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.

Winston Almond Douglas

Like many veterans of that generation, he rarely spoke of the war, saying "If you weren't there, you wouldn't understand."

He served in Patton's Third Army, 61st Armored Infantry Battalion, Tenth Armored Division, from Normandy and into Germany. He was captured, escaped, and was awarded three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for actions in 1944. The papers with the medals mention places like Ardennes, Alsace, and the Rhineland. He told me once that the first medal involved liberating a horse-drawn wagon and using it to evacuate wounded across a battlefield until the horses died from bullet wounds (he said the horses deserved the medals). He said he got the other medals for just trying to stay alive.

The war was a pivotal part of his life and he served veteran's causes for many years and as state commander for Disabled American Veterans.

He was one of a kind. What I know of courage, kindness and generosity, I learned from him.

Submitted by his son,  9/20/00


Cpt. Willibald Bianchi

Bianchi, a graduate of SDSU, received the Medal of Honor for his actions near Bagac in the Bataan Province in the Philippine Islands during World War II. On February 3, 1942, Bianchi volunteered to lead part of rifle platoon ordered to wipe out two strong enemy machine gun nests. After multiple gunshot wounds, Bianchi climbed to the top of an American tank and manned its anti-aircraft gun, firing into the enemy position until he was knocked from the tank by a grenade blast. Bianchi was later captured by the enemy and was a prisoner of war until his death in 1945. His imprisonment by the enemy included the 65-mile Bataan death march.

Press Release, 9/19/00


THE “AIR SHOW”

     You heard it on TV, on all the local radio stations, and talk in the work place.  It had been well advertised, the “AIR SHOW” scheduled this weekend.  The U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds are coming with high speed turns and dives.  Wing tip to wing tip, they fly over, turn, and go straight up. You see Bi Wing Stunt Flyers, home built models,and to the few who appreciate, the Airplanes of WWll.

     Our small farm is located about 15 miles northeast of the airport.  Air traffic from the east or south enter the landing pattern close to the house.  Friday afternoon, the day before the “AIR SHOW,” I was repairing my tractor behind the barn.  At first it sounded like a groan becoming louder and there was no mistaking that sound. I ran out in the field for a better look.   There coming from the south and starting a slow descending turn to the west flew a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator.  Off to the right but not in their formation flying escort flew a P-51D Mustang.  WHAT A GREAT SIGHT!!!!  To some, they were just old planes flying in for the “AIR SHOW” but to me, they represented defense of the homeland in the most titanic conflict in history, World War ll.  I took off my ball cap in honor and respect standing with gratitude till they descended out of sight for I knew a few years ago they were not flying to an “AIR SHOW.”

     From the first bomber attack on December 9, l941 led by Captain Colin P.Kelly on a Japanese Battleship off Luzon to the dropping of the BOMB (“fat man”) on Nagasaki August 9, 1945, the United States Army Air Force played a major role in ending a war of six years that caused the death of over 50 million people.

  In mid 1942 these two (old) bombers might have been in the 8th Air Force Stationed in England, flying to a different “AIR SHOW” embarking on massive daylight bombing campaigns which lasted until the end of the war.  The “AIR SHOW” at the oil fields at Ploesti August 1, l942 began a bombing campaign that lasted for two years.  Only the courage and determination of the crews in the low flying B-24 Liberators set the oilfields ablaze.  Without the oil, The Luftwaffe would soon be unable to fly and the German War Machine stopped.  The Ploesti Raids,over 26 months of attacks, dispatched almost 7500 bombers with a cost of over 350 bombers.  The “AIR SHOW” of August 1943, these two old bombers might have been on the first raid deep inside Germany (The Ball Bearing Plants at Schweinfurt) sending out 200 B-17s of which 66 were lost, each with a 10 man crew.  You do the math!!!  The “AIR SHOW” over Normandy on June 6, 1944 , the U.S.A.A.F. flying from England showed signs of domination in the air over France.

    The P-51 Mustang  flew escort to a different “AIR SHOW” in December 1943.  The 8th  Air Force took delivery of it’s first P-51B, the most widely used American Fighter in Europe during the war.  P-51B, P51C, and P-51D, with almost 8,000 produced.  With drop tanks, the Mustang had a range of just over 2000 miles and accomplished the first fighter escort that could go to the target and return with the bombers.  The bomber losses fell sharply.   The P-51D, the one we know today introduced in 1944, had cut down rear fuselage, sliding canopy, and more powerful Merlin Engines.  The P-51D, a rude shock to the Luftwaffe was the first American Fighter over the capitol, Berlin.  In the Pacific the P-51 replaced the famed Curtiss P-40s in 1944.  The P-51D from their bases in the Marianas flew with the B-29 on their raids to Japan.  These raids caused far greater damage and casualties than the Atomic Bombs.

    These two (old) bombers went to an “AIR SHOW” in the Pacific, Guadalcanal, September 1942.  They kept on flying and fighting for the next three years till they landed in Yokosuka, Japan on August 30, 1945.  Maybe, just maybe, off one of the bombers might have stepped General Douglas MacArthur!          

Submitted by Don Duff, McDonald, TN              APRIL 13, 2000

Major Robert S. Rich

Army Air Corps, Awarded: (1) Distinguished Flying Cross (2) Oak Leaf Clusters, (3) Air Medal.  He was a bomber pilot that flew 50 missions in Corsica, France, Austria, Sicily, Tunisia, Sardinia, Pantellaeria, and Italy on B25 planes.  13 months overseas duty.  He flew from field near Tunisia in Africa, 47th Bomber Group on the 12th air force.  B25 Mitchell Medium Bomber.  Flew with General Doolittle on one mission.

Submitted by his wife, 8/2/2000

Kenneth Verne Karnopp

Born September 11, 1920 to Louis John and Ida (Passage) Kamopp at Andover, SD.  He attended East Hanson Prairie Pride grade school and a year of high school in Adnover, befor joining the CC Camps in the Black Hills.  He entered the Navy in October, 1940, taking basic training at Great Lakes, Ill.  He served on the air craft carrier USS Wasp, fought in Guadalcanal campaign and in a battle of the Solomon Islands during which the ship was torpedoed and sunk.  He then became a plankowner on the new carrier USS Kearsage, during the Okinawa Campaign and the occupation of Japan.  He went on to serve on the USS Antielam, USS Coral See, USS Norton Sound, USS Suisan, USS Koener, and after 20 years of service a retirement ceremony took place on the USS Forster at Pearl Harbor on April 2, 1960.  During peace time, Kenneth had graduated from Washington, D.C. gunnery school, served two tours of duty at recruiting and training centers in San Diego, CA.  He received a letter of commendation for outstanding service in the American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific, China Service and Korea Service Medals.  Kenneth died March 19, 1999.

Submitted by his sisters, 6/15/2000