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.


Conrad F. Blunck, M.D.

Conrad served in the US Navy during World War II.  He also served in the Korean War.

Submitted 8/11/01


Arthur J. Matson

Arthur enlisted on December 5, 1942 in the Army Air Corps. He was honorably discharged on August 2, 1945. He enlisted as an officer in the Army Air Corps on August 4, 1945.  He was a 2nd Lieutenant with the 2530th AAF Base Unit of the Army Air Force.  He completed Navigation School.  He was honorably discharged in November, 1945. He received the WWII Victory Medal.

Submitted 8/13/01


Linus Joseph Schwebach

Linus served from 6/25/1945 to 2/17/47.  He served overseas in France and Germany. 

Submitted 8/13/01


George Sargent

George died from wounds received in action June 26th in the Battle for Normandy in France.  He left behind a mother, wife and tow stepsons, two sisters and four brothers who were in the service at the times. 

Submitted 8/13/01


Jacob Tvedt

Jacob was inducted into the service in 1942 and discharged in October, 1945. 

Submitted 8/13/01


Don Larsen

Don enlisted in the Army during World War II and served in Guadalcanal.  While stationed in California he married his wife.  He went into the CCC’s from school so he had his training when Pearl Harbor came.  He left from Louisiana, to Fort Lewis and then to Guadalcanal.  There he was wounded and contracted malaria.  He was sent to Texas for restricted service until 1946. 

Submitted 8/12/01


Harold Hegerle

Harold entered the Navy in January, 1942 and spent most of the next four years along the East Coast and in the Atlantic.  He got a job coding and decoding Teletype traffic to various fleet commands in the Pacific Theater of Operations.  He tried pilot school but washed out.  From pilot training he went to Naval Training Center at Point Loma to become an engineer.  He could go from a Seaman 3rd Class to a Machinists Mate 1st Class.  He was reassigned to the Mobile Naval Shipyards to oversee the completion of a ship under construction.  They were supply and repair ships and was commissioned as a supply destroyer escort. The ship was commissioned and sent to Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  From there they went to Casco Bay near Portland Maine.  While they were there the temperature dropped to 42 degrees below zero.  He was sleeping and heard a big crack.  The ship had cracked about one inch wide across the whole top of the deck. They surveyed the big crack but it did not hurt anything’s.  They repaired it.  They remained in Portland until the spring of 1943 then returned to Norfolk destined for convoy duty in the southwestern Atlantic. They were part of a convoy headed for Bermuda.  The ship was a destroyer escort tender.  The ship was about a third the size of a destroyer.  Its job was to protect bigger ships form submarines.  The ship had torpedoes and depth charges, Newly commissioned ships would come to Bermuda on their shake down cruise.  They carried supplies and equipment to these new ships.  He changed jobs back to a first class storekeeper.  While in Bermuda, he received word his brother had been killed.  He was sent back to the United States.  A higher-ranking officer bumped him from the flight from Boston in an Army Air Corps plane to Wyoming.  He missed his brother’s funeral by two hours.  He returned to active duty.  First in New York then in Williamsburg, VA.  There were captured German submarine soldiers there.  He escorted the prisoners of war around to clean up the yard.  He spent the rest of war in Port Hueneme, CA.  He left the service in February, 1946. At his brother’s funeral, he met his brother’s wife and her baby boy.  After being discharged from the service, he spent some time with her.  They married in 1950. 

Submitted 8/13/01


John A. Untereiner

John served in the United States Navy from February, 1944 to May 26, 1946 aboard the USS Feland.  The Feland was Doyen Class Attack Transport.  John was a Machinist Mate 3rd Class. 

John joined the Feland after a West Coast overhaul.  The transport returned to Pearl Harbor on May 6, 1944 and after training arrived in Eniwetok on June 9, 1944.  Two days later combat loaded, she sailed for the invasion of Saipan, and June 15th took part in a demonstration landing at Tanapag harbor, while the main assault was made north of Charan-Kanoa.  The next day the Feland began to send troops and cargo ashore, but that night was order to retire from the island, to avoid the danger of an expected Japanese attack.  She returned June 21, 1944 to complete unloading and embark casualties for Honolulu.  The Feland returned to Eniwetok July 17, 1944 with troops for the assault on Guam, where she landed them July 22nd, one day after the initial landings.  Again she sailed back to the Hawaiians with casualties, and to begin training for the liberation of the Philippines.  Manus was her jumping off point for this operation, and she arrived in the Leyte Gulf on October 20 to unload in the transport area off Dulag and retire the next day, before the outbreak of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  After one voyage to bring reinforcements from New Guinea to Leyte, the Feland embarked soldiers at Aitape from which she sailed on December 28, 1944 in the San Favian attack force.  In the initial assault in Lingayen Gulf on January 8, 1946, she landed troops and cargo in record time, despite heavy mortar fire from the shore, which wounded two of her men handling landing craft.  She cleared the beachhead the next day and that evening fired on a Japanese suicide plane, which veered away, selecting another target.  After calling at Leyte and Ulithi, she sailed to Guam to aboard Marines for the Iwo Jima operation.  Arriving off Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, Feland’s troops were held in reserve until February 27 when they were landed through heavy surf on a difficult beach.  She carried casualties to Guam, then sailed for Manus and Noumea to load soldiers for transportation to Leyte.  Between May 29 and July 16, 1945, she carried military passengers between ports in New Guinea and the Philippines, then sailed for a west coast overhaul.  This was completed in October, 1945 and after one voyage to the Philippines with cargo, she returned to Seattle November 10, 1945 and was decommissioned on March 15, 1946.  John participated in the decommissioning of the Feland.   The Feland and its crew received five battle stars.

Submitted 8/31/01

John Zilverberg

John enlisted right after Pearl Harbor and was discharged in 1946. 

Submitted 8/3/01


Leland W. Austad

Leland served 3 ½ years at a meager $21 per month.  We were only married five months when he was shipped out in a boxcar. 

Submitted 8/25/01


LaVonne Holt Heimlich

LaVonne joined the Waves at Brookings, then went to Minneapolis, New York City and Washington, D.C.  She developed hepatitis and was sent to Chicago where she was discharged. 

Submitted 8/27/01


Marvin G. Norris, M.D.

Marvin enlisted in the US Navy on 8/7/42 and served until 11/29/1945.

Submitted 8/27/01


Henry E. Dumke

Henry was a Technician Fourth Grade in the U.S. Army.  He was inducted into the military on February 27th, 1942.  He served his country for 3 years, 7 months and 15 days as a non-commissioned officer in he Medical Detachment of the 63rd Field Artillery Battalion.  He served campaigns in New Guinea, the southern Philippines, and Luzon.  Henry was discharged with honors earning the Good Conduct medal and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars.  Upon discharge, Henry received a total of $300 mustering out pay.  He was given $22.45 traveling pay from his point of discharge at Ft. Leavenworth, KS to Brandt, SD.  He did not speak of the war but did remark, “If there is a hell, I was there.”

Submitted 8/24/01

A.H. “Hap” Haenfler

Hap is a veteran of Troop C of the 6th US Calvary.  He is one of six Hanfler brothers to serve in World War II.

Submitted 8/19/01


Elroy Huwe

Elroy enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served with the 101st Airborne Division, 501st Parachute Infantry in the European Theatre of Operation.

Submitted 8/27/01


Orin R. Storla

Orin served with the 143rd Field Artillery Battalion from October 8, 1941 until September 1945.  He served in battles in Northern Solomous, Bismark, Archipelago, and Luzon.  He was a heavy machine gunner.  He received the Good Conduct Medal.

Submitted 8/28/01


John David Cornelius

John went into the Army Air Force on July 30, 1943.  He spent time in pilot training and got up to the twin engine advanced training.  He wanted to fly a P-38 but in never worked out.  He needed a little more time on radio range orientation.  The war ended before he could finish his training.

Submitted 8/22/01


Harold James Cornelius

Harold enlisted on October 29, 1943, and was sent for training in Fort Benning, GA; He was transferred to Camp Georgia, GA and assigned to the 10th Armored Division, which was preparing to go overseas.  In early September, 1944, they went by train to New York and sailed for Europe.  They had to set sail twice because the first time they went aground on a sandbar.  This caused them to be triple loaded for the trip to Europe and become the first troops to land directly in Normandy.  They arrived in Cherbourg on September 23, 1944, and spent nearly 6 weeks in daily rains, waiting for their equipment to arrive from England, and then clean and repair it when it arrived.  He spent 94 days in France, 32 days in Belgium, 192 days in Germany, 14 days, 16 days in Luxembourg and 1 day in Italy.  He returned to New York on September 12, 1945 and was discharged at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin on February 1, 1946. 

Submitted 8/23/01


Robert “ Bud” Pearson

He called it that “fatal” ozone call. But the end results was that two people who had not been in contact for 56 years were married in May, 1999.  It all began in 1943 when Britton Native Robert “Bud” Pearson was an Air Force cadet in Canyon, Texas.  Waldeen Dorris was a freshman at West Texas State (now West Texas A&M) in Canyon.  They met at a party and dated for two and a half months.  But there was a war on.  “It was right in the middle of World War II and they were trying to rush us through training to get us over there,” recalled Pearson.  “So we decided not to try to carry on a relationship through that, and, as Waldeen wrote in a letter, we parted friends.”  That was 56 years ago in 1999.  But recently Bud thought about “that girl from West Texas State.”

In 1996, Bud made contact with Waldeen and then started writing, talking by telephone and an eventual visit.  It did not take long and wedding plans were made.  The couple was married at the chapel at West Texas A&M, the place where they had met.  After the ceremony, the couple departed down the aisle to the Air Force song “Off we go into the wild blue yonder.”

Submitted 8/20/01


Ralph E. Dunwoody

Ralph was a Tec Sgt. in the Philippine Islands, Okinawa, and Japan with the 405th Regiment of the 77th Infantry Division. 

Submitted 8/20/01


Donald G. Small

With an engineer aviation battalion somewhere in Italy, Sgt. Donald Small is one of the exceptions to a prevailing belief in many circles that a man rarely, if ever carried on in his former trade one, he enters the service.  Since almost his first day of his army career began, Sgt. Small has been operating and servicing all types of government vehicles and heavy equipment.  Formerly employed by a Minnesota construction outfit as a caterpillar tractor operator, he now heads his unit’s heavy airfield construction equipment.  Under his supervision are the large earth moving carryalls, grading machines, rubber-tiered rollers, tractors and so on, as well as a number of mechanics who are constantly servicing and repairing these to be in readiness for any job where they might be needed.  Donald received two campaign stars on his European-African-Middle East Theatre ribbon, and also the Good Conduct Medal and Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon.

Photos of Donald Small

Submitted 8/20/01


United States Cadet Nurses Corps

Lorraine and Iona were Cadet Nurses.  There was a severe shortage of Registered Nurses as so many entered the military service.  The civilian population was left without nurses to work in hospitals.  While preparing for future responsibilities as a Registered Nurse the Cadet-Nurse delivered most all patient care at Sioux Valley and McKennan Hospitals in Sioux Falls.  Also in other hospitals in the state.  The students were given their tuition, uniforms, books, room and board.  They worked 8-hour shifts in addition to classroom work. 

The Class of 1946 of Sioux Valley Hospital:

Lorraine Viet              Iona Powers               Dorothy Shearer        Lillian Becker
Parker, SD                 Sioux Falls, SD          Sioux Falls, SD         Sioux Falls, SD

Frances Shotwall      Marilyn Graber           Donna Malone           Elda Victor
Sioux Falls, SD         Freeman, SD             Brandon, SD              Pierre, SD

Marilyn Johnson
Baltic, SD

The United States Cadet Nurse Corps was established on June 15, 1943.  It was the first large federal grant for nursing education, with the nursing division of the United States Public Health Service.  The Corps was designed to augment the dwindling numbers of RNs in the United States during World War II in military and civilian hospitals. 

Submitted 8/18/01


The Greatest Generation

Young, brave, bold and strong.  How great you were, how great you are.  Molding, shaping, protecting and defending, we could never thank you enough.  The foolish don’t care, the ignorant don’t understand and the young are so blind to your glorified valor that it sickens the soul.  Were you not courageous, the foolish couldn’t care, the ignorant couldn’t understand, and young could not be blind to your valor, because they would not exist.  Education is the cornerstone of America.  These young, blind foolish ignorant Americans need to know why they are free today and someday they will learn who gave them that precious gift of freedom. THE GREATEST GENERATION. May your hearts be inflamed with the burning love of God, and may you someday understand how much we love you, how grateful we are and how thankful we will always be to you. 

Submitted 8/17/01


Clarence V. Anderson

Clarence was a navigator who was killed in England when he was 27.

Submitted 8/17/01


Alfred B. Kemper

Alfred enlisted in the 4th US Calvary at Ft. Meade and was sent to SDM&T to take engineering until called to active duty.  He was sent to a defense plant, ostensibly discharged but asked for active duty in May, 1944.  He went through basic training and had various assignments and numerous promotions. 

Submitted 8/4/01


Lois M. Weaver

Lois received the Bronze Star for her outstanding service at San Thomas Prison for caring for embassy personnel and prisoners while the enemy was attacking the camp.  The Japanese did not recognize the Geneva Convention.  The Medical team had been airlifted into the Philippines and infiltrated into the camp.  The Japanese had dug in underground of the prison camp and from there they launched their attack.  A US Army Infantry Battalion, commanded by Major Jim Curran rescued the US Army Medical team.  A lone US Marine Company deflected the Japanese battalion until this help arrived.

Submitted 8/4/01


Dick Small

Dick spent nine weeks in Basic training at Ft. Riley Kansas from April, 1943 to June, 1943.  He waited for two weeks at Port Chicago, CA, then 30 days at GEA before being assigned to the 37th Ohio National Guard, 37th Division Calvary Recon Troop Guadal Canal and Municipal Air Base 1st Combat Bougan Ville Golsdan Island New Guinea, Admiral City Island.  He was home by Christmas Eve, 1945.

Submitted 8/16/01


Leonel Jensen

Leonel was too old to be drafted for service but was on the draft board so he sold the bank in Wall, drafter himself and came out of basic training as a corporal and company clerk.  He was discharged in Louisana because he was to old to go overseas.  His comrades said he was the best at everything—running, obstacles, shootings—they could not understand how we could fight a war by kicking out the best man in the outfit because he was 38 years old.  He joined the Red Cross as Asst. Field Director and became the 75th Infantry Division Field Director.  By the end of the war, he was head of 19 division and the highest American Red Cross Field Director in Europe.  He was asked to head the “Red Cross-Far East” but declined by saying one war front was enough and returned home.  He received the Bronze Star for “bravery under fire” by Harry Truman. 

Submitted 8/3/01

Homer Jensen

Homer was a battalion commander on Normandy on D-Day.  He was the awarded the Bronze Star.  He attained the rank of colonel on June 6, 1944.

Submitted 8/3/01


John Swenson

John attended and finished West Point in 1938.  He began his military service as a Second Lieutenant at Fort Meade.  He was severely wounded on D-Day during World War II.  He finished his military career in 1969 as a colonel.

Submitted 8/4/01

Charles Schwartz

Charles and his wife were married in May, 1946.  They were only married a few months when he was drafted in Texas and sent to Africa for a few months and then to Europe for almost three years.  He served in Army.

Submitted 8/17/01

Vernon Nelson

Vernon was drafted into the U.S. Army on July 8, 1942, serving with Battery D of the 796th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion during World War II in France, Germany, and in the Battle of the Bulge.  He attained the rank of sergeant and was honorably discharged on December 9, 1945. 

Submitted 8/17/01

Fred Trople

Fred was killed in Italy on April 18, 1945.  He served in the Army.  There is a bridge in Italy named in his honor.

Submitted 8/13/01

John Robert Nilson

John was a member of the U.S. Naval Reserved serving from 12-10-1943 to 12-17-1943.   He served as a Coxswain at NTS, Great Lakes, Ill, ATB, Fort Pierce, Florida and NTS, Newport, R.I.  He also served aboard the USS Merrick. 

Submitted 8/13/01

Russell C. Birkeland

Russell was drafted into the US Army in April, 1942.  He was a member of the 2nd Squadron of the 7th Calvary.  This was the guard and ceremonial squadron for the General of the Army MacArthur at the raising of the flag over Tokyo on September 8, 1945.  This squadron was the first of the Allied Forces to occupy Tokyo, Japan since the declaration of war on December 8, 1941. 

Submitted 8/7/01

Louis V. Wise

Louis entered the Infantry on September 5, 1945 and went over seas on August 17, 1944 serving in the European Theatre.  He participated in engagement is  Villers, Lo, Bonne, Eau, and Belgium.  He was awarded a Purple Heart.  He attained the rank of private and was killed in action on January 1, 1945.

Submitted 8/7/01

Kenneth Vander Hamm

Kenneth entered the Navy on June 7, 1942.  He trained at Great Lakes, Illionis and Norfolk, Virginia.  He participated in engagements in the African Invasion, Assault of Fedala, and French Morocco.  He was a Seaman First Class receiving a citation for bravery in Assault of Fedala.  He served seven months before he was killed in action on January 2, 1943.

Submitted 8/7/01

Carroll L. Wattenbarger

Carroll entered the Army Air Corps on August 12, 1940.  He trained at the Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Ill.; Curtis Field, Brady Texas; Gowen Field, Boise, ID; School of Applied Tactics, Orlando, FL; and March Field in Riverside, CA.  He went overseas on December 26, 1943 and served in the European Theatre and West Indies.  His missions were over Germany and Southern Europe.  He was awarded the Air Medal, Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart.  This First Lieutenant was killed in a crash landing on July 16, 1944.

Submitted 8/7/01

John Hofer

John was stationed at the schoolhouse in Oran, North Africa.  He was the cryptographer in the communications coding room.    He was in the Navy and served on the USS Missouri.

Photo of John HoferFrech School House, NOB Oran 1943-45 Thurston Gause, John D. Hofer, George Leclaire, Earl Haid

Submitted 6/20/01