and would like to have him acknowledged along with many others.  He passed away June 23, 1998 and after he was gone his wife was sent three different medals.  We were very proud of him wished he had been able to see the medals also.

Submitted by his daughter


Sherwood O. Berg

Sherwood enlisted in Reserve Corp (ERC) at Brookings, SD, June 1942.  He enrolled in Advanced ROTC, SDSU, Brookings, June 1942.  He was called to Active duty, March 1943.  Basic training, Camp Wolters, TX.  He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry, Officers Candidate School (OCS), Fort Benning, Georgia, April 1944.  He served in the ETO with 78th Infantry Division, 311 Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Company D (heavy weapons company).  Platoon leader, 81-mm mortars, April 1944-1945.   He was in the ETO as a Food & Agriculture Officer June 1945 to August 1946. He was released from active duty at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.  Continued in US Army Reserve, August 1946.  He served in US Army Reserve in various commands and capacities, August 1946 to June 1975. He retired from the US Army Reserve as Colonel, Infantry, in June 1975.

Submitted 8/13/2001


James Boyd Murray

James entered the US Navy, November 25, 1942, until November 7, 1945.  He received his training as an aviation electrician in Chicago, Illinois.  He served on the USS Hoggatt Bay in the Pacific Theater.  He earned the American Pacific Medal with three stars and the Philippine Pacific with two stars.  He received his honorable discharge at Bremerton, Washington.

Submitted by his sister


Bazil (Bud) Marray

Bud was drafted in August 1941, and drew wages of $21.00 per month.  He served through 1945 with Claire Chenaults Flying Tigers in the China Burma India Theater.  He was a gunner and radio operator on a Mitchell B. 25.  He completed 54 bombing missions.  His rating was Tech Sergeant.  His five-member crew returned safely except for the tail gunner who had his leg shot off.  Citations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Good Conduct Medal and the Asiatic Theater Air Medal.  Today he is the only survivor of the Crew.  Bud is also a Member of the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.  He received this honor at Clyde Ice Field, Spearfish, South Dakota in August 1944.

Submitted 8/13/01


John H. Swenson

Col. John H. Swenson who was a career military officer from South Dakota. He graduated from high school at Faith, South Dakota, attended 2 years of college at SDSU, Brookings, South Dakota and then received an appointment to West Point.  After graduating from the academy, he was stationed in the cavalry at Ft. Meade, South Dakota when Pearl Harbor occurred.  He was transferred to the 82nd Airborne Division and saw service in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and was wounded in Normandy serving in the 325th Glider Infantry.

Submitted by his family.


Kenneth L. Doyle

Kenneth enlisted in the Navy on February 23, 1944.  Completed boot camp training at Tarragut, Idaho.  Served in South Pacific in Casu (F) 51 in Guam, Ulithi Carolina IS, and Okinawa.  He was discharged in April 27, 1946. 

Submitted by his daughter-in-law


C. H. McCormack

C. H. McCormack graduated from Elk Point High School in 1938 and like most others in my graduating class I ended up in the service.  In my case I went into the Army, ended up in the Pacific, and served with the 41st Jungleer Division from New Guinea to Japan.

James Raymond Pollock

This is an account of the battle between the destroyer USS Hugh W. Hadley DD774 and Kamakazie planes on May 11, 1945 on which James Raymond Pollock participated. This account is taken from the ship log on that day.  This account is taken from the ship log on that day.

His position on the ship was a 40mm mount, which he manned during the battle that was located near the five-inch guns.  The standard procedure was to strap yourself to the gun and change barrels after ten minutes of firing, but on this day there was no time to change barrels, and soon we had to unstrap ourselves from the guns to be able to keep up with the planes.

Radar picket ships were scarce and at 1350, on May 10th we were ordered to take Radar picket station fifteen with the USS Evans DD552, as support ship off Okinawa, Japan, at 1932 a Japanese plane approaching the formation was shot down by the ships gunfire.  We had a sleepless night with many low flying aircraft in our vicinity. 

At 0636 the morning of May 11, a Japanese plane splashed by our cap, but it would prove to be only the forerunner of an estimated 150 planes approaching from the north.  The cap soon had their hands full; at 0750 an enemy scout plane was taken under fire and shot down by the ship guns close to the ship.  At 0755 the entire cap was ordered out in different formation to engage the hoard of enemy planes closing in on us shortly. We received reports that they had shot down 12 planes, then they became so busy they were unable to keep us informed, but we intercepted several reports and learned they had shot down forty to fifty planes.  From this time on, the Hadley and the Evans were attacked continuously by Kamikaze planes coming at the ships in groups of 4 to 6 planes.

During the early period several planes were spotted trying to bypass the ship, flying very close to the water.  The Hadleys guns shot down four of these, from 0830 to 0900 the Hadley was attacked by groups of planes coming at the ship from both the bow and the stern.  Twelve planes were shot down during this period, at times firing all guns in all directions.  The Evans at this time was at a distance of three miles, was seen fighting off several planes by herself, several of which were destroyed.  At 0920 the Evans was hit and put out of action.  At one point toward the end of the battle the four support ships were prevented from firing on two friendlies, which they had taken under fire, one of was seen to splash inside their formation by their own gunfire.

However we were unable to give an accurate account of their actions, they were very helpful later in picking up our crew who were in the water in helping to remove our wounded and to help us pump.  For twenty minutes the Hadley fought on alone.  Finally at 0920, ten enemy planes which had surrounded the Hadley, four on the starboard bow under fire by the main battery and forward machine guns, four on the port bow underfire by the forward machineguns, and two stern underfire by the machineguns.

All ten planes were destroyed in a remarkable fight as a result of this action the Hadley was hit by ABA Bomb released by a low flying Betty. Hit by a suicide plane in the rigging, by this time the ship was badly holed, with both engine rooms and one fireroom flooding as the ship settled down and began to list rapidly.  All five inch guns were our of action, a fire was raging, ammunition was exploding, and the entire ship was engulfed in a thick black smoke, which forced the crew to seek safety, some by jumping overboard, others by crowding forward awaiting orders.  The ship was helpless to defend herself, and at this time the situation appeared hopeless.

The commanding officer received reports from the chief engineer and damage control officer that the main spaces were flooded and the ship was rapidly developing into a condition, which would capsize the ship.  The exploding ammunition and the raging fire appeared extremely dangerous.  The engineers were securing the forward boilers to prevent them from blowing up.  The order to “prepare to abandon ship” was given and life rafts were put in the water.  A part of fifty men and officers were being organized for a last ditch effort to save the ship.  From this point onward an amazing and courageous and efficient group of men and officers with utter disregard for their safety approached the explosions and the fire with hoses.   For fifteen minutes kept up this work, the torpedoes were positioned, weights removed from the starboard side, and finally the fire was extinguished and the listing controlled and the ship saved.

Although, the ship was still in extremely dangerous condition, one fireroom bulkhead held and she finally was towed safely to the IE Shima anchorage.  The total number of enemy planes destroyed by the Hadley in one hour and thirty five minutes on a continual firing was 23, this includes twenty shot down and three suicide hits.  The ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for valor, signed by Secretary Forrestal.

Submitted 8/13/2001


Hank Bowman

Hank served in the Army Air Force, WW II serving in the Pacific on the island of Saipan, on the ground crew for B29’s from South Dakota.

Submitted 8/13/01


Gene Pfeifer

I was a member of the 109th Combat Engineers; South Dakota’s own from the period of mobilization on February 10, 1941, until my discharge on July 18, 1945.  In that intervening period the 109th, an integral unit of the 34th Infantry Division distinguished itself in all ways.  We had over 525 days of front line combat, which is a record unequalled by any unit in the US military in WW II.  We suffered casualties and were awarded a high number of decorations.  We represented South Dakota with honor.

Submitted 8/15/01


Robert E. Viedt

Robert served in the Medical Department of the U.S. Army as a T/5 assigned to the 14th Evacuation Hospital (Mobile).  His period of service went from 1940 draft to October 1945.  He holds eight combat stars and served in Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.

Submitted by Marvin S. Talbott


Jim Walker

Jim Walker of Dallas, South Dakota was 17 years old in 1942.  He had to have his parents consent before he could be sworn into service with the U.S. Navy.  After boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station, he was assigned to the USS Destroyer McKee that was being built in Orange, Texas.  Upon completion of down and training, the USS McKee eventually arrived in Guadal Canal.  Nearly three years were spent aboard the USS McKee in the pacific area.  During battles, Walker was a 20mm gunner, and was given credit for shooting down a Japanese Betty torpedo plane.  Walker was discharged from the Navy, December 1945.  He was not yet 21 years old.  After three years as a civilian, Walker joined the U.S. Air Force in January 1948.  He was assigned as a gunner on B-29’s at Fairchild AFB, Washington, 92nd Bombing Wing, a unit of the Strategic Air Command.  July 1950 his bomb wing was given orders for Japan where they were involved in 31 bombing missions over Korea.  After Korea, Walker phased into the B-36 bomber and then into the B-52 bombers.  On October 1965, Walker retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Submitted 8/13/01

McKee Battle Stars

The McKee earned eleven battle stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Service Ribbon for participating in the following operation.  They include 1 Star/Pacific Raids-1943,  Marcus Island raid-31 August 1943, Tarawa Island raid-18 September 1943, Wake Island raid-5-6 October 1943, 1 Star/Treasury = Bouganville Operation,  Action off Empress Augusta Bay – 8-9, November 1943, Rabaul Strike – 11 November 1943, 1 Star/Gilbert Islands Operation – 20 November – 8 December 1943, 1Star/Occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls – 31 January – 4 February 1944, 1 Star/Hollandia Operation – 19-26, 28 April and 2 May 1944, 1 Star Capture and Occupation of Guan – 21 July – 4 August 1944 , 1 Star Morotai Landings – 15 September 1944, 1 Star Leyte Landings – 13-24 October 1944, 1 Star Iwo Jima Operation, Assault and Occupation of Iwo Jima – 15 February – 4 March 1945,   FIFTH FLEET raids against Honshu and the Nansei Shoto , 15-16 February, 25 February, 11 March 1945 1 Star/FIFTH and THIRD Fleet raids in support of Okinawa Gunto Operation, 17 March – 11 June 1945, 1 Star/THIRD Fleet  and actions against Japan – 10 July – 15 August 1945. The McKee was under air attack – 229 times, on radar picket – 49 times, refueled at sea 129 times, and rescued 11 pilots, 3 aircrew men, 10 others. McKee, John Rogers, Harrison and Murray each had 11 Star Operations

The above information comes from the U.S. Navy.

Submitted 8/16/01

John Zorn

John was a World War II POW in Germany for nine months and landed on D-Day. He was a T/5 Cpl. and drove an armored car during the invasion in France June 6, 1944, he was captured June 13, 1944.

Submitted by his wife


John Leonard Ellis

John was a pilot during the war.

Submitted by his daughter


Robert H. Newby

Robert served in the USAF during the Second World War and the Korean War, and he was killed in France in 1963 in an aircraft accident while serving in the Air Force as a reconnaissance pilot – RF101.

Submitted by his wife


Otto R. Johnson

USAF 1942 – 1945 ETO   Sgt. – P 38 Ground Crew

Submitted 8/16/01

Banks Connor Bartley Jr.

Banks served in the Navy from May to November 1944, Seaman 2c, in Farragut, Idaho.


Leroy D. Jenks

Leroy was in the ROTC at Brookings and entered the Officer Training School at Ft. Benning, Georgia in July of 1943.  He served in France, England, Germany and Czechoslovakia, also the Battle of the Bulge, with the 5th Infantry Division.  He was discharged as Captain in December 1946.

Submitted 8/16/01


Gilbert Anderson

“If they need anymore, I guess they’ll have to take me.”  That’s what Gilbert Anderson, 63-year-old Toronto farmer said when his son Norman, 21, marched off to service with the armed forces this month. Norman is the seventh son of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson to go into the service.  He was inducted early this month and is now training at Ft. Riley, Kansas.  Five of the boys served during World War II, and the sixth saw action in the Korean conflict. One of the Anderson boys was killed during World War II.  He was Willis who died of wounds received while fighting on the German front in December 1944.  Willis, Roland and Ernest were the first to leave home for duty with Uncle Sam’s fighting units. Willis, who was 28 at the time of his death, was inducted into the army in March 1942.  A month later, On April 10, Ernest, now 33, and Roland, 38, entered the army. Two of the boys went into the navy during World War II.  Arnold, 35, and Jarvin, 31, enlisted in the navy and were assigned sea duty.  Allan, 24, was taken into the army in August 1951, and served a year overseas in Korea, starting in February 1952.  He was released from active duty in May of this year at Ft. Ord, California.  Willis spent nearly two years in the states before being shipped to the European front in February 1944.  Shortly after D-Day, he went into France as a member of the Fifth Armored division.  Later he went into Belgium and then Germany where he died.  He was buried in a military cemetery in Belgium.  Ernest and Roland both went into the army at the same time, with Ernest going overseas while Roland was stationed in this country.  Ernest went through the Africa, Italy and Southern France campaigns and after serving nearly three years overseas was released from service in October 1945.

Roland, the older, was in the service for two and one-half years.  Arnold served on the U.S.S. Hornet while in the Navy, and Jarvin was with the U.S.S. John Deere.  Both saw extensive sea duty. 

Submitted from the Clear Lake Courier


Richard (Dick) A. Erickson

Richard served in the U.S. Navy during WW II.

Submitted 8/16/01


Sylvester G. Weyh

Sylvester entered the service on May 26, 1944 – Infantry.  Killed in action February 11, 1945, in Germany, Battle of the Bulge.

Submitted 8/16/01


Leroy James Zimmer

U.S. Army – 636th Tank Destroyer Division, European Theater.

Submitted 8/16/01


Harold Richard Zimmer

U.S. Army 11th Field Artillery, Battery C, South Pacific Theater

Submitted 8/16/01


Stanley Jerome Zimmer

U.S. Army – Photo Recognizance Unit – India

Submitted 8/16/01


Donald Leroy Swanson

U.S. Army Signal Corps, South Pacific Theater

Submitted 8/16/01


Willis C. Anderson

Willis was killed in Germany in 1944

Submitted 8/16/01


Charles James Johnson

Charles was a paratrooper.

Submitted 8/16/01


Gerald Luverne Johnson

Gerald was in the army and was a cook.

Submitted 8/17/01

Thomas Beeson

Thomas served in the South West Pacific and the Asiatic Theater (1944 & 1945).  His brother served in the Islands and was sent back to the states in 1943 to train troops for combat.  He trained his own brother. 

Submitted by brother

Donald D. House

Donald fought in World War II.  He was on the B-25’s as a Turret Gunner in the Air Force.

Submitted 8/17/01


Delton A. Shultz

Delton served his country during World War II.  He served in Company G 504th Parachute Infantry of the 82nd Airborne.  He served from September 23, 1943 until January 17, 1946.  Delton was a triplet brother of Delbert H. Shultz.  Another brother served in the U.S. Navy, he is Bernard Shultz.

Submitted by Myrna Shultz


John Ryland Thurman

John was a Marine in the 5th Spearhead Division that was on Iwo Jima.  He was one of Carlson’s Raiders I and also occupation troops that landed as Sasebo in Japan.  As a matter of fact he and some of his fellow soldiers were in the Rosenthal picture of “jubilation” that was contested as a “staged” picture.  He was somewhat shell shocked on returning home and refused to talk about his activities on Iwo Jima.  He has now in his later years opened up and can raise the hair on your neck.

Submitted 8/17/01


John Walton Newman

John joined the air force.  He was one of their 1st bombardiers trained at Lowery, AirField at Denver Colorado.  Sailed for India in 1942.  Flew the hump under British Command, until the war was over. 

Submitted 8/17/01

Ode Odens

Ode served with Patton’s 3rd Army in the 7th Armored Division in World War II.  He served from 1942 to 1946.  His rank upon discharge was Captain.

Submitted 8/17/01

Arthur Wenzel

Arthur served in the U.S. Navy as a gunner on the USS Samuel H. Walker (Muleship) and the USS Monteray (troopship), from March 1944 – December 1945.

Submitted 8/17/01

Charles L. Schwartz

Charles took his basic training in Texas, was sent to the North, from there he was sent to the European Theater of war, and was there over three years.  He was discharged in October of 1945. 

Submitted by his wife

Thane S. Bertrand

Thane worked as a cook in a Forest Reserve camp in the state of Washington, until he joined the service in 1939.  He was sent to the Panama Canal Zone to build secret fortification.  He couldn’t write home to his mother for one year.  He was injured, when he fell from high rigging and fell on a stake that went through his stomach, he was transferred to a San Francisco hospital.  Finally his mother received a letter. When he recovered the war was in full action.  He served in Attec, Sitha and the Mariannas, but was sent back again for shrapnel wounds.  This time when he recovered he was put in the training camps to train new recruits.  He didn’t like that position.

Submitted 8/16/01

Orville Fawcett

Orville was born December 29, 1914 in Outbook, Montana.  His family moved to Gettysburg in the 1920’s.  After he quit high school in his sophomore year.  He went to Washington to work.  He joined the Navy in 1940.  He was lucky to have gotten sick and was sent back to San Francisco just two weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack.  He lost many buddies he had worked with while he was there.  He got a medical discharge.

Submitted 8/16/01

Iris U. Boyd

She was an instructor at the Sioux Falls Army Base in Sioux Falls

Submitted 8/17/01

Konrad Whitmyre

Konrad taught and coached athletics, then in 1942 enlisted in the Navy as an apprentice seaman in the medical corps.  I answered the call for volunteer duty on a convoy as a gunnery officer onboard a merchant ship carrying troops and also on a tanker.  He made seven trips in two years during the Battle of the Atlantic.  In July 1945, the Battle of the Atlantic was won so he was assigned to duty in the Pacific, however after the Atomic Bomb was dropped, the Japanese were forced to surrender, allowing me to apply for an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1945. 

Submitted 8/17/01

Bonnie B. McNeil Ellis

She received Basic Training at Ft. Des Moines, Iowa in June of 1945.  Then She went to Camp Atterbury, Indiana for my Surgical Technician Training.  There she saw how “war” had left our men and women who had been “Prisoners of War” in Japan and Germany camps.  They all needed plastic surgery not to mention their psychiatric problems.  We were the first women they had seen in 3 ½ years of their captivity since the POW’s were released from prison.  She was also sent on to Scott Air Field in Illinois for more hospital work and driving an ambulance, same as you see in “Mash” TV show.  In 1947 she was discharged as a Sergeant.

Submitted 8/17/01

Edsel Duane Bartle

Edsel enlisted at Fort Snelling in 1935 and retired at Luke Air Force Base, AZ in 1965.  He served in the Army, Army Air Corps and USAF for almost 30 years.  He was a prisoner in the Phillippines and Japan for the length of the war. 

Submitted 8/20/01

Francis Carter Bartle

Francis was a member of the 17th Field Artillery, South Dakota National Guard entering World War II when they were called up in 1941.

Submitted 8/20/01

Kenneth Leroy Finnesand

Kenneth served in the Philippines during WWII.  He was killed October 1, 1946 in a jeep accident the night before he was scheduled to be shipped home.

Submitted 8/20/01