|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.
served in the Navy aboard the USS Missouri during World War II.
was killed in action in World War II.
served in the Army during World War II as a paratrooper.
He was killed in Holland in 1944.
fought and was wounded in Germany during World War II and he
received the Purple Heart.
When he left to go to war, his father gave him a little
pocket bible and told him to read it every day and keep it close
to him. He kept it
in his shirt pocket so when the bullet hit, it hit the little
bible first and that is what saved his life.
As a graduate of St. Mary’s High
School of Salem, South Dakota in the year of 1941, I enrolled at
South Dakota State College, as it was known then.
I was a Freshman Agriculture student when Pearl Harbor
was bombed on December 7, 1941.
My draft status was a college deferment, so I completed
my Freshman year and the Fall quarter of 1942.
I enrolled in the Winter quarter of 1943, fully expecting
to continue my education. Outside
pressures became excessive with the feeling that you were
dodging military service, which was not the case. We were extremely patriotic and were enrolled in ROTC at
we succumbed. Richard
Parker, of Hazel, South Dakota, and I drove to Sioux Falls and
volunteered for service in the United States Navy.
Dick was okay physicially, but I was color blind.
So, in order to get in, I arranged to memorize the color
blind chart and hence, to get into the US Navy.
January 15, 1943 was the date of our entrance.
On January 29 we were routed through Minneapolis to the
United States Naval Training Station at Farragut, Idaho.
There we completed Navy boot camp as Apprentice Seamen,
only to become S 2/c upon completion.
We had taken our aptitude tests for placement in the
appropriate division of the Navy.
Both Dick and I got high scores.
Dick got Officers Training and I, with my colorblindness,
got placed in the CB’s (Color
Blind or Construction Battalion).
They had discovered my color problem in my incoming
physical…so that took care of my regular Navy plans!!
So then, as I say, I was transferred into the United
States Naval Construction Battalion, the Seabees, and sent to
Camp Perry at Williamsburg, Virginia.
There I was assigned to the 93rd Battalion, a
construction outfit of 1200 men.
Four of these men were from South Dakota:
Chief Petty Officer John B. Alexander, Sr. of Mitchell,
Donald C. Willey of Spencer, Walter N. Dennison of Pierre and,
of course, Ernest W. Wingen of Salem. We were commissioned as a battalion at Camp Perry.
I had theopportunity of selecting what area of work I
would like in the Seabees.
I selected heavy equipment, which included operating
cranes, shovels, drag lines, back hoe and clam shells.
I became an oiler to begin with and worked with an
outstanding operator from Mabank, Texas, Deward Bedford.
As oiler, you were given the opportunity of learning to
operate the machines, which I did.
Eventually, I became an operator on my own.
93rd then was transferred to Camp Endicott, Rhode
Island for additional training on May 15, 1943.
Then on July 9, 1943, we, along with all of our
equipment, boarded a troop train for a cross-country ride to
Camp Parks, California, near Oakland, for additional physical
training and field training…bivoact, rifle, etc.
On August 9, 1943, we were trained to Port Hueneme,
California to prepare for our overseas deployment.
August 14, 1943 saw us board ships as a part of a fleet
heading for the South Pacific, and, more directly, to the Russel
Islands in the Southern part of the Solomons.
We were make Shellbacks, an association of those crossing
the equator, on October 14, 1943.
We arrived at the Russels on September 12.
There we went through the process of acclimatization to
the South Pacific humidity and temperature.
We also learned to work together and become more
proficient at our jobs in the scheme of the war in the Pacific
against the Japanese invaders, whom we had vowed to overcome!
There I made Seaman 1/c and $79.20/month.
moved up to the upper Solomons on February 12, 1944 to an island
called Green. We
invaded the island with some New Zealand troops.
The island was horseshoe shaped, ½ mile wide and 18
miles around…hardly a dot.
But we established ourselves and built two airstrips for
fighter and bomber planes.
The first bombing of Truk, a very big step in the war,
evolved from our strips, which, incidently, was considered the
No. 1 war zone at the time.
Green did have about 50 Japanese on it, who were quickly
captured. And while
we were invading, we were strafed and bombed, but not very
I began operating a Model Northwest shovel, a 1 ½ to 2 yard
machine, with a 160 horsepower Murphy diesel engine…what a
beauty! And I was
honored by getting one of the three operators on the rig.
came the big move! On
October 25, 1944, we were part of the invasion of the
Philippines, and on the way we had to make our way through the
big naval battle of the Philippine Sea.
And we were supposed to land on the island of Leyte, but
the Japanese had taken this area, so we were diverted to the
island of Samar, where we proceeded to build two airstrips and a
huge naval base. We
were bombed often during this time, but to my knowledge, lost
only five men from our group. The main bombings were the Leyte airstrips.
In November of 1944, I was promoted to Water Tender 2/c
war ended for us on August 9, 1945.
A week later I found out that my Dad had passed away on
August 7. On August
16, I received a letter from my Mother to that effect.
We then discovered two telegrams lying on the desk in the
Red Cross office that should have been delivered to me earlier.
I did not get home until December.
I was again promoted to WT 1/c on October 1, 1945 and
17, 1945 I arrived in the United States of America after over
two years overseas. Believe
me, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge was some thrill.
And to return victorious put the frosting on the cake.
was mustered out of the Navy on December 9, 1945 in Minneapolis
and back in my old home town
of Salem on December 10, 1945, to return to a better world and a
the service, I continue my education with the help of the GI
Bill. I proceeded
to teach 29 years in South Dakota and an additional 6 years in
Minnesota. I was
married twice, my first wife died of cancer, and raised 8
children. I built a
motel and operated it for 10 years before selling it and
building a retirement home in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
I am a life-long member of the American Legion and
Veterans of Foreign Wars. I
am a member of the South Dakota Agriculture Hall of Fame.
I lived and worked in the wonderful country that I fought
and worked for. Had
we not been victorious in WWII, who knows what the alternative
would have been. It
is devastating to even think of it.
Thank God for the good old United States of America!!!!!
was inducted into the Army 1 March 1942 at Ft. Des
Moines, Iowa. He
was a truck driver attached to the 479th AMPH TRK CO (TC). He
was involved in the North African Campaign, the Sicilian
Invasion, the Naples-Foggier Campaign and the Normandy, France
He arrived in the European Theater Aug. 19th 1942, the African
Theater on December 6, 1942 and back to Europe on July 1943. He
is entitled to wear the following Decorations; European,
African, Middle Eastern Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal,
Bronze Arrowhead Croix De Guerre with Palm. He arrived back in
the United States on January 12, 1945. He was discharged from
the Army on 28 August of 1945 at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Sgt. Chuck Elyea
Elyea was born March 9th, 1923, to Clarence and Kate Elyea at
Highmore. He moved with his family from Ree Heights to
Wessington in 1935 and graduated from WHS in 1941. He was
employed on the West Coast and at Ree Heights before being
drafted in February of 1943. Chuck attended AAF radio operator
school at Elgin, IL, and graduating 2nd out of a class of 400
and had additional training in Florida and Louisiana. He was
home on leave for the last time in June of 1944. He was
stationed in Iceland, Ireland, England and France with Squadron
584 of the 394th Bombardment Group, 9th AAF. Many of their
missions targeted bridges and this resulted in their being
dubbed "The Bridge Busters." They flew the B-26, a
medium bomber, known as the "Martin Marauder." Due to
its unforgiving nature and propensity for crashing, it was also
referred to by several other names that were defamatory in
nature. The "Marauder" was powered by two 2,000HP
engines, manned by a crew of six, carried a bomb load of up to
5,200 pounds and was customarily armed with ten 30 and 50
caliber machine guns. On October 8th, 1944, Squadron 584 flew
mission #138 against the Railroad Bridge at Ahrweiler Germany.
While not as well known as the nearby and more storied
"Bridge at Remagen," this was a very costly bridge for
the allies; on a later mission to Ahrweiler, they lost 16 of 31
bombers, either to flak or shot down by the Luftwaffe. On this
day, they lost no planes to the Germans but suffered an
operational catastrophe; upon returning to their base near
Orleans, France, as they were peeling off to land, two planes
collided; both planes spun to the ground, killing all twelve
crewmembers. Chuck was
awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. He is buried
in the Brittany American Cemetery, near St. James, Manche,
Sgt. Clifford Krauter
Krauter was born March 7th, 1918, to Elmer and Hazel Krauter at
Wessington. He grew up in the area attending Wessington School.
He entered the US Army July 7th, 1941, and took basic training
at Camp Walters, Texas. Due to a hunting accident that resulted
in a hand injury, he could have received a medical discharge. He
preferred to stay in the Army, serving for
a time in a non-combat unit. He was sent overseas in September
of 1943, and was stationed for a time in Australia. Clifford was
killed in action on June 24th, 1944, at Maffin, New Guinea. He
was a squad leader in Company K, 1st Regimental Combat Team, 6th
Infantry Division, part of an assembly of forces that was named
"Tornado Task Force." They were engaging the enemy at
a place called "Lone Tree Hill." This was a strategic
and heavily fortified position overlooking an airstrip and
staging area on Maffin Bay. The fighting was fierce and
sustained, and the US forces suffered heavy casualties before
the Japanese were defeated. Although wounded seven times, he was
able to walk to the beach for transport to a hospital ship. His
Commanding Officer, Capt. McDonald, was from Vermillion; his
last words to him were "give them hell Mac, and I'll see
you back in SD." The landing craft that he was being
transported on was hit by enemy artillery fire, and he drowned
before he could be taken off. He was initially buried at
Finschhafen, Papau, New
Guinea; his remains were later relocated to the Manila American
Cemetery at Manila, The Philippines.
Timothy Lamb was born
September 3rd, 1923, to William and Kathryn Lamb at Wessington.
He received his education here and shortly before graduating
from HS in 1942, he accompanied his father to Salt Lake City
where he was employed for about a year. He entered the Army on
April 15th, 1943, and received his training at Camp McCall, NC
and Camp Forest, TN. Tim was a combat infantryman with the 194th
Glider Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division. They were sent
to England in August of 1944. While there, he trained and
qualified as a paratrooper and was reassigned to the 513th
Parachute Infantry Regiment. The day before Christmas, 1944, the
17th Airborne was ordered to France; they were immediately
relocated to the front and thrown into action against the
Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. The 513th PIR suffered heavy
casualties, due both to enemy engagement and the harsh weather
conditions. Tim was hospitalized for frozen feet prior to his
unit being relieved on February 10th. On the night of March
23rd, in what was named "Operation Plunder," the
allies pushed across the Rhine River on a wide front centered at
Wesel, Germany. The following morning the allies launched
"Operation Varsity," the largest single day airborne
assault of the war. In a pincher
movement, 21,680 allied glider and parachute infantrymen were
dropped behind German lines near Wesel. This promised to be such
a phenomenal air show that Montgomery, Eisenhower and Churchill
stationed themselves in a church steeple on the allies side of
the Rhine to view the spectacle. This was Tim's first combat
jump; he was killed by sniper fire that same day. He was awarded
several medals including the Bronze Star. He was initially
buried at Margraten, Holland. His parents later had his remains
returned to the US, and he is buried in his family's plot at
Tahoma Cemetery, Yakima, WA.
Lt. Doyle Syring
Syring was born May 18th, 1919 to Alfred and Carrie Syring at
their home near Wessington. He attended school in Hulbert
Township and WHS, graduating in 1937. He attended Dunwoody
Industrial Institute at Minneapolis for three years. He worked
for a while in Calif. and on his father's farm prior to
enlisting in the US Navy in May 1942. He attended flight school
in Minneapolis and Corpus Christi, TX, where he received his
wings and commission as a 2Lt. in the USMC Reserve. After
attending officer's school at New Orleans, he was stationed at
Norman Oklahoma as an instructor in aeronautics. On October
22nd, 1943, while on a flight from Norman, OK to Hutchinson, KS,
the plane he was piloting crashed near Goltry, OK. He was killed
along with a passenger. He is buried in the Wessington Cemetery.
Verbeke was born November 29th, 1919 to Louis and Dora Verbeke
near Tiskilwa Illinois. He came to Wessington with his parents
when he was about one year old. He worked on the family farm
northwest of Wessington up until the time he enlisted in the US
Army Air Corp in November of 1941. Francis was stationed for a
time at Pendleton Field, Oregon. In July of 1943, he was
transferred to the 734th Quartermaster Corp., which was located
at a small Air Base at Whitehorse in Canada's Yukon Territory.
Whitehorse, known as Staging Unit #5, was a way station on the
northwest ferrying route that was used to transfer aircraft from
the US to Alaska and Russia. The base, with a small contingent
of RCAF and USAAF personnel, assisted in the transfer of almost
8,000 lend/lease aircraft to the Soviets. While stationed there,
Francis became ill and was transferred to Baxter General
Hospital at Spokane, Washington. He died there on January 12th,
1944, from progressing paralysis of three weeks duration. He is
buried in the Wessington Cemetery.
Paul Wittenberger was born October 12th, 1918, to John
and Pearle Wittenberger at Wessington. He attended school at
Whiteside and Wessington, graduating as class valedictorian in
1936. In 1938, he moved with his parents to a farm near Clear
Lake and later to farms in ND. Paul enlisted in the Army Air
Corp in early 1943, and began his service at Jefferson Barracks,
MO. He spent several months attending flight school at St.
Cloud, MN. Later he was stationed in California and Ft. Sumpter,
NM, where he earned his commission as 2Lt and wings as a B-24
Liberator pilot. The B-24 was a long-range heavy bomber, due to
its bulky appearance and adaptability to being used as a
transport plane, it was known as "The Box Car." It was
powered by four 1,200HP engines, armed with ten 50 caliber
machine guns, carried a bomb load of up to 8,800 pounds and a
full crew complement of ten men. "Witt," as he was
called, and his crew were sent to the South Pacific in October
of 1944. They were assigned to Squadron 403 of the 43rd Bomb
Group, 5th AAF. Squadron 403 proudly embraced the nickname,
"The Mareeba Butchers," which was bestowed on them by
Tokyo Rose in one of her radio broadcasts. Paul and his crew
flew their first combat mission on November 5th, 1944. In early
1945, they were based at Tacloban, Leyte Island, The
Philippines, flying missions in support of ground troops on
Luzon. Paul's 13th and last combat mission was a "maximum
effort" raid against the "Island Fortress of
Corregidor" that guarded the entrance to Manila Bay. Paul
later related that "there were so many planes stacked up at
the target area that we had to wait and take turns to make our
bombing runs." By March the Japanese had retreated to the
higher elevations, and Squadron 403 was preparing to move their
base of operations to Clark Field, Luzon. On March 9th, in
support of that move, Paul flew a ferrying mission from Tacloban
to Clark; flying conditions for the return flight to Tacloban
were poor, and the plane was not heard from again. Paul was held
in such high regard in his squadron that he was posthumously
promoted to 1Lt. In 1949, the War Department informed his family
that it was improbable that his remains would ever be recovered.
Consequently, his parents had a stone with a memorial to him
placed on their lot in the Wessington Cemetery. In September of
1952, a native hunter found the plane on a mountain on Leyte
Island. The remains of the crew were commingled so individual
identification was not possible. Paul and the four crewmembers
that perished with him are interred communally at Jefferson
Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis MO.
grew up on a farm northeast of Burke SD. He graduated from Burke
High School in 1940. Shortly after graduation Ronald joined the
CCC. He enlisted in the US Navy in Feb. 1941. Ronald was
stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago for
basic training, then he went to Detroit MI , Cape May NJ,
Traverse City MI, Clinton OK, Eagle Mountain Lake TX
and then to Norfolk VA for two years of duty at sea. Ronald was
on active duty in the Navy for twenty years and then spent an
additional ten years in the fleet reserve. At the time of his
retirement in 1971 Ronald was an Aviation Chief Machinists Mate.
After retirement from the Navy Ronald worked for the Postal
Department for several years and now makes his home in
by his sister
was born north of Burke SD in 1920. He went to rural schools in
that area and joined the CCC in 1939. Donald joined the US Coast
Guard in 1940. He was stationed at Port Townsend WA., Astoria,
OR., Ketchikan AK., Vancouver WA., and Tacoma WA. He was aboard
ship as a 2nd Class Machinists Mate until his discharge in 1944.
He was discharged at the time of
his father’s death. Donald died in 1977.
by his sister
heroism of a young aviator from Fort Pierre--and that of the
squadron he commanded--was the turning point in the battle of
Midway, which was in turn the turning point for naval dominance
in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
In June of 1942, Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron
commanded the torpedo and men of VT-8 aboard the carrier Hornet.
The huge and supremely confident Japanese fleet under Admiral
Nagumo and the smaller, outgunned American Task Force under Admiral Spruance were on
a collision course near the island of Midway.
Gordon Prange, in Miracle at Midway picks
up the story. “Waldron
proudly claimed to be one-eighth Sioux . Whenever he solved a
problem by a flash of intuition, he attributed it to his Indian
blood. One of the
few Naval Academy graduates in VT-8, he devoted a great deal of
time and study to naval air tactics in general and those of the
Japanese in particular. He
held school for his men every day, instructing them in both
Japanese and American tactics with blackboard demonstrations and
lectures.” At the
onset of the battle, the Americans launched several squadrons,
but of the first wave all except VT-8 failed to locate the
Japanese fleet, and they turned back.
Prange writes: “Waldron
led his torpedo men along the prescribed course just so far.
Then, at exactly the right moment, with an amazing
intuitive understanding of the enemy, he turned off and swung in
a shallow arc west-northwest.
‘We went just as straight to the Jap Fleet as if he’d
had a string tied to them,’ recalled Lieutenant George H.
out of fuel and lacking any fighter cover, Waldron and the tiny
squadron attacked the entire Japanese fleet.
Japanese fighters and ships shot down all of the
slow-moving American torpedo bombers, and Lt. Gay was the only
member of VT-8 to survive the battle.
Because of Waldron’s attack, however, the Japanese
carriers went into evasive maneuvers to avoid torpedoes, and
they could not launch the huge numbers of their planes—full of
fuel and bombs—that crowded their decks.
A short while later, waves of American dive-bombers
pounced upon the Japanese fleet, sinking four aircraft carriers.
Midway was the first sea battle in history in which the
ships of the opposing fleets never came within sigh of each
other, and it marked the turn of the tide in the Pacific war.
A young South Dakotan and his men had given their lives
to change the course of history.
Warren “Snook” Sayer
enlisted in the U.S. Army at Ft. Snelling, MN in December, 1944.
He served as a Private 1st Class in Company
“E,” 16th Infantry as a Machine Gunner, Heavy 605
and Mess Sergeant. He received two Battle Stars for service in
the Campaign Central Europe and Campaign Rhineland.
His decorations included a World War I1 Victory Medal, An
Army Occupation Ribbon, a Combat Infantry Badge 1945, and a Good
Conduct Medal. He received a honorably discharge from active duty in March
was a Sergeant in the Medical Corps in World War II.
served in the Army as a private.
He served in Africa, Italy and France from 6-1-1942 until
Van Den Top
was in the U.S. Navy with the Pacific Fleet for 3 ½ years.
He enlisted in Iowa but lived in South Dakota for 37
enlisted in Aberdeen, SD and was a tank driver during the war.
was killed at Okinawa.
lost his life in World War II in Italy.
was a Lieutenant in World War II. He died June 10, 1946.
served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
was a Motor Machinist Mate 2 on the cruiser Atlanta. He was killed in action the night of November 13, 1942 when
the USS Atlanta sunk during the Battle of Guadcanal.
served in World War II from 1941 to 1945.
He became a First Lieutenant during the war and also
served in the Korean Conflict from 1951 to 1952.
served with Patton in Europe.
served on a ship off Bikini Island when the atom bomb was
dropped. He then
flew around the cloud.
entered service in 1939. He
served in the Philippines.
enlisted in WWII and served almost five years in the Pacific
Theatre in the 98th Field Artillery and Sixth Rangers
Battalion, then was honorably discharged from the army.
served in the United States Navy from 1940 to 1946. He was aboard the USS Saratoga for four and one half years.
enlisted at Ft. Meade, SD and served in the U.S. Army from
1942-1946. He was a
combat infantryman in Europe.
was killed in action on Okinawa on May 17, 1945.
was a member of the South Dakota National Guard called to active
duty in January, 1942 and sent to Camp Claiborne, LA where they
became part of the 34th Division.
They were the first to reach Europe.
In November, 1942, they were sent to North Africa.
In September, 1943, they landed with the 5th
Army in Salerno Bay, where they were engaged until Buford was
wounded in April, 1945 and sent home.
He was officially discharged in May, 1945.
served in combat in Europe during World War II as a staff
was killed during the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945.
was a Major in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946.
was a T-5 with the 43rd Tank Battalion of the 12th
Armored Division. He
fought in France, Germany and Austria.
was killed in action on October 7, 1944 in Belgium.
was killed in action on June 15, 1944 on Luzon.
Wright was killed in a training accident during World War II.
served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
was in the Navy in World War II about two and one half years.
He went in May, 1944 and was in after both Germany and
Japan surrendered. Late
in 1946, he went to the Great Lakes and received his discharge.
was in the Army from July, 1942 to November, 1945. He served in Germany.
was in the Navy and served in Japan when the war was over.
was inducted into the United Stated Armed Forces on April 10,
1942 and was assigned to the Medical Corps at Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas. He took his
basic medical training at Camp Robinson, Arkansas and medical
technician’s training at Fitzsimmons General Army Hospital at
Denver, Colorado. After
completing medical technicians training, he applied for transfer
to the Infantry and Officers Training School at Ft. Benning,
request for transfer was accepted and he graduated as a second
lieutenant on February 11, 1943.
For a short time after graduation, he instructed weapons
at Camp Walters in Texas. He
later was assigned to “D” Company, 17th Infantry,
7th Division, where he commanded a heavy machine gun
participated in campaigns in the Aleutian Islands (Attu and
Kiska), Kwajelein in the Mandated Islands, Leyte in the
Philippines and Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands.
During his service, he participated in five battles, made
four amphibious assault landings and was wounded three times in
action. During this
period he was awarded the Philippine medal and ribbon with two
bronze stars, the combat infantry badge, the bronze star medal,
the purple heart with two oak leaf clusters, the Asiatic Pacific
medal and ribbon with five battle stars, the American Defense
medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
He was released as a Captain on December 4, 1945 and was
assigned to the Officers Reserve corps and later transferred to
the South Dakota National Guard.
He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.
O. Wilson made the decision to enlist in the U.S. Army during a
South Dakota blizzard on November 11, 1940. His family had moved
to Dell Rapids, SD, when he was a young boy. His widowed mother
was the sole support of five young children. At the time Ralph
enlisted, his older brother, James Clifford Wilson, was serving
in the U.S. Air Force. (Clifford was the military secretary for
General Curtis LeMay.) Ralph was assigned to a quartermaster
unit at Ft. Armstrong, Hawaii, but was put in the Military
Police section, Ft. Armstrong, where he served with pride.
December 7, Ralph was setting up chairs for an outside church
service when the attack on Pearl Harbor began. To escape the air
attack, he dove under a military truck that was parked near his
work area. Within minutes, the driver of the truck ran out and
drove away leaving Ralph scrambling for cover! Ralph served in
the South Pacific area in the following months. He was sent to
O'Rilley General Hospital, Kansas, to recover from malaria and
other tropical diseases that he had contracted during his
Harbor Day was a time when war memories were particularly
poignant for Ralph. He did not easily share any details of his
war experiences with his family or friends. His love for his
country and fellow servicemen/women and the pride that he felt
about his service at Pearl Harbor was always evident.
served with the 78th Lightning Infantry, European Theatre
was awarded a Purple Heart with two oak clusters & Bronze
78th Infantry Division went into England for a short time, then
crossed the channel -- the only night it did not rain!
We went into the Hurtgen Forest and the German Siegfred
Line. Two of us made Private First Class in England.
Our platoon sergeant couldn't function in combat, so all
winter a couple of us had charge of the 3rd Platoon, 311 of the
we were ready to kick off (after the snow melted) I received
Staff Sergeant for the rest of the war.
Our Technical Sergeant was a good trainer but could not
take combat leadership! But
he took care of our needs as he was in a Replacement Company who
sent up arms, ammo. etc.
first real combat came after spring came. We were low on men and
had just got in "new" men.
I had to go on daylight recon and asked for a volunteer.
An Italian boy spoke up. As the afternoon progressed, he
found out what 60-mm. mortar fire was like.
But their range was short!! We were to support B Company
in crossing the river that was well "protected".
A Company's 3rd Platoon (that was mine) was on the left
flank. Only three of us had been in combat. We drew straws to see
who would do the scouting.
I lost. Once
again I asked for a volunteer.
The same Italian boy, who had said he would never
volunteer to do something again, said he would work with me.
We worked ahead of the platoon as we moved to the river.
I would stay out in front -- he would go back and tell
the Lieutenant to bring up the platoon.
We were near the river when I saw the glow of a
saved our lives. We
let him walk up to us and he never knew what hit him -- two
moved to hedgerows near the river to find Germans dug in behind
them. Someone got
me with a 38-caliber pistol.
A medic extracted it and dressed it.
Because of all the new men, I chose to stay on the front
line through the night. B Company made the crossing and we cleaned out the shrub line
too. That was a
long cold, hurting night. For this experience I was awarded the
Bronze Star for service above and beyond the call of duty. One
other fellow of the 3rd caught machine gun fire that cost him a
kidney. Our smoking
sentry was on guard in front of that gun.
I have seen him a couple times since we have been home.
European medal carries three stars for areas that we fought in.
My Purple Heart carries two more oak leaf clusters.
I was involved with their (German?) 50-mm. Mortar fire
and had an eyelid cut plus some metal in the back of my legs.
final time I was wounded was close to the end of the war in the
Ruhr area of Germany -- 88-mm. artillery did it exactly right --
walked three rounds right into us.
I never felt a thing but spent six weeks in bed healing
Randolph W. Lee
He was born December
17,1923 to Fred and Myrtle Lee in Rapid City, South Dakota. He
attended grade school in rural schools in Haakon County and in
Rapid City. He graduated from Rapid City High School in 1942. He
entered the Army Air Corps in February 1943. He trained as a
fighter pilot in Texas and Utah and flew P-47s. He was sent to
Italy in September 1944. On January 3,1944 he was shot down
while on a bombing and strafing run and was captured by the
Germans. His parents were notified that he was missing in action
on January 18,1943 and on January 21st they received a letter
from a Mrs. Lecks that she had received a short wave radio
message that he had been seen parachuting safely. He was in
prison camp in Germany until liberated by the Russians in May
1943. After his discharge he attended and graduated from
Colorado University in Boulder. He went to work for the Air
Force department in Washington, DC and later worked for NASA and
last for HEW. He retired and lived in Falls Church Va. until his
death on May
26.1998. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
was working in Jamestown, ND when he entered the service. The
getting close to me so in August of 1941 I went to Old
Chaimberald Naval Air Fore Base in
MN and enlisted in the Naval Air Corp. I took my Primary
Training at Wold
Chamberland and advanced training Corpus Christi, Texas . I was
commissioned an Officer in the United States Navy in November
1942. After training I was sent overseas and joined VF 28 at
Guadalcannal. We were stationed on the Russell Islands where we
conducted air strikes on Munda and we made the first two strikes
on Bougaunville. We got ordered back to the States in October of
1943. In November 1943 I was transferred to VC4 aboard the USS
White Plains. We were part of the 7th Fleet and our mission was
support the ground troops. We part of the invasion of Saipan
Tinian. We then headed for the Palau group of Islands to cover
the occupation of Peleliu and Anguar. We then covered the
invasion of Leyte. It was here that the Japanese Fleet hit our
Task Force. Shellfire and a Japanese aircraft that hit the ship a
glancing blow damaged the White Plains.
Because of the condition of the ship we were ordered back
to the States for repair. I spent the rest of the war in Zero
Beach Florida as instructor in night fighters. I was discharged
from the Navy in January 1946 in Jacksonville Florida. I was
married to Maxine Smith in December 1949. We had three Children,
Dave, Dennie and Bonnie.