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.


Norman Schatz

Norman Schatz is a retired farmer residing in Roscoe, South Dakota after a life long career as a South Dakota farmer.  He served in the United States Army in the European theatre achieving the rank of Technical Sergeant.  He served in the 737th Tank Battalion, more commonly known as "Patton's Spearheaders".  He received a medal for serving in the 5 major European wars that included the landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day as well as the Battle of the Bulge.

Submitted 9/2/01


Peacetime Son

To all those who served that I might be free.

We the children, of a nation’s peace
Look back and try to comprehend
The sacrifice a nation made
When it stood, and refused to bend.
By common men uncommon deeds
would be wrought for you and I.
How can I tell you my heartfelt thanks?
Can you tell me why?
Why you were chosen to whither there
And leave your youth behind?
Why you chose to risk it all,
And to me should be so kind?
For I am the child you fought to defend.
I have lived in the peace you won.
Please accept the simple thanks
Of America’s peacetime son.

Submitted 9/4/01


Who Would Tell

by Anthony J. Anderson

Who would tell his mother?
Who would write the letter
Every mother feared?
He’d once been young
And full of the hope
A young nation had inspired.
On a bright spring day in ’41,
He walked across a stage.
A stage no man in his family
Had every strode before.
With the voice of youth and innocence
That mixed an anxious pride,
He spoke to friends,
To classmates,
To family,
Under a vast Dakota sky.

Who would tell his mother?
Who would write the letter
Every mother feared?
December came in ’41
And things had suddenly changed.
An entire world warred.
Then the young man marched again.
Not to “Pomp and Circumstance”
But to a cadence call.
Brutal men taught lessons hard
And he learned those lessons well.
In his nineteenth springtime,
A young boy learned to kill.

Who would tell his mother?
Who would write the letter
Every mother feared?
December had come three times since
And the boy was no longer young.
He’d sometimes try to recall his youth
For he couldn’t call himself a man.
For the here and now though,
He wanted to be warm.
Blankets were wrapped around his feet.
He couldn’t remember a bed.
Sergeant’s stripes were on his arm.
The last three now were dead.
He only wanted food and warmth
For himself and for his men.
He wanted open spaces
Not the shadows of Ardennes

Who would tell his mother?
Who would write the letter
Every mother feared?
When the last battle there had ended
His platoon was down to four.
The snow had made it easy
To find the one they called the kid.
The red stood out so very very well.
He stared through the one called kid
Who was now older and younger than he
With eyes that saw a thousand yards
Even further when they closed.
He’d learned to see with the eyes of death
And write to the homes of the dead.
Long into the watches of the night
He wrote of the duty, honor, and pride
Of the men with whom he’d killed
And the boys with whom he’d died.
He wrote to the  parents of the one called kid
He was long past dreading the chore.
He’d seen and done far too much.
He would cry no more.

And so he told his mother.
And so he wrote his mother
A thousand words that said,
“Your son shall soon be coming home,
But your little boy is dead.”

Submitted 9/4/01


James Donohue

We embarked for Japan on The Haversford Victory which was a small troop ship. There were 1500 of us on board and I noticed there were only three small life boats so had we gone down there wouldn't have been many saved. It took us 17 days to go to Japan and I think we hit every storm in the Pacific. We were reported sunk and my folks were really worried but it turned out to be another ship. Most of my time in Japan was spent searching for American planes that were shot down during the war.

Submitted 9/4/01


Harley Hansen

Harley served with the 147th in the Pacific.  He then was sent to Europe on B-17s with 8th AF, 303rd Group.

Submitted 9/4/01


Orville Flanery

Orville served in the Army Air Force and was assigned to the 8th Air Force in Europe.

Submitted 9/5/01


Rita Flanery

Rita was in the Navy WAVES and assigned to the Hospital Corps in San Diego.

Submitted 9/5/01


Kenneth Wattenberger

Kenneth was a machine gunner in the 96th Infantry.  He fought in the Philippines and Okinawa.  He was wounded on Okinawa where he received a purple heart, lifetime disability, and the silver star.

Submitted 9/5/01

Robert S. Gergen

Robert served in the U.S. Navy from March 18, 1941 to April 28, 1961. 

Submitted 9/5/01


Russell Wayne Taylor

Mr. Russell Wayne Taylor served in the Navy during W.W.II. He was on a ship that was attacked by Japanese, he was one of few survivors.

Submitted 9/15/01


Mary Lang Clark

Mary served in the Army Nurses Corp from 1944 until the end of the war in Europe. 

Submitted 9/6/01


Clayton R. Osness

Clayton R. Osness served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was preceded in military service by his father, Chester Osness, and uncle, Henry Osness, who fought in World War I. Henry Osness died in action, and the American Legion Post in Langford, SD, is named in his honor and commemorates the patriotism of the town.

At age 21, Clayton R. Osness enlisted in the U.S. Navy and traveled by train from Langford, SD, to report for duty in San Francisco, CA. He served as a Motor Machinist’s Mate First Class aboard the U.S.S. Duffy in the Pacific Ocean. Clayton was a diesel engine specialist, and was responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of internal combustion engines. The U.S.S. Duffy serviced destroyers and aircraft carriers. Clayton received awards for excellent marksmanship and a Good Conduct medal. During his tour of duty, Clayton sent most of his paycheck to his mother because "he really didn’t need much money where he was at [on the Pacific Ocean]." Upon receipt of his Honorable Discharge for net service of three years, one month, and 26 days, Clayton’s mustering out pay totaled $100.00.

Aboard the U.S.S. Duffy, sailors observed a ritual of tossing shipmates overboard the first time they crossed the Equator. Clayton said he "sank like a rock" on his initiation. He received the "Imperial Order of Neptune witnessed by Davey Jones."

Clayton R. Osness has been married to Katherine Sherrard for fifty-three years. They live on their farm near Langford. Dancing is their favorite activity. Clayton and Katherine have three children: Keith (deceased), Joyce, and Dian; four grandchildren: Sarah, Monique, Robert, and Ryan; and four great-grandchildren: Anthony, Angelina, Surya, and Sonja.

Submitted by the Osness family 9/6/01


1st Lt. Delbert W. Miller

Delbert W. ‘Buck’ Miller, son of Walter C. and Eliza Miller of Dupree, SD, entered the service 18 April 1943. Flight training, Gunnery and Advanced Bombardier courses were attended in California, Arizona and New Mexico. ‘Doc, the bronco buster from South Dakota’ as he was known at Bombardiers school, graduated in the Class 44-7 Bombardiers at Kirtland Army Air Field, NM. He was assigned as bombardier in a B-29. He located, identified and bombed assigned targets while on bombing missions; inspected and tested bombsights and allied equipment prior to clearing the ground and, on occasion, helped to navigate the aircraft. Delbert was based in India, China, Tinian in the Marianas, and flew missions over Manchuria, China, Burma, Thailand, French Indo-China, Malay Peninsula Japan, Honshu. He was wounded in action 26 May 1945 when his plane was shot down over Tokyo by ack-ack. Dad said he parachuted out of a window that was way too small to fit through let alone make it out with his flight suit and chute on. He figured God had a plan for him by allowing him to live. When he was captured, the Japanese civilians put a noose around his neck ready to hang him and the Japanese soldiers saved him. He was a prisoner of war at the Omori POW Camp, Japan, for 3 months and 3 days. He was rescued when the United States Navy entered Tokyo on the 29 August 1945. The family at home didn’t know he was a POW until he was liberated. Our Uncle Casey Miller wrote, ". . . it was the worst day in my life when I had to come home and tell our parents that their youngest son had been shot down and was MIA and presumed dead." Our Aunt Inez (Boettcher) was at Aunt Verna (Flick)’s house when a list of POWs was broadcast just before the war ended. She said they opened a can of pineapple to celebrate!

1st Lt. Delbert W. Miller, 40th Bomb Group, 44th Squadron, received the following decorations and citations: the Victory Medal, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal with 6 Bronze Stars, and the American Theater Medal; and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe held a Pow-Wow in his honor and gave him the Sioux name, Flying Eagle.

Dad never spoke much about his captivity in Japan. He said that as a POW involved in bombing missions, they were thrown handfuls of rice and fish heads and that they would have eaten roaches had they been strong enough and fast enough to catch them. We remember Dad telling us that when he was liberated from POW camp, he was so thin he was able to circle his waist with his two hands. Another story was of the ‘gauntlet’ the POWs were forced to walk where two rows of Japanese soldiers would line up and hold iron bars at a certain height. The prisoners were blindfolded and forced to quickly walk between them. Dad said he was so lucky to be so short, 5’ 4", as he missed being hit on the head by the bars. He made light of his treatment while a prisoner at Omori Camp. A friend and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who stayed with him at his parents home south of Dupree while he was convalescing remembers the scars on his back from mistreatment while in the POW camp. He always said he was never treated that badly, not nearly as bad as some of the other prisoners. It was his nature to minimize the atrocities he experienced so that no one would feel bad for him.

Dad never felt he did anything special; he just did what was asked of him and then wanted to blend back into society and lead a normal life. Years later, the chaplain at Ft. Meade who spoke at Dad’s burial at the National Cemetery at Sturgis in 1984 related that when he was in the Chapel at Ft. Meade on a Sunday morning a few weeks before Christmas 1983, he noticed Dad sitting quietly with head bowed and tears running down his face. He asked, "Delbert, is anything wrong, are you ok?" Dad replied, "I look around and there are so many here who have not been nearly as fortunate as I. I have so much to be thankful for." Dad passed away about 3 weeks later as result of complications of heart surgery.

Submitted in his memory by his daughters: Sally Sanderson, Lake Jackson TX; Sue Starr and Janie Davis, Dupree SD; and Mary Briggs, Midland SD.

Submitted 9/7/01

Mark E. Nehl

Mark was from Morristown, South Dakota.  He enlisted in the US Army on September 4, 1940. After training, on October 9, 1940 he left the United States for duty in the Philippine Islands where he was stationed on Corregidor when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941.. The following was written by his Wife, Evelyn, shortly after his death.

My Husband, Mark E. Nehl, 63, passed away at our home in Keldron, SD on June 21, 1981. He had a known heart condition, a nervous condition and numerous other health problems due to his 42 months of Japanese internment.

Mark served with M Bty 60th Coast Artillery (Ssgt) and had been stationed in the Philippine Islands for over a year before World War II was declared. He was one of 3 men who survived a direct hit on a gun pit on top of Melinta Hill on April 29th 1942. He was a Japanese POW from the Surrender of Corregidor May, 16, 1942 to September 4, 1945. He was part of the  Japanese Victory March where the Japanese forced about 40,000 POWs to march 70 miles to prison camps, the so called Bataan Death March, where over half of the prisoners died from starvation or maltreatment. He was interned at Cabanatuan Camps #3 and #1, at Lipa Batangas, at Camp Murphy, at Bilibid, on a prison Ship to Formosa for 39 days, he said the ships name was Benji Maru--the ship was loaded with prisoners standing up on coal when they left the Philippines.  So many of the men died on that trip that the remaining ones could lie down on the coal before they reached Formosa. He was on Formosa for about two month when he was put on another prison ship took him to Moji, Japan. The remainder of his internment, From January 1945 until his release, he worked in a cooper smelter at Kissed, Japan.  He was the recipient of the American Defense Service Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star , Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon with 2 bronze Stars, Philippine Defense Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal,  Distinquished Unit Badge with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters GO#14 9March42 and the Victory Medal.  He was a member of the American EX-POWs, a charter member of the Black Hills Century Chapter of the American EX-POWS and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association. He served as a Rural Mail Carrier at Keldron, SD for over 34 years and was in the process of retiring at the time of his Death.  Mark married Evelyn Short upon his return from the War.

Submitted 9/7/01

Earl T. Gilbertson

Earl enlisted in the US Navy on February 1, 1944. He took his boot training

at the Navel Training Center at Farragut Idaho. January 5 1945 he was assigned to the USS Birminghan at Treasurer Island Calif. The ship went to back to the Pacific.. He was involved in the Saipan Campaign and from there to Iwo Jima to two weeks. On D-Day, May 4, 1945 a Jap plane crashed in to our bow, killing and injuring a lot of our crew and causing damage to the Ship. We went of Guam for temporary repairs then to Pearl Harbor to Dry dock. August  10th we headed of Okinawa. We were out about 2 days and we got the good news, the war was over. We then went to Australia for about two month then back to the United States. He was Discharged November 30, 1946. He passed away August 6, 1955.

Submitted 9/9/01


Clinton S. Nielsen

A 1940 Arlington High grad, I received my two-year teaching certificate from Augustana College (Sioux Falls SD) before being drafted.  I was sworn into the US Army Dec. 17, 1942 at Ft Crooks, NE.  After six weeks of basic training in FL,  I was designated to Army Air Corps, Ft Logan, CO (March 1943) for Engineering and Operations school.   In May (while at 376th Service Squadron, 63rd Service Group, 5th Air Force, Great Falls, MT) I used my 15-day furlough to return to Sioux Falls to marry my sweetheart of four years, Eris McGriff.  The day after our wedding, I received a telegram saying, "Circumstances necessitate your return to your base at once."      The 376th (commanded by Captain Edwin Phillips of Huron SD) was going overseas.  (He rose to Lt Colonel and died at age 80, Aug. 15, 1992)  We left Camp Stoneman, CA June 23, 1943 (5,000 troops) on the ship U.S.S. Mt. Vernon.  Two weeks later we harbored at Sydney, Australia, which was then a "black-out" city.  Our first camp was with tents on the grounds of Warwick Farm Race Track.  By ship we finally reached Oro Bay in New Guinea.  Nearby was the site of the Buna Campaign a year earlier, where my cousin Ellsworth Helgeson (Watertown SD) had seen action. Mail caught up with us there, and I received 65 letters in two days (mostly from my wife). Sept. 5th our 5th Air Force flew over the Owen Stanley Mountain Range and dropped 1,700 paratroopers of the 503rd US Paratrooper Regiment into Markham Valley, which we later called Nadzab.  This was to block 20,000 Japanese, who were faced by Australian forces  to the east, from escaping.  Two days later, the 376th landed at Nadzab and proceeded to build a base from which to carry out bombing and fighter plane missions.  It was there I got my first taste of C rations before cutting our way into the jungle and setting up camp.  I was stationed at Nadzab over a year, serving as clerk/typist in Air Corps Supply Sub-Depot.  Here we were bombed and strafed repeatedly.  We lost a few of our squadron to disease and bombings, as well as a murder and suicide.  While there I assisted in the burial ceremony of my buddy who died of malaria.  The burial took place at Lae in an open field with planes buzzing overhead as I sang "Abide with Me." Oct., 1944 we flew to Dutch New Guinea prior to going to the Philippines. When we landed on Leyte Island, Philippines we started seeing more kamikaze action.  The day before Christmas we shipped to Samar Island.  Trying to be in the Christmas mood, a soldier played the folding field organ while we caroled "Dreaming of a White Christmas."  Our singing was interrupted with a red alert and we could hear the Betty Bomber.  It circled over our heads and dived into the harbour.  The torpedo was a direct hit and the plane itself landed close to a ship, which didn't sink but was listing.  Reportedly, we lost 15 men that night and the next morning we saw hundreds of life jackets on the shoreline--evidence of saved soldiers.      From Samar, we went to the Philippines, where in Manila I saw the most death and destruction.  I attended a church service lead by an American Baptist who had been a prisoner of war.  This is where I learned that President F.D. Roosevelt had died.   While traveling by ship from Subic Bay to Okinawa, our 12-ship convoy was caught in the middle of  a typhoon, an experience I'll never forget.  We landed on Ie Shima in June, where I learned that the famous war journalist Ernie Pyle had been killed by an enemy sniper.  My time on this island included the historic landing of the Japanese emissaries to finalize their surrender with General Douglas MacArthur. I was at the edge of the landing strip and was able to take fantastic pictures similar to what Stars and Stripes was capturing that day.  While on the island, I tried unsuccessfully to find the grave of former Arlington SD native LeRoy Back, who had been killed on the first wave of Okinawa invasion.  Le Shima is where we were when the two atomic bombs were dropped.  We continued to be  bombed for three or four nights, even though the war was supposedly over. We became part of the occupation forces in Japan when the war ended.  I saw the destroyed cities of Yokohama and Toyko, which reminded me very much of what I had seen in Manila.  Oct. 20th, we boarded our return home ship and I helped myself to a Japanese rifle on the docks before we left. I shall never forget approaching the Golden Gate Bridge and the band and barge that came out to meet us. Soon, back in the states, I was on a train to Camp McCoy, WI. For discharge, Nov. 2, 1945.  Looking back, I had spent three birthdays overseas on eleven islands.  I was very ready to move on to the next chapter in my life. 

Submitted 9/9/01


Duane E. Starkey

Duane E Starkey entered active service in the U.S. Army on 25 May 1945 at For Snelling MN.  He took his Basic Trainiing at Camp Livingston, a tempory Army Camp. After basic he was sent overseas and arrived in France on November 26, 1945. As a member of 1st Engineer Battalion he became a member of the Occupation Army. He worked in the Landsburg Prison in which War Criminals were imprisoned. Hitler was held in this Prison before he took over power in Germany. He returned to the United States on 30. Sept. 46 and was given an Honorable Discharge at the Seperation Center, Ft. George Meade, MD on 31 Oct. 46.

Submitted 9/9/01


Harold A. Deuschle

Harold was born to Lorence & Gladys Deuschle on October 15, 1918 at Bison, SD. He was inducted into the US Army on June 19, 1942 and entered into active service July 3rd, 1942 at Fort Crook, Nebraska. After training he was assigned to Company C , 3119 Signal Service Battalion and on January 6th 1943 departed the United States for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. He precipitated in the Guadalanal Campigan and remained in that area until May 18th 1945 when he was returned to the United States. An Electrician in civilian life he continued this trade in his Army Service.  When discharged he was a Technician Fourth Grade. He was given an Honorable Discharge.   0n 11 October 1945 at the Separation Center at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. He was entitled to wear the Asiatic Pacific Theater Service Medal with four Overseas Service Bars.

Submitted 9/9/01


Maurice Emley

My uncle, Maurice Emley, was from the Martin, SD area and joined the Air Force in 1939.  Maurice was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack.  He retired after twenty years, as a Master Sergeant.  Maurice passed away several years ago, and his widow, Bernice Tavares Emley, resides at 415 W. Merle Court, San Leandro, CA 94577.  She was in SD earlier this summer for a reunion and won't be returning for this occasion.


John Emley

He was also a sergeant in the Air Force. John joined at Omaha in l942, trained at Chanute Field, Ill and was sent to Canton Island as an air traffic controller. John lived in South Dakota and worked for the Department of Transportation most of his life. 


Maurice Clark

Maurice  was raised near Lemmon, SD and  was a bomber pilot in WWII and was shot down over Yugoslavia and his crew made their way overland back to their base in Italy.


Wendell DeKay

He was was a radio operator in the 5th Armored immediately following WWII, as his family had obtained a deferment for him to work on the family farm.


Leo J. Anderson

Leo was inducted into the US Army on 9 April 1942 at Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was a Truck Driver, Heavy-931 attached to 223D Chemical Base Depot Co. and arrived in England 18 April 1944. He participated in action in the European, African and Middle Eastern Theater He is entitled to wear the American Theater Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal and the European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon. He was discharged 7 January 1946 at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. Leo passed away December 3, 1993.  While in England, Leo met Pvt. Thelma M. Stubbs; It took action from both the British and Americans Armies before they could get married. Leo’s request started with "Approved and Forwarded for necessary action" and ended with "It is my belief that this Marriage will bring no discredit to the Service". Thelma’s request started with "To Whom it May Concern" and ended with "I have known Tec 5 Anderson for the past six months and believe him to be a Gentleman and a Soldier." They were married Dec. 8, 1945


Thelma M Stubbs

She enlisted the British Armies Auxiliary Territorial Service 20 August 1942 It was her duty to supply information about incoming German Planes to the Anti-Aircraft Guns which defended England. When the German Planes were under control., she was transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. She was discharged January 15, 1946. Six months later she joined her Husband, Leo, in the United States. 

Submitted 9/10/01