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.


Jacob Woods

 I never had the opportunity to know my biological grandfather. Jacob Woods was killed in action.  My father was only 10 months old when grandpa was drafted, and he was two years old when he died.  Even though I never knew my grandfather, I am very proud to say I am his granddaughter.  Each year, during out annual pow-wow, I am very proud to have his flag raised to remember and honor him.  My grandmother still has the original flag she recieved when he passed away.  I love my grandfather, even though I only have his picture, medals and flag.  God bless.

Submitted by Rebecca Lynn Woods-Herald, Jacobs oldest granddaughter

Rollo J. Lillehaug

 Rollo J. Lillehaug was born 17 March, 1920, in Buchanah, North Dakota to John and Leone Lillehaug.  He was inducted into the US Army on 1 March, 1942, at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.  After Basic Training he was assigned to CO A 559 SIG AW BN as a MED TECH 409.  He departed the US on 30 August, 1944, arriving in the Burma Theater on 7 October, 1944.  He engaged the enemy in Burma and the India Burma Theater.  he departed the Burma Theater on 4 October, 1945, arriving back in the US on 1 November, 1945.  He had earned the Asiatic Pacific Theater Service Medal with two Overseas Service CE Bars, the American Theater Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.  He was Honorably Discharged on 7 November, 1945, from the Separation Center, Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

Submitted by Floyd Short, Jr., CVSO, Perkins County

Selmer J. Ebert

 Selmer J. Ebert was born June 11, 1914, in Marshfield, Wisconsin to Edward and Minnie Ebert.  He was inducted into the US Army on March 20, 1941, in Portland, Oregon.  After basic training he was attached to Company C 11th Armored Infantry Battalion as an Automobile Mechanic.  He departed the US on 31 May, 1942, arriving in the ETO on 11 June, 1942.  He was involved in combat in the Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia and Rome-Arno Campaigns.  he earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal with six Overseas Bars, the American Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.  He departed NTO on 23 May, 1945, arriving back in the US on 11 June, 1945.  He was honorably discharged from the US Army on 18 June, 1945, at the Separation Center, Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

Submitted by Elizabeth Ebert, his wife.

Clarence Engh

 Clarence Engh was born January 3, 1919 in Northfield, Minnesota, to Andrew and Sophia (Nelson) Engh.  He was a member of the C.C.C. in Minnesota from July, 1937, until June, 1939.  He joined the Army in November, 1939, and was stationed at Ft. Meade with the 4th Cavalry until 1942.  On October 24, 1943, Clarence married Martha Kundert at Camp Maxey, Paris, Texas. 

On December 21, 1943, he departed for the European Theater of Operations and landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, then fought across France and Germany and was wounded on September 14, 1944, near Aachen, Germany, for which he received a Purple Heart. 

After discharge in October, 1945, Clarence worked in bridge construction until the early 50's when he began farming in the Letcher and Forestburg vicinity.  After retiring he and Martha moved into Forestburg.  Clarence was an active member of the American Legion, DAV, VFW, 40 and 8 and the 4th Cavalry Association.  He also held membership in the Forestburg Lutheran Church, Sons of Norway and a Rock Hound Club.

Clarence passed away March 11, 2003, and was buried at Mitchell, SD.  he was preceded in death by his wife, parents, 3 sisters and 3 brothers.

Submitted by The American Legion Auxiliary, Artesian, SD.

E. L. "Dutch" Enders


My Father was a proud South Dakotan who served his country with honor.  He went in in 1941, from the county of Tripp, the city of Winner.  He served the duration and was released in 1945.  What makes it memorable in the current times is that he was 41 years old when he went in.  He had to argue to get in.

He died in Winner, SD in September of 1963.

Submitted by his son Joey L. Enders of Jenison Michigan.

Marvin Koth


Marvin served in the 8th Air Force outside London, England.

Submitted by his son Ronald Koth of Rapid City, South Dakota.

Marion C. Martin and Vern P. Martin


Marion C. Martin served with the 14th Air Force in Luleang, China as a control tower operator.  His hometown was Brookings, SD and his residence prior to his death was Whittier, California.  Vern P. Martin served with the 14th Air Force in Luleang, China as a radar mechanic.  His hometown was also Brookings, SD and his current residence is Fountain Valley, California. 

It was somewhat unusual that we two brothers from SD were stationed at the same field in China but it did happen.  We were together for about 6 months before I shipped out to be stationed on Okinawa with the 7th Air Force for the balance of the war.

Submitted by Vern P. Martin of Fountain Valley, California.

Clement C. Fejfar


From 1940 to 1945, Clem enlisted in the US Army.  He was in WW II, and later drafted again for the Korean war from 1950-51.  While in the Army he was sent to Australia and then New Guinea where he got the nickname “Mr. Fix it"  "give it to Clem, he can fix it!", his camp buddies would say.  Thanks to his many talents, his crew had hot water to wash and cook, which was a luxury.  His Army jobs involved demolition and ammunition work.  It was here that Clem risked his life to help put out a fire burning an ammunition site.   It was for this act of bravery that he received “The Soldier's Medal”.  This medal is awarded to soldiers who risk their lives to save other people.

During his time in New Guinea a firebombing campaign destroyed many Japanese cities, and the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of Japan . Although the war in Europe ended when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on 8 May, the Pacific War continued.  Together with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, the United States called for a surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July 1945, threatening Japan with "prompt and utter destruction".  The Japanese government ignored this ultimatum so the occupation of Japan by Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers began.  American airmen dropped “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, followed by “Fat Man” over Nagasaki on 9 August.

In the later part of August, Clem traveled with his comrades by ship from New Guinea past the Philippines and Taiwan to Japan.  The wind and water was so rough aboard ship that many of his comrades took to the bunks due to sea sickness.  He recalls that on-board ship they were tossed and turned by the storms.  When the rough waters rushed into the ship many of the rifles and other ammunition became water logged.  During the occupation of Japan, Clem was one of many, who carried useless riffles onshore, since much of the ammunition was ruined by the water.  “They don’t have that part in the History books”.  He was one among many prayed that the guns would not be needed because many of them did not work.  On shore he saw the aftermath of the bombings first hand.  "The buildings were gone, only stone slabs remained," he said, and then he got quiet.  He seldom talks about the war and what he saw there.

Submitted by Susan Shrader.

Elwood K. Hirsch

 Elwood K. Hirsch was in the army; he entered on January 17, 1945 (on his daughter's first birthday) at Highmore, SD.  He reported at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, January 18, 1945, Company C-Battalion 173 Regiment 95th Infantry.

Elwood was transferred to: Camp Hood, Texas--January 27, 1945; Fort Riley, Kansas--June 21, 1945; Fort Ord, California--June 30, 1945; Manila-Philippine Islands--July 28, 1945; Tokyo, Japan--February 7, 1946; arrived at Fort Louis, Washington--September 13, 1946 and was discharged on October 22, 1946.

He was promoted from Private to Private First Class on October 8, 1945, then to Corporal T/5 on May 28, 1946.

Decorations and Citations:  Philippine Liberation Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Japan), Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal.

Dad is a member of the American Legion, and a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, they lived in South Dakota until June, 1973 when he and his wife moved to Forks, Washington.  They will be in Pierre for the Memorial Dedication and he is so proud of being in the war.

Submitted by Bonnie Heckenlaible of Pierre, South Dakota.

Donald W. Johnson


Flight Lieutenant Donald W. Johnson, R.C.A.F. was killed July 26, 1944, over France while piloting a Sterling Bomber on the way back to England after a successful bombing run on Stuttgart, Germany.

He was born in Flandreau and was a graduate of Flandreau High School, Class of 1935.  He joined the R.C.A.F. before the U.S. entered the war.  He is buried in Breteniere Cemetery in France with several of his crew members.

Submitted by Margaret J. Jung, widow of D.W. Johnson from Reno, Nevada.