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.

 

Melvin L. Schmidt

Melvin served in the Navy aboard the USS Missouri during World War II.

Submitted 8/27/01

 

Phillip Cottrell

Phillip was killed in action in World War II.

Submitted 8/27/01

 

Roger Frank Coffin

Roger served in the Army during World War II as a paratrooper.  He was killed in Holland in 1944.

Submitted 8/27/01

 

Smith M. Jandreau

Smith 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.

Submitted 8/27/01

 

Ernest W. Wingen

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 SDSC.

Finally, 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.

The 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.

We 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 successfully.  There 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.

Then 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 and $96/month.

The 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 $114/month.

November 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.

I 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 better America!

Following 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!!!!!

Submitted 8/24/01

 

Glenn H. Carmichael

Glen 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 and Rhineland Invasion. 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.

Submitted 8/26/01

 

Staff Sgt. Chuck Elyea

Charles 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, France.

Submitted 8/26/01

 

Staff Sgt. Clifford Krauter

Clifford 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.

Submitted 8/26/01

PFC Tim Lamb

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.

Submitted 8/26/01

 

Second Lt. Doyle Syring

Doyle 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.

Submitted 8/26/01

 

PFC Francis Verbeke

Francis 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.

Submitted 8/26/01

 

1Lt. Paul Wittenberger

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.

Submitted 8/26/01

 

Ronald Wesley Tolstedt

Ronald 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
Indianapolis Indiana.

Submitted by his sister

Donald Arthur Tolstedt

Donald 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.

Submitted by his sister

John C. Waldron

The 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. Gay.’”  Running 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.

8/28/01

 

Francis Warren “Snook” Sayer

Francis 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 of 1947.

Submitted 8/28/01

 

George Mathew Frandsen

George was a Sergeant in the Medical Corps in World War II.

Submitted 8/28/01

 

Ralph V. Pederson

Ralph served in the Army as a private.  He served in Africa, Italy and France from 6-1-1942 until 2-2-1945.

Submitted 8/28/01

 

George Van Den Top

George 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 years.

Submitted 8/28/01

 

Boyd Pulfrey

Boyd enlisted in Aberdeen, SD and was a tank driver during the war.

Submitted 8.28.01

 

Willard Rediger

Willard was killed at Okinawa.

Submitted 8/28/01

 

Ray Wientjes

Ray lost his life in World War II in Italy.

Submitted 8/28/01

 

David E. Nelson

David was a Lieutenant in World War II. He died June 10, 1946.

Submitted 8/27/01

 

Robert Schofield

Robert served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Submitted 8/29/01

 

Wallace Marion Hay

Wallace 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.

Submitted 8/29/01

 

Newell E. Krause

Newell 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.

Submitted 8/29/01

 

Howard H. Harris

Howard served with Patton in Europe.

Submitted 8/29/01

 

Wayne A. Harris

Wayne served on a ship off Bikini Island when the atom bomb was dropped.  He then flew around the cloud.

Submitted 8/29/01

 

Orin L. Buum

Orin entered service in 1939.  He served in the Philippines.

Submitted 8/29/01

 

John Williams

John 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.

Submitted 8/29/01

Erwin Haeder

Erwin served in the United States Navy from 1940 to 1946.  He was aboard the USS Saratoga for four and one half years. 

Submitted 8/29/01

Frank F. Aplan

Frank enlisted at Ft. Meade, SD and served in the U.S. Army from 1942-1946.  He was a combat infantryman in Europe.

Submitted 8/29/01

Lennis C. Smith

Lennis was killed in action on Okinawa on May 17, 1945.

Submitted 8/29/01

Buford A. Gray

Buford 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.

Submitted 8/29/01

Cornelius J. Boersma

Cornelius served in combat in Europe during World War II as a staff sergeant. 

Submitted 8/29/01

Raymond A. Knudtson

Raymond was killed during the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945.

Submitted 8/29/01

John Patrick McQuillen

John was a Major in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946.

Submitted 8/30/01

Robert Raml

Robert was a T-5 with the 43rd Tank Battalion of the 12th Armored Division.  He fought in France, Germany and Austria.

Submitted 8/30/01

Raymond Lodge Skin

Raymond was killed in action on October 7, 1944 in Belgium.

Submitted 8/30/01

Melvin Marshall

Melvin was killed in action on June 15, 1944 on Luzon.

Submitted 8/30/01

F. Wright Seaman

F. Wright was killed in a training accident during World War II. 

Submitted 8/30/01

Darwin Hjelm

Darwin served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Submitted 8/30/01

Carl Steichen

Carl served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Submitted 8/30/01

Ronald Deisch

Ronald 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. 

Submitted 8/30/01

Robert C. Rowcliffe

Robert was in the Army from July, 1942 to November, 1945.  He served in Germany. 

Submitted 8/30/01

Arlen Jerome Wahl

Arlen was in the Navy and served in Japan when the war was over.

Submitted 8/30/01

Vance G. Erickson

Vance 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, Georgia.  His 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 platoon.  He 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. 

Submitted 8/30/01

Ralph O. Wilson

Ralph 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.

On 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 enlistment.

Pearl 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.

Submitted 8/30/01

Keith Taylor

Keith served with the 78th Lightning Infantry, European Theatre He was awarded a Purple Heart with two oak clusters & Bronze Star

The 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 78th.

When 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.

Our 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 cigarette.  That saved our lives.  We let him walk up to us and he never knew what hit him -- two 30-caliber M…s.

We 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.

My 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.

The 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 my legs.

Submitted 8/30/01

Lt. 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.

Submitted 8/30/01

Dennis E. Durick

Dennis was working in Jamestown, ND when he entered the service. The draft was getting close to me so in August of 1941 I went to Old Chaimberald Naval Air Fore Base in Minneapolis, 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.

Submitted 8/31/01