|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.
Vernie entered the United States Army on
January 27, 1943. He
served in the Pacific Theater in the Luzon Campaign.
He received the American Theater Service Medal, Asiatic
Pacific Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one
Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge and also
received a Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged on
Robert F. Kramer served on the front lines in Germany.
He was with the communications unit.
He served from 1943 through 1946.
He was from the Havana, ND/Kidder, SD area.
He passed away in October, 1993.
LeRoy served as a bomber pilot on a B-17.
He was much decorated.
Harvey was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium
on January 1, 1945.
served with the 147th FA.
They left for Fr. Ord, CA in 1940.
This unit left Pearl Harbor just before the bombing for
the Philippines. They
were rerouted to New Guinea where he spent the rest of his
service. He was
discharged in June, 1945 as a Staff Sergeant.
was a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy.
Burdette Thomas was a sergeant in the Army and was killed in
Germany during the Battle of the Bulge in April, 1945.
was with the 702nd Tank Destroyer Battalion.
was declared missing in action in World War II.
enlisted in the United States Navy on November 21, 1942 and was
discharged on October 24, 1945.
enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on October 27, 1942
and was discharged on January 10, 1946.
enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on June 24, 1942
and was discharged on November 2, 1945.
was employed in at an aircraft factory in Texas and attended
Southern Methodist University until he joined the Navy Air Corps
in September, 1943. His
training was received at Monmouth, Illinois, Davenport, IA, Del
Monte, CA, Norman, OK and Corpus Christi, TX where he received
his wings in September, 1944.
Advanced Training was given to him at Melbourne, FL with
the F6F Hellcat group and he was then stationed in California
for several months before leaving for the Hawaiian Islands.
He was reported missing in action on April 30, 1945.
His parents received the following information:
“Your son was a member of a five plane formation that
took off on April 30, 1945 at 11 a.m. on a routine gunnery
strafing flight. Weather
conditions were excellent for flying.
The planes proceeded approximately seventeen miles
offshore and commenced their gunnery exercise.
Your son completed two simulated attacks, flying at a
target in the water. During the course of his third, he evidently lost control of
his plane, for he continued his dive and crashed into the sea
while traveling at forty-five degree angle and a rate of speed
in excess of three hundred miles per hour.
Surface vessels in the vicinity immediately converged at
the scene and an intensive and prolonged search was carried out,
assisted by aircraft. His
boy was not recovered. The
obligation of letting you know this ill tidings is a most
painful one, particularly as your son was one of the most
popular and promising young officers in the squadron.
His character endeared him to his fellow officers and to
the men. His loss
to me is most deeply felt.
Words are very inadequate at this time, but I hope that
even this small tribute will be of some help to you in your
sorrow.” His parents, three sisters and two brothers survived Ensign
served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.
had 100% disability from shrapnel wounds suffered in World War
II. The wounds
eventually blinded his right eye and made him deaf in his left
ear. A quiet man,
he never told acquaintances how he won the Silver Star, the
Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
He was a combat infantryman in the liberation of the
Philippine Islands from the Japanese during World War II.
His Silver Star was for gallantry on February 11, 1945
during the Luzon campaign to free Manila.
A grenade had wounded one of his comrades; at great risk
to himself, Norlin rescued his friend and carried him to safety.
His friend recovered and met him after the war.
His Bronze Star was for achievement in ground operations
against the enemy through the Luzon Campaign.
Norlin served nearly four years in the Army, much of it
overseas. He was a
private first class in Company K, 148th Infantry, 37th
Division. He was discharged on May 16, 1946.
Elk Point Bomb Range
World War II, Elk Point and several other towns in South Dakota
along the Missouri river had bomb ranges, contingents of the
Sioux City Airbase. These
ranges were training sites for B-17 bombing and gunnery
practice. The Elk
Point Bomb range was located west of town on the Higgings and
Bolton farms, with the control tower on the Bolton farm.
Airmen from the Sioux City airbase manned the range.
Their duties were to direct air to ground bombing
practice by radio and prepare, repair, and maintain the targets.
A practice bomb, blue in color, was approximately three
and a half feet long and weighed one hundred pounds.
It was filled with sand and a small container of five
pounds of black powder, which was detonated, on impact causing
it to send up a smoke indicating where they had hit the target.
Occasionally a bomb missed its mark and hit a nearby
granary. When this
happened the farmer would report to the Non-Com in charge whose
duty it was to notify the ordinance squad at the base who would
remove the bomb and survey the damage.
The farmers were reimbursed for any damages.
Fortunately none ever hit any homes but one mother of
three children in the vicinity always put her children to bed in
three different rooms as a precautionary measure.
A sight in town was the presence of the usual GI
transportation vehicles and a constant changing of personnel
during the existence of the range.
These men lived in private rooming houses, ate in the
local restaurants, and became accepted as part of Main Street.
E. “Speedball” Harris
was one of the Navy’s aces of aces, shooting down 24 enemy
planes in less than six weeks between September 134th and
November 25th, 1944. Harris total did only South
Dakota’s better shoot down two fewer than the number of
Japanese planes known ace, Marine Major Joe Foss. In the
autumn of 1944, Japanese land-based planes had been devastating
Allied ships. American commanders, aware of the impressive
Japanese aerial strength on Formosa, prepared for a massive
early-morning fighter seep on that Japanese Island fortress.
The typhoon that had bedeviled the Pacific Fleet in early
October, 1944, had blown itself out and on the night of October
11, the USS Carrier Intrepid traveled a northwesterly course
straight toward Luzon Strait, a 200 mile stretch of water
separating Luzon from the southern tip of Formosa.
Lieutenant Cecile E. “Speedball” Harris had selected sixteen
crack fighter pilots from the fighter squadron aboard the
carrier to take part in the dawn sweep. The squadron, VF
18, was nicknamed “Two a Day 18” because of its deadly
accuracy in bringing down Japanese planes. On October 12,
as the eastern sky was beginning to lighten, sixteen steely blue
F6F Hellcats catapulted into the air the pre-dawn launch over
enemy airfields had been planned to catch enemy aircraft on the
ground. The Hellcats, wings waxed to give hem a few extra
knots of speed, climbed at 150 knots as the Intrepid became a
tiny dot below. In the distance Harris could see the vivid
outline of Formosa. As he neared the coast, he cautiously
led his division down to look at the target airfield aware that
at low altitude his division would be vulnerable. Suddenly
a cry came over the radio. “Bandits!” Five enemy
bombers closed in. A sharp bank to the left put Harris’
division in the advantageous position, above and behind the
bombers. Through his sight ring, Harris watched the
silhouettes of the bombers grow larger and larger. At the
precise moment, Harris opened up his six .50 caliber guns and
watched a twin engine enemy plane literally disintegrate.
barely a pause, Harris pulled in behind the next bomber and
applied pressure to the trigger button, not jerking it, but
squeezing it—pretending it was a sponge. Another enemy
plane exploded so close in front of him that his canopy and
wings were coated with hot oil. Without a moment to spend
on self-satisfaction, Harris heard a new alarm on his radio:
“Zeros!” This time the altitude advantage was with the
enemy, and Harris watched as an F6F behind the deadly Zero was
hit and smashed into the ground. In a counter move Harris
quickly maneuvered his plane behind the deadly Zero as it headed
after its next victim. Three planes—American, Japanese,
American—were strung out, roaring full throttle over the green
hills of the island. Harris opened fire, his aim true, as
the .50 caliber shells slammed into the enemy’s fuselage and
wing, sending it straight for the trees. But, unluckily,
the Zero’s 20mm fire had, simultaneously, struck an American
plane. Seeing the plane was severely damages, Harris told
his crewman to head back to the Intrepid. Harris and his
wingman would accompany him.
the three Hellcats turned toward the carrier, 20 Zeros moved in
behind. It was then that Harris carried out a daring
maneuver, one of many which earned him 9 wartime medals.
In a strategy that required split-second timing, steely nerves
and utter disregard for his personal safety, Harris stayed with
the crippled American plan instead of confronting the lead Zero
heads on. He maintained his position, letting the Zeros
think they were undetected. As the lead Zero pulled
increasingly closer, Harris banked a violent left turn.
The enemy pilot closed in on the stricken American plane.
At the last minute, Harris banked a shuddering right turn and
headed, full throttle for the Zero. As the enemy’s
wingspan filled the sight circle, Harris pulled the stick
trigger and sent a salvo of shells into the enemy; the enemy
fighter plummeted earthward. They then escorted the
crippled plane safely back to the Intrepid. For this Harris
received the Silver Star. Harris not only engaged in
dogfights, but he also knocked out grounded planes, attacked
Japanese airfields and battleships. He received the Navy Cross,
the Distinguished Flying Cross with two gold stars and the Air
Medal with two gold stars. His plane remained a
“virgin.” After 44 combat missions, his plane had not
been touched by a single enemy bullet, a feat that his fellow
pilots agreed was due to his remarkable flying touch, not his
avoidance of dangerous missions.
served with Seventh Infantry Division in Okinawa. In the
battle of Conical Hill, the highest peak on this home island of
Japan, an entire rifle company was pinned down in the assault by
Jap defenders on the crest. Faced with the threat of being
cut off, the company began withdrawing to the main force of
Americans. In the action, 11 men were trapped and unable
to pull back because of intense enemy small-arms fire.
Johnson, a company medical aid man, who was familiar with the
rugged terrain, volunteered to go out under fire and lead the
apparently doomed men back to safety. Upon reaching them,
he learned 4 of the 11 had been wounded by the enemy fire.
Taking one of wounded with him, he led the other seven to safety
before returning for the other three on separate trips.
enlisted on March 17, 1941 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
He served until his discharge on October 24, 1945 with
the 14th Tank Battalion of the 9th Armored
division. He was
awarded the Bronze Star.
served in the European Theater with the National Guard unit from
Brookings, SD. He
served in the ETO for three years.
was a Navy Ensign. He
was a navy pilot who was shot down off the coast of Norfolk,
Virginia. It was presumed a Russian submarine shot them down.
the 1940s, Warner, SD was an unincorporated town. At this time most of the young men were off fighting the war
and the women groups in the community offered their services to
a group in Aberdeen to make pheasant sandwiches.
These sandwiches were handed out to the servicemen who
came through Aberdeen two and three times a day on troop trains.
These boys really enjoyed the treat.
Pheasants were plentiful and hunters would donate their
birds to the cause.
young Warner boys gave their lives in service to their country.
They were Ervin Rieck, Telford Morgan, and Leland Wilson.
Ervin Rieck was inducted into the army in October, 1942.
His military training took place at Camp Adair and Camp
White in Oregon and Camp San Luis Obispro in Ft. Louis,
participated in the invasion of Leyte before being transferred
to Okinawa. He was
killed in the last heavy fighting in Okinawa on April 9, 1943.
Telford F. Morgan enlisted in the Navy’s V12 officer’s
training school in August, 1942 and received his commission on
December 22, 1944. He
was assigned to Cruiser Indianapolis, which left the U.S. on a
secret mission on July 16, 1944.
The ship was sunken fourteen days later resulting in an
almost complete loss of life to the crew in on of the Navy’s
worst tragedies of the War.
January 20, 1945, while on a combat mission off the shores of
Luzon on the Philippine Islands, Navy Airman Wilson’s plane
went down. His body
was recovered January 20, 1945 and is buried in the U.S.
Cemetery in Santa Barbara, Luzon.
was a Marine who served in the Pacific Theater. His fighter plane was lost and never recovered.
was a Tec Sgt. who was killed in Germany.
He was an engineer on a B24 that was stationed in
England. He is
buried in Highmore, SD.
was a pilot of a reconnaissance plane.
He was killed in action in South Africa.
was a pilot of a B-24 that was lost in the raid on “oil fields
in South Europe.”
joined the US Marine Corps on May 17, 1944 where he was a FA Gun
Crewman of the 1st Marine Division located in the
Pacific Theatre. On
April 1, 1945 (Easter Sunday) the division landed in Okinawa.
After the War, he was stationed in China until his
discharge on August 9, 1946.
was killed in action on March 24, 1945 at the Rhine Crossing.
He was a Private in the 9th Army 30th
Division, 119th Infantry, Company B. Dick Malone was the supervisor of the Farm Security
Administration in Faulkton, SD.
Local farmers and ranchers could apply to him for federal
loans, which helped them increase production for the war effort.
The farmers and ranchers were exempt from the draft and
due to his work, Richard was also exempt.
In 1943, it became necessary to draft fathers.
Although he was still exempt, he felt he had to go.
With his death, he left behind two daughters and a wife.
enlisted in the Air Force in June, 1941 where he became a
squadron clerk and joined the all-volunteer glider program.
His outstanding aviation skills led to his promotion to
staff sergeant and transfer to Lubbock, Texas for glider combat
training. Once in
Texas, Nelson was again promoted to Flight Offers.
He then traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for continued
training in preparation of his flight to Europe.
On June 6, 1944, when he joined 4,000 glider and tow
planes for a dangerous flight into Hitler’s occupied France,
Nelson risked his life to secure the airfield behind enemy
lines, so that German prisoners may be transported to England
where they would later be held accountable for the grave
atrocities committed against the Jewish people under Hitler’s
reign. Nelson piloted his glider which was loaded with a jeep,
50 caliber machine gun, 57 mm ammo, two 82nd Airborne
soldiers and co-pilot. As
they approached the coast of Normandy, the U.S. Army was
storming the beaches and engaged in fierce battle.
Just a few miles behind the enemy lines they crash-landed
and enemy machine guns opened fire on them.
Bullets ripped through the glider one went about two feet
from Nelson’ head. He
ordered the crew to get out and hit the ground. They fell in with soldiers of the 82nd Airborne
escorted enemy prisoners back to England. His unit had 35%
casualty rate. He received the Distinguished Air Medal and the
prestigious Battle Field Commission to 2nd
Lieutenant, as well as the Normandy Medal of the “Jubilee of
Liberty, which was presented to him by the French government.
served through out Europe and received a battlefield commission
and Bronze Star.
September, 1941, Quentin went to Seattle, Washington where he
worked at the Boeing Aircraft Factory until June, 1942.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and entered active duty
in March, 1942. He
was assigned to Santa Ana, CA to begin his training and from
there was transferred to Thunderbird and Mariana Air Fields,
both in Arizona. After
receiving his Silver wings on January 7, 1944 at Luke Field,
Arizona and his commission as a Second Lieutenant, he was
transferred to Randolph Field, Texas.
He was then transferred to Lincoln, NE for Advanced
Training and was assigned as a Co-pilot on a B-17 bomber.
On September 1, 1944, he reported for overseas duty in
England with the Eighth Air Force.
On November 30, 1944, he was assigned a Mission over
Merseberg, Germany, which was his 17th Mission.
It was on this Mission that he gave his life, at age of
24 years and 15 days. He
was awarded the Air Medal and two Oak Leaf Clusters and the
Purple Heart posthumously.
was a Prisoner of War in Germany for six months.
served with the United States Army in World War II from October,
1942 to October, 1945. He
served with the 10th Armored Division.
He was sent to Europe, landing in France.
He was involved in three combats, under the leadership of
General Patton. He
later served in the Army of Occupation.
enlisted in the WAVES on December 18, 1944.
She had to wait to go to Boot Camp, as at that time South
Dakota could only send two in at a time.
When her time came, she went to Hunter’s College,
Bronx, N.Y. for three months of Boot Training.
After that, she was sent to Ottumwa, IA, Naval Air
Station. He was
released from active duty on October 23, 1946.
was a prisoner of war in World War II.
was a prisoner of war in World War II.
enlisted in August, 1943. He
was a tail gunner on a B-17 that was shot down during the third
mission over Germany. He
was a prisoner of war until April, 1945.
He was released from active duty in November, 1945.
was a PFC in the Army during World War II.
He landed on Omaha Beach and scaled the cliffs.
He then fought across France and Germany and into
was a Sergeant in the Air Force and stationed in England.
served in the Army Signal Corps and US Air Force.
April 1, 1945, the 96th Infantry Division made an
assault landing on the Hagushi beaches of Okinawa and within
three days overcame all resistance in the large Sunabe hill
mass, which dominated the XXIV Corps landing beaches.
The division then immediately attacked rapidly and
skillfully south down the western half of the island,
overrunning and destroying or driving in enemy outpost lines and
strong points guarding the approaches to the main Japanese
defense hub at Shuri. By
April 7, the division had penetrated the main outer ring.
On April 9, 5he division initiated a series of attacks
against the powerful Japanese defense position at Kakazu Ridge.
It was necessary to dig, blast and burn or bury forever
the fanatical enemy defenders.
By April 14, the division had gained control of dominant
portions of the ridge. On April 16, the division became the interior division when a
third division entered the lines on its right flank. It continued its day after day assaults. Tombstone Hill was
and Maeda escarpments were captured.
Needle Rock Hill 153 and Gate were all taken.
On May 1, the division was withdrawn for 9 days of rest
and for reception and assimilation of replacements totaling over
4,000. ON May 9,
the division reentered the lines on the left (east) flank, and
began a series of bitter, bloody, hand to hand assaults designed
to wrest from the Japanese Conical Hill, the vital key to the
eastern section of the Shuri Battle position.
The desperate defenders struck back with all the fire and
manpower at their command.
Concentrations of artillery and medium and heavy mortar
fire were placed upon our lines in duration’s previously
unknown in the Pacific War.
By May 21, the crest and eastern slopes of Conical Hill
had been captured, opening an envelopment route to turn Shuri.
To the west of Conical Hill, the division captured Sugar
Hill and broke throughout the Shuri line to within 200 yards of
the Nahi-Shuri Yonabaru Road, the enemy’s innermost and
essential communications line.
Loss of Conical Hill doomed the Shuri position, and enemy
withdrew, shortly after its fall, to final positions along the
south tip of Yaeju-Dake escarpments, the two highest hills were
in the zone of the 96th Division.
The division assaulted heroically and with a fury that
could not be stopped, using the same hand to hand, digging,
blasting, burning, assaults required in earlier engagements.
The 96th Division ended its portion of the
organized fighting as a it began it, closing to bayonet range
with a gallantry, heroism and determination to win which carried
it attacks forward despite terrible and crippling casualties and
physical discomforts almost beyond human endurance including 1,
was drafted into the United States Army in 1942 at the age of
33. The Army sent
Bill to the Air Corps. Prior
to attending service, Bill had spent time in the CCC Camps in
Pierre and the Black Hills. His experience in the kitchen in the CCC Camps qualified him
for cooking in the Air Corps.
He was sent to North Africa and then to the island of
Corsica where he supervised the officer mess. He was discharged
in 1945 with the rank of sergeant.
was drafted into the Navy and sworn in November, 1944.
He took his training at Farragut, Idaho and attended
electric school at Hadley Vocational in St. Louis, Missouri.
He then was sent to the Philippines in convoy and was in
a Gyro compass shop in a ship Repair Unit in Subic Bay at
Alongapo. He was a
part of the ship’s company at Treasure Island at San Franciso
for two months after returning to the states.
He was discharged in July, 1946.
joined the advanced Reserve Officers Training Corps at SD State
College in 1941. This
provided the financial backing and he was able to complete his
college education in March, 1942.
He married and immediately went into the Army.
He became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry.
He was assigned to the 83rd Infantry Division
as a platoon leader. That
division arrived in Normandy shortly after D-Day.
The division assignment was to attack the German
stronghold of St. Lo France. Although the attack was successful Ted was killed in action
on July 14, 1944.
served in the U.S. Army from 1944-1945.
One of the highlights of his military career was the trip
to Europe on the USS Queen Elizabeth.
He boarded the ship three days early and helped load the
20,000 troops. Each
soldier wore a red or white or blue badge and could only be in
the corresponding colored area of the ship.
Later as a liaison officer, he made daily trips from
regimental headquarters to company command posts on the front
lines carrying maps and the orders of the day.
He saw much destruction of cities, roads and railroads in
France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Czechoslovakia. Gilbert earned a Bronze Star and a star on his European
Theater of Operations ribbon for the Battle of the Bulge. He said “It was a terrible price to pay, but the freedom we
all enjoy is not cheap and must be paid for and appreciated
enough to sacrifice much to maintain it.
It is not fair to those young men who gave their lives
that we can enjoy the advantages we do today.
We are not perfect, but no one pounds our door at
midnight, can enslave us, starve us or execute us because we
don’t believe as the government might dictate.
We can criticize our leaders, change jobs, even leave the
country and have no fear. What
a great country.”
knew the stinging burn of a bullet wound, the whine of Jap
bombers overhead and the discomforts of life in the jungles of
New Guinea. The young soldier was awarded the Purple Heart for a wound
received at the hands of a Jap sniper on January 3, 1943.
The Jap fired on Knoepfle from a tree—the bullet
striking a glancing blow on his side.
He was hospitalized in Australia for about a month and
returned to active combat duty in New Guinea in April, 1944. PFC Knoepfle served nearly 29 months overseas leaving the
states early in March, 1942 and returning to the family farm.
served in the U.S. Army with F5\68 Medical Regiment in the
states and 453 Medical collecting Company attached to the 6th
Engineer Amphibious Brigade in England, France and Germany.
During the invasion of Normandy Beach at Omaha Section,
this company brought supplies in and took the wounded soldiers
out to the hospital ships.
The hospital ships took them to England.
Bodies of the dead were put in canvas bags in a trench,
covered with a little sand. Later they were picked up and buried in a Normandy cemetery.
One of the men on he homebound ship was an excellent
singer. At first
sight of the Statue of Liberty, he stood up and sang the “Star
Spangled Banner.” There
was not a dry eye on the ship.
was a Sergeant and served as a tail gunner on a B-29 in the
enlisted into the Army from Reliance, SD, Lyman County.
He was inducted into the Army at Camp Dodge, IA in 1942.
He served with the 1262nd Combat Engineer
Battalion in the European Theater. He was discharged from active served in 1945 at Ft.