Americanism

Hundreds of Legion-Led Conservation Projects Spread Across State During Drought in 1930s

From the 1940 report by M.O. Ryan of Fargo, chairman of the North Dakota American Legion’s Water Conservation Committee: “… Years of unprecedented drought from 1932 through 1938 awakened North Dakota to the need for a statewide conservation program in which our precious resources of soil and water were preserved and more intelligently utilized. In this awakening of the general public, The American Legion posts of the state played a vital part…”

Because of the ubiquitous presence of American Legion posts in the state, the veterans organization commonly was designated to devise plans and provide leadership and manpower in emergencies.

This was the case in the 1930s, when the Great Depression and little or no rain strained the resiliency of every segment of the state’s population. The Legion answered the call as part of its pledge to offer and provide service to individual communities, the state and nation. What came were conservation projects that helped save natural resources while building community pride through simple, yet effective, programs. Some of the projects still are in service.

Communities of all sizes across the state benefitted from organizational expertise and grunt work provided by Legionnaires.

Ice and roller skating rinks were built. Swimming pools and bath houses were constructed. Schools and parks received playground and gymnasium equipment. Parks and golf courses were acquired and built. Municipal cemeteries were provided maintenance. In 1932, each Legion post in the state was asked to sponsor construction of one dam. M.O. Steen of Bismarck, the Legion’s Water Conservation Committee Chairman who was in the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said in a letter to each post commander: “It is hardly necessary to say that in a state such as ours, having an annual evaporation of approximately 35 inches and an annual precipitation of 17.17 inches, that a conservation of water which ordinarily runs away and is lost is of paramount importance to each and every one of us …”

Water conservation committees went to work on community projects. In addition to the principal goal of water conservation, they also assisted in feeding wild game to prevent their starvation in the winter to crow shoots in the spring.

Local initiatives were coupled with federal relief programs to produce long-distance monuments to this cooperation.

People receiving aid through Reconstruction Finance Corp. loans were used in dam construction work. This afforded the needy an opportunity to earn relief advanced to them rather than being forced to accept it as a dole. Young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps remained in the state and in 1932-33 completed about 30 water reservoirs.

The significance of these grass roots efforts to conserve resources was noted by public agencies in Washington, D.C., with the help of messages by members of the state’s Congressional delegation briefed by state government and Legion officials. In 1935 alone, North Dakota received $4,000,000 of $8,000,000 in biological enhancement appropriations for the entire nation.

Understandably, this raised tempers across the country. But the fact remained that, through 1936, North Dakota American Legion water conservation committees had been leaders in the construction of more than 300 of 802 completed water projects. These dams and reservoirs capable of impounding 390,000 acre-feet of water, or one-third of the normal runoff in streams in the state, were constructed at a total cost of about $4,750,000.

But, changes in national and international focus dramatically affected North Dakota and all of the United States on Dec. 7, 1941. Programs that carried over from Depression days quickly converted men and women in work clothes to marchers in military uniforms.

Milton Legion Post Joined Community Effort in Constructing High Dam in Nearby Coulee

Popularly known by the initials of their federal organization, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) boys constructed a dam in 1934-35 on  the William Murta Coulee near Milton. The water conservation project represented total community cooperation with the federal and state agencies providing work and disciplinary training for young men. It remained in service until the spillway washed out in 1990. Repairs were denied then by the landowner, who feared possible liability for accidents, including drowning.

T.B. McCullough of Post 179 was appointed in early 1934 to the community’s conservation committee along with others from the Milton Community Club. After the Murta Coulee site was chosen, a district game warden reviewed the proposal and explained steps necessary for the CCC camp at Larimore to build the dam. Survey crews arrived in August to do the preliminary work that resulted in construction of a dam more than 20 feet high.

CCC: See the World, by the Shovelfull

North Dakota became an integral part of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

The New Deal brainchild of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration was authorized originally as the Emergency Conservation Work program in 1933. Its goal was to advance national conservation efforts and build up the country’s natural resources of soil, timber and water by furnishing work and training for unemployed young men and war veterans.

Styled after Army regimen, the corps mustered nearly 3 million men — at first, boys who quickly became men at the muscle end of shovels, grub hoes and rock sledges. The CCC camps were set up in almost 3,000 outdoor, portable work sites nationwide and in territories over nine years before World War II manpower needs coincided with their end.

“The contributions to the people of North Dakota made by the corps were substantial,” wrote Kenneth E. Hendrickson, Jr., in a report published in North Dakota History, Fall 1981, titled “Relief for Youth: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration in North Dakota.”

The state’s agricultural economy was near collapse in 1933 when FDR took office. ” … In most areas, fully one-third of the people needed assistance and, in some sections, the figure was nearly ninety percent,” Hendrickson said, using a National Archives source.

Employment over varying periods of time was given to 31,764 men in North Dakota, most of whom remained in the state. Hendrickson continued: “… The total cost of CCC operations in North Dakota during the nine-year, three-month life of the program was $16,241, 189, including $7,525,923 in allotments (to dependents). The individual cost was approximately $1,100 per man per year.” The CCC program generally received high praises, especially from The American Legion for supplying manpower needed for numerous conservation projects that were initiated by Legion posts in the ’30s. That respect came from jobs well done while providing “three hots and a flop, electric lights and an indoor pot” for workers plus that financial assistance for families back home. The enrollees (men aged 18-25 and war veterans on public aid) were required to send a minimum of $22 home to dependents each month from their basic pay of $30.

Administered by the Army, the CCC engaged a variety of projects: from water retention dams and soil conservation projects to reforestation of marginal land, firefighting and development of parks and wildlife refuges. The corps director was assisted by three cooperating governmental departments — War, Interior and Agriculture — and had help from the Veterans Administration, which selected the vets, and a large assortment of state relief and conservation agencies.

Camps normally had 200 enrollees, including “LEMS” or local experienced men who helped young boys adjust to being away from home for the first time and how to accept orders to perform work as instructed. At its peak operation in North Dakota, the CCC had 16 camps scattered around the state.

Some camps moved into the state from other locations, while others worked here, then left for other states. One company — Company 4750– had four separate locations between August 1935, at Remer, MN, and November 1941, when it disbanded at Medicine Lake, MT. In between, it was at Bismarck from spring to fall in 1936, when it left for Moorehead, IA, for the winter. In May 1937, the company operated around Medicine Lake and remained there until its men were merged in November 1941 into Company 2772, which was stationed near Trenton, ND, and working on the Buford-Trenton irrigation project that ended June 30, 1942. Most of the projects were oriented to soil conservation, whereby arrangements with farmers provided tools and equipment in exchange for information and demonstrations of new techniques.

While some critics alleged that unskilled, inexperienced boys could not produce effectively in strange circumstances or locations, numerous material achievements stood the test of time as silent testimonials to their talents and determination.

The challenges proved that even boys with as little as third-grade educations were as good as anyone else and could rise to even greater stature. CCC Company 2772 near Medora provided manpower to help develop South Roosevelt State Park (later the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, and more recently as a full national park). That work was done under sponsorship and guidance of the State Historical Society. Among other historical society projects linked with CCC companies, Camp 764 near Larimore helped in 1937 with construction related to Grand Forks State Park, which became Turtle River State Park.

The Veteran CCC Camp — Company 2775 — at Mandan adopted “VCCC” as its personal logo because it was entirely veterans of World War I and the Spanish-American and Indian wars. The company did restoration work at Fort Lincoln State Park, including construction of a museum made of native stone in 1937-38.

What was destined to be of special interest later to North Dakota American Legion programs and projects was the construction of the amphitheater at the International Peace Gardens in 1937-38 by CCC Company 794 near Dunseith and Kelvin. The gardens along the border with Canada are where the Legion and other veterans organizations in the state used money raised in wide-ranging fund drives to erect a bell tower memorial in 1976 to commemorate the bicentennial. Another CCC camp company returned in 1941 to do more work there.

To detail work subjects of CCC camps in North Dakota without excessive verbiage would require a thick thesaurus. But suffice it to say that. .. dozens of structures were erected, miles of truck trails and minor roads were built, fence lines, levees, dikes and jetties by the mile were hammered or jostled into place, washouts were checked with landscaping, terraces were sloped for erosion control, thousands of square yards of rip rap were fitted together, more than 5,000 acres of park land were improved, lookout towers, latrine and shelters were added to facilities in parks and refuges for public convenience…

Simply stated by an anonymous graduate — “The ‘Cs taught discipline about seeing the world, one shovelful at a time, even in narrow glimpses showing just how many shovelfuls there are.”

Legion Spearheads ’31 Effort to Aid Drought Victims in NW North Dakota

In the throes of an unprecedented drought in 193l, particularly in the 10 northwestern counties of North Dakota, The American Legion together with its sister organization, The American Legion Auxiliary, mobilized their combined statewide network of volunteer members and resources to conduct one of the largest and most successful relief efforts ever undertaken in our state.

The mid-July 1931 department convention at Valley City had adopted a resolution urging the state organization and the various local units to assist in every possible way in the relief of drought-stricken areas in the state.

Designated Legion officials assessed the emergency and decided that the most practical relief which could be given through the organization of The American Legion and its Auxiliary would be through the collection and distribution of clothing in each locality, forwarding this material to a central point and effecting the distribution from that point. The means of financing this project was to he through a collect1on taken up at the October meeting of Legion posts and Auxiliary units.

In mid-September Department Commander Joe Rabinovich and Department Adjutant Jack Williams traveled to Minot and consulted with local Legion post officials, the Red Cross and city officials. The outcome of this meeting was the establishment of The American Legion Relief Depot with Joe Frank, then commander of William G. Carroll Post 26 at Minot, in charge as manager. On September 17th, the Legion and Auxiliary jointly announced a campaign for the collection of clothing of all kinds, shoes and overshoes. American Legion posts and Auxiliary units in the state entered into the work of collecting clothing with the finest enthusiasm … did the job in a big way.

Over 30 tons of clothing passed through the Relief Depot making its way into the entire northwestern part of our state through the local Legion posts and Auxiliary units. The people responded most generously to the Legion and Auxiliary requests for clothing.

In addition to the clothing gathered, 89 rail carloads of potatoes and other vegetables were collected among the farmers by Legion posts and turned over to the Red Cross who had arranged free transportation for shipping commodities into the drought communities for the needy. In some cases, cities and towns gathered together carloads of foodstuffs and clothing, with American Legion posts making the distribution.

The relief effort had a tremendously beneficial impact upon hundreds of families suffering from the woes of the drought, as attested to by the Jan. 7, 1932, letter to Legion Department Adjutant Jack Williams from W.J. Maddock of Bismarck, writing on behalf of the Farmers Union: ”I take this opportunity of expressing our appreciation of the great work of The American Legion in your Drought Relief Campaign, and the perfect cooperation you have given the Farmers Union in this work. You have rendered a great service to humanity, and the Farmers Union hail you as a real Christian Brother in this hour of real distress and need among our own people.”

Two More Statewide Clothing Drives Conducted in ’33 and ’34

When depression and crop failure and poverty displayed their ugliest faces early in the 1933-34 winter, The American Legion in North Dakota rallied to help the destitute when clothing was collected for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) at the request of State Administrator Judge A.M. Christianson.

Judge Christianson declared the Legion was the only organization in the state capable of handling the vast assignment of gathering serviceable garments for FERA. More than 1,000,000 articles of clothing were turned over to FERA as a result of those efforts, and many were the letters received from recipients of warm clothes expressing their gratitude that the rigors of winter had been softened for them by the kindliness of the Legion and the Auxiliary.

Again, during the month of December 1934, a clothing drive was conducted in the Department of North Dakota in which Legion posts took part in a highly credible manner. An enormous amount of clothing was gathered and turned over to FERA for reconditioning and distribution. In putting over this drive so successfully, the Legionnaires of North Dakota rendered a service that typifies the high standards and ideals upon which The American Legion is organized.

Carl Ben Eielson Arthur W. Johnson Pioneers in the Legion and Aviation

North Dakotans were fortunate early this century to have two aviation adventurers to share with the nation and the world. These flying daredevils’ antics awed ground-bound watchers as flimsy airplanes raced across the skies – at speeds comparable to vehicles moving on state highways today.

Carl Ben Eielson of Hatton and Arthur W. Johnson of Jamestown also were dedicated members of their towns’ American Legion posts. Eielson was a charter member of Hatton ‘s Carol O. Flesche Post 70 in 1919. He was elected its commander for 1921-22 and, soaring on a wave of international fame, was mentioned as a candidate for the office of national commander in 1929. Johnson, a businessman who barnstormed out of Jamestown, was the fourth district commander and was considered candidate material for state Legion commander before he was enticed to go back to Alaska in 1930 for the second time and a big-pay job that involved searching for Eielson, who was lost on a flight to Siberia.

Each man gained attention locally – for Johnson, it was at college in Moorhead, MN, his hometown — before entering the air service of the US Army and becoming a qualified pursuit pilot in World War I. But each was denied the adrenalin rush from combat with an enemy pilot. The Great War ended before either one went overseas.

Still, the overwhelming thrill of being an airplane driver able to overcome gravity, even if only briefly, pushed the two entrepreneurs north to then-remote Alaska. They were separated by 12 years in age and introduction to Alaska but side by side in beliefs that airplanes would become work-horses flying worldwide.

Johnson was first of the two to learn about Alaska’s potential. He worked there 1908-11, and then he returned in early 1930 under a five-year contract for $1,000 a month to manage a New York syndicate’s fledgling airline after Eielson, its resident manager, disappeared Nov. 9, 1929, while flying on a rescue mission in the Arctic.

Some had downplayed Alaska as the end of the earth; Eielson called it the top of the world. There, and in never before Arctic and Antarctic flights in the late 1920s, he made his most notable achievements that brought unparalleled international fame.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, another famous explorer from North Dakota, termed Eielson the Territory of Alaska’s “most famous aeronautical pioneer.” It also was Stefansson who set in motion Eielson being hired to manage the Alaskan subsidiary of what evolved into the largest and most influential airline in the world.

“In polar work,” Stefansson wrote in a survival manual for the US Air Force, “Eielson had to his credit more important ‘firsts’ than any other pilot: among them, he was the first to descend with skis on the pack of the Arctic Sea far, far from shore, and then the first to cross the Arctic by airplane … He was the first pilot to fly in the Antarctic and was the first in the history of aviation to be at the controls when new land was discovered. All this had been under the command of (Australian explorer) Sir Hubert Wilkins. On his own he had carried the first US air mail in Alaska and had organized at Fairbanks the pioneer company which, in amalgamation with other companies, was later to form the nucleus of the Alaska system of Pan American Airways.”

Born July 20, 1897, in Hatton, this man had a consuming desire for flying. He always was restless on the ground, despite several crashes as a solo barnstormer entertaining the home folks, and also while working as a commercial pilot in southern states and in the far north.

But his luck ran out on that cold, stormy day in November in the Arctic northwest of Alaska off the Siberian coast. The $100-a-month airline executive and his chief mechanic died as their plane nosed into snow and ice while flying on a $50,000 contract to rescue 15 passengers and valuable fur cargo on a ship frozen in the ice.

Eielson was recognized as the father of Alaskan aviation even before his death at age 32. He had been there on and off over seven years. This rare visionary even carried his flying messages to classrooms at Fairbanks High School, where he was principal, teacher and coach in 1922-23.

After leaving teaching in 1923, he circled Fairbanks in a war-surplus Jenny and published ads extolling the grandeur seen from above. He learned this selling art form after organizing the Hatton Aero Club in 1920. He ferried sportsmen to and from remote fishing and hunting spots. He made scores of food, medical and equipment supply flights to distant miners and trappers.

He flew through uncharted mountain passes, opening those areas to the world, thereby signaling the end of the dogsled era in the territory’s interior. Eielson, who was Ben to friends and fans, was on an even higher “high” when he took off on his last flight. Known practically worldwide in 1928 after his epic flights with Wilkins, he didn’t forget those who helped his fame become possible.

Ben’s cargo over the North Pole included the banner of Dorham H. Baker American Legion Post 11 in Fairbanks. On returning to the city in 1929 he presented the flag to the post.

After each polar exploration, Ben went back to visit the folks at Hatton. The small Red River Valley town overflowed with hero-worshippers on July 21, 1928, all of them there to see Ben and Sir Hubert Wilkins fly in for an extraordinary celebration after their 2,500-mile flight from Barrow, Alaska, to Spitzbergen. Hundreds of thousands already had feted the pair in cities across Europe and as they flew from New York City to North Dakota.

More honors followed and, when he tired of the adulation in early-summer 1929, Eielson responded to explorer Stefansson ‘s recommendation that he go back to New York to renew his efforts of several years to get The Aviation Corporation of The Americas interested in establishing an airline base in Alaska as a good starter for international flights to the Orient. This time he succeeded in getting $150,000 to buy the assets of three small air operations. And he took with him a three-year contract paying $100 a month.

Purchases of the air services were completed well before October 1929, when a unique opportunity was presented to the new Alaskan Airways, Inc: $50,000 to fly to the Alaskan mainland $1 million worth of Arctic furs and the passengers on the ship Nanuk held fast by ice off Siberia.

Fully aware of the dangers involved, Eielson accepted the fur owner’s offer rather than sit at a desk in Fairbanks. With unmatched Arctic expertise and 60,000 miles of flying to his credit, Eielson told friends he had to be at the jump-off point with other Alaskan Airways pilots he assigned to fly to the ship.

Eielson had written previously to his family that his flying days would be much fewer because he was to become a technical adviser in 1930 for the New York corporation. His new responsibilities were good news, but family members were left with the nagging fear that an airplane would cause Ben’s death.

The plane crash happened and the agonizingly long search for Eielson and mechanic Earl Borland held the world’s attention almost as much as the stock market crash in 1929.

The fates of Eielson and Borland were not certain when Johnson, the former WW I pilot, North Dakota barnstormer and Alaskan adventurer received a wire at his farm implement business in Jamestown.

Aviation Corporation executives in New York City had been advised that, in addition to Eielson, another North Dakotan was very knowledgeable about business matters and especially about cold-weather flying in Alaska. But one myopic Wall Street baron was reported to wonder “Where the hell is Jamestown, North Dakota.”

Johnson hadn’t sought recognition for helping originate the Greater North Dakota Association nor working to establish the American Legion Memorial Park at Spiritwood Lake in Stutsman County; he concentrated on business and civic activities in Jamestown.

He went to New York and negotiated an unheard-of $12,000-a-year contract for three years to succeed Eielson as resident manager of Alaskan Airways. He and his wife returned to Jamestown, where they were honored at a citywide farewell banquet managed by Ernest DeNault Robertson Post 14 of The American Legion.

The Johnson family, including two young daughters and one son, took a train to Seattle, where they boarded a ship to Seward. Also on the ship was Ben’s father, Ole Eielson, who hoped to be in Alaska if and when his son would return safely, as he had done numerous times from dangerous flights; that wasn’t to be the situation this time, however.

Johnson was involved personally with some of the many posthumous accolades given to Hatton’s favorite son, but only those in Alaska. Ironically, it appears there never was even a handshake between the two intrepid flatland fliers who had become noted authorities on Alaskan aviation. Recollections by Eielson and Johnson family members do not include either man telling of having met the other one.

The bodies of Eielson and Borland, of Seattle, were recovered and brought out by Russian aviators about three months after the crash. Publishers Ada and Hiram Drache of Moorhead said in Dorothy G. Page’s book, ”Polar Pilot,” this last act ”brought full circle a major event in Alaskan history.”

A memorial service in Nome attracted scores of natives and chechakos, the nickname given to “outsiders.” The number of mourners grew to thousands at Fairbanks. Honors and tributes, usually led by American Legion posts, carried the heroes to Seward and then Seattle. Borland’s body was placed in a mausoleum in Seattle. A special funeral train rolled eastward from Seattle to Hatton. Enroute communities and American Legion posts along the old Great Northern Railway paid homage to Eielson. Simultaneous with the funeral at 2 p.m., March 26, 1930, at Hatton, church bells rang across the state and 232 North Dakota Legion posts and auxiliaries held brief memorial services.

With an entourage including N.D. Gov. George F. Shafer laying Carl Ben to rest beside his mother, sister and brother, stories were recalled about what led him meteorically to worldwide fame. Ole Eielson had repeated many times this advise to Ben: Pick a vocation with better prospects than flying, maybe business or law.

Ben graduated from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks in 1920 after receiving credit for his military service active duty, which ended with the signing of the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.

Ben tried to be a respectful son but the constant lure of flying and his convictions about its future settled him in college classrooms. On and off stints at the University of Wisconsin and finally Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., provided the springboard to get him to Alaska. The opportunity came when a close acquaintance, Dan Sutherland, the Alaskan territorial representative in Congress, lined him up with the school job in Fairbanks in 1922.

Now to Johnson – He was born Aug. 16, 1885, in Illinois but grew up on a farm just north of Moorhead, MN. He received teaching certificates from Moorhead State Normal School (now Moorhead State University), elementary in 1908, then advanced in 1913 after leaving Alaska the first time.

Then he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from the University of Minnesota in 1914. He was teaching at Moorhead Normal on April 6, 1917, the day the US formally entered World War I. A student leader, he volunteered the next day for the Army air service, being the first person on campus to enter military duty.

With his first teaching paper in hand in 1908 and a recommendation from who else but Sutherland in Congress, Johnson headed magnet-like to a teaching job in Nome, Alaska. As Eielson did 13 years later, he left the classroom for a series of adventures fit more to a rich man’s son than a Minnesota farm boy.

Before Johnson returned to the “outside” in 1911, he served aboard the famous revenue-collecting Cutter Bear in the Bering Sea, prospected for gold and worked in Eskimo village and reindeer development. He was a census taker in 1910.

Johnson’s daughter, Doris Miller of Drake, ND, lived in Alaska with her parents and recalls this about her father’s census job: “For this purpose, he gave Eskimos their first two names (often Swedish) as they then had only one name. I am sure that to this day there is an anthropologist in Alaska puzzling over this phenomenon.”

Those varied experiences convinced Aviation Corporation tycoons in New York that the so-called unknown man from Jamestown indeed was fitted with the needed business expertise and knowledge of Alaskan conditions to follow in Eielson’s managerial position in Fairbanks. Johnson’s sojourn in Alaska lasted three years, into 1933. Then, in a series of maneuverings, Alaskan Airways was changed by Pan American Airways, which eventually flew worldwide and became aviation’s largest firm before it went bankrupt in 1991 because of huge debts.

Johnson packed up his wife and children and went to California, where he intended to write his memoirs. But some North Dakota friends convinced him to go into the insurance business. He became a sales manager and went on to become the regional manager, then vice president of the Farmers Insurance Group, based in Kansas City, MO.

Alaskans Revered Hatton’s Eielson

An example of the love Alaskans had more than 60 years ago for Hatton, ND, native Carl Ben Eielson is shown in this picture of a magnificent tribute to the polar flier by a member of Ketchikan Post 3. Eielson was “the father of Alaskan aviation.” He died there in a plane crash Nov. 9, 1929. The hand-carved wooden plaque is displayed in Carrol O. Flesche Post 70 in Hatton. Eielson was among the post’s charter members in 1919 but went to Alaska in 1922.

The 12-inch by 22-inch plaque was created by H. Brunner during his stay in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Walla Walla, WN, about two years after Eielson’s tragic death at age 32. Brunner presented it to his Ketchikan post, which then made it a gift to the Hatton post in 1947.

Acquisitions of the memorial piece by the Hatton post was through efforts by Joe Rabinovich, a member of Post 6 at Grand Forks and 1931-32 department commander, while he was on the national headquarters staff in Indianapolis.

In February 1947, Rabinovich said in a letter to Jack Williams, North Dakota department adjutant: “The Legionnaires of Alaska treasure this (plaque) so highly they have determined that it should find its way into the archives of Ben’s own American Legion post as a token from his Alaskan American Legion friends who regarded him so very highly.

Ketchikan sent the plaque to Rabinovich, who presented it to the Hatton post at the 1947 Legion convention at Fargo.

American Legion Americanism

Raymond Moley, Jr., writes in his book, The American Legion Story,” that “The American Legion is prominent among many organizations that contribute to a more vital future citizenry and a more responsible contemporary society … Under the Americanism Commission are such undertakings as unparalleled support of the Boy Scout .movement, the National High School program, education and scholarship activities, the conduct of 50 Boy State programs and the Annual Boys Nation, sponsorship of The American Legion Baseball program, the presentation of School Medal Awards and other activities, such as The American Legion Week conducted with the National Education Association, flag education, patriotic holiday observance, get-out-the-vote campaigns, cooperation with Boys Clubs and the Counter Subversive program.”

Such was the assessment of The American Legion Americanism programs in 1966, when The American Legion was almost 50 years old. Today, when the Legion has reached age 75, the same assessment persists, not only on the national level, but also in the history of The American Legion in North Dakota. Members of the Legion in North Dakota have not only supported the goals and ideals of the national organization but also have enlarged and expanded upon them. American Legion Americanism has been and is very healthy in North Dakota!

N.D. Awarded Top Americanism Honors in ’53 and ’84

Flickertail Legionnaires won the William Randolph Hearst Americanism trophy for the first time in 1953 for outstanding work in that field of American Legion activity. North Dakota repeated in winning this award in 1984 during the term of Harris Togstad, Minot, as 1983-84 Americanism chair. North Dakota is the only department west of the Mississippi River to have won this award twice and one of only a very few western departments to have won at all. The trophy was awarded on the basis of a 200-500 word narrative by the Department Americanism Committee chair and on point scores developed from the annual post Americanism report for 1953 and a revised reporting system applicable for 1984.

Message from the Mall

By H.F. “Sparky” Gierke

Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

Reprinted from: North Dakota Legion News, September 2005 issue

Introduction

The aftermath of World War II was a time of great optimism for the United States. An unprecedented national mobilization had put more than sixteen million Americans in uniform. On the home front, families scrimped and sacrificed to support these men and women as they bravely fought and defeated enemies of democracy around the globe.

Unlike those who served in some more recent conflicts, Americans returning from World War II’s battlefields were welcomed home as heroes. But after World War II, one aspect of military service did not enjoy popular support. During the war, our military tried more than 1.7 million courts-martial. The military justice system that had accompanied our service members across Europe and the Pacific was rightly perceived as far less fair than the civilian criminal justice system. A particularly devastating criticism was that senior officers had used their rank to influence court-martial results.

After the war, Congress heard from groups, including the American Legion – the world’s largest veterans’ organization – and the American Bar Association, pushing to protect service members by improving the military justice system. Demands for reform were so strong that, despite the many pressing post-war challenges our nation faced, Congress thought it was sufficiently important to revamp the military justice system twice between the end of World War II and 1950. The end result was the Uniform Code of Military Justice, commonly known by its initials: the UCMJ.

One of the UCMJ’s greatest achievements was the creation of a civilian court to sit atop the military justice system. Originally called the Court of Military Appeals, it was this court’s mission to ensure the military justice system’s fairness and freedom from unlawful command influence. The Court began operating in 1951, in the midst of the Korean War.

For the last thirteen years, I have had the honor and privilege of sitting on that court – which has since been renamed the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. On October 1, 2004, I became the court’s ninth Chief Judge. I did so during another turbulent time for the military justice system, the armed services and our nation as a whole.

As I contemplate the challenges our court and our country face, my thoughts turn to an event I had the honor of attending last year: the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the Mall. This long overdue recognition of our World War II veterans and the Mall’s other monuments not only memorialize the past, but also provide guidance for our nation’s future.

Our National Mall stretches out over 309 acres from the foot of the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial. The Mall commemorates great Americans like Washington, Lincoln and Grant. The Mall also celebrates our founding documents with Constitution Gardens and the memorial for the 56 signers of the   Declaration of Independence, who created our country by risking their lives when they renounced their king. The Founding Fathers’ awareness of this risk was captured in Benjamin Franklin’s famous quip upon signing the Declaration: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” And, of course, the Mall also pays tribute to a man who not only signed, but also wrote, that magnificent document: Thomas Jefferson, whose elegant memorial stands on the Mall’s southern edge.

The Mall also honors our veterans, many of whose graves at Arlington National Cemetery overlook the Mall. In the shadow of the house where Robert E. Lee once lived, their silent vigil reminds us all of the sacrifices that have built and protected our nation.

The most visited memorial on the Mall is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I was proud to be one of 15,000 veterans who marched behind General William C. Westmoreland in an emotional parade down Constitution Avenue to dedicate the memorial on November 13, 1982. Six years later, while I was serving as the National Commander of the American Legion, I was honored to share the podium with President Ronald Reagan when he spent his last Veterans Day as Commander in Chief at the Memorial. He and First Lady Nancy Reagan walked hand in hand past the black granite walls and left a note at the base of the Memorial. The note said: “Our young friends – yes, young friends, for in our hearts you will always be young, full of the love that is youth, love of life, love of joy, love of country. You fought for your country and for its safety and for the freedom of others with strength and courage. We love you for it. We honor you. And we have faith that, as he does all his sacred children, the Lord will bless you and keep you, the Lord will make his face to shine upon you and give you peace, now and forever more.”

I have no doubt that today President Reagan is himself enjoying that same peace.

The Mall also has a memorial for veterans of the Korean War. Korea is sometimes called “the forgotten war.” The Korean War Veterans Memorial, with its 19 striking statues depicting servicemen patrolling across a field, will ensure that we never forget the sacrifices of those who fought there.

The Korean conflict ended in 1953 – six years before the first American combat casualties in Vietnam. Yet the Korean War Veterans Memorial was belatedly dedicated in 1995, 13 years after the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

On Memorial Day in 2004, even more belatedly, honoring another group of veterans: the Americans who fought and won World War II.Tom Brokaw calls these Americans “The Greatest Generation.” He wrote: These men and women came of age in the Great Depression, when economic despair hovered over the land like a plague. … [J]ust as there was a glimmer of economic recovery, war exploded across Europe and Asia. When Pearl Harbor made it irrefutably clear that America was not a fortress, this generation was summoned to the parade ground and told to train for war. … They answered the call to help save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled: instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. … Without their efforts and sacrifices our world would be a far different place today.

Too many of our Greatest Generation left us without ever seeing their memorial. Many never came home at all. During World War II, almost 300,000 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice on the field of battle. Only about a quarter of World War II’s veterans remain alive. More than a thousand pass on each day. These veterans – living and dead – literally saved our way of life.

West Potomac Park – not far from the National World War II Memorial – features the memorial to these veterans’ Commander in Chief for most of World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The very last quotation engraved on the FDR Memorial sets out the “Four Freedoms” that President Roosevelt extolled in his 1941 State of the Union address: “Freedom of speech; Freedom of worship; Freedom from want; Freedom from fear.” Our World War II veterans not only ensured that we would enjoy those freedoms, but delivered them to millions of others who had been subjugated by tyranny.

Just north of the Mall, on Pennsylvania Avenue, stands the Lone Sailor of the U.S. Navy Memorial. Across the Potomac River, five Marines and a Navy corpsman raise a flag, giving eternal life to the Marine Corps’ motto of “Semper Fidelis,” which means always faithful. Soon Arlington will also feature the Air Force Memorial, with its three stainless steel spires soaring into the sky. Not far away, on a hilltop at the southern edge of Arlington National Cemetery, stands a memorial featuring a bronze seagull honoring the men and women of another indispensable armed force: the United States Coast Guard.

Constitutional Values

Washington is often called a City of Power, but nothing is more powerful than the Mall’s juxtaposition of memorials to those who defend our freedoms with Constitution Gardens, commemorating the document they fought to defend – and that protected them in return. The Constitution and our men and women in uniform are each the protector and the protected.

Constitution Gardens, which occupies the north side of the Mall between the Reflecting Pool and Constitution Avenue, was originally dedicated in 1976 as part of the American Revolution Bicentennial tribute. On September 17, 1986, the 199th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention’s conclusion of its work, President Reagan issued a proclamation recognizing Constitution Gardens as “a ‘Living Legacy’ dedicated to the commemoration of the United States Constitution.”

Together, the Mall’s monuments send a message of strength. But they also send a message about our core values, including justice, fairness and devotion to the rule of law.

One of the most important constitutional values is equal protection. This value is honored by the memorial to the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln – a bust of whom overlooks the desk in my chambers. One of the newest additions to the Mall also honors equal protection and inclusion. In August 2003, an inscription was dedicated marking the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered a speech that changed our nation. As one editorial observed, “King’s words – ‘I have a dream’ – are now etched on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he stood that day. They must remain forever etched in our collective consciousness.”

The message of inclusion is also sent by the Three Servicemen statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, showing the brotherhood of soldiers of all ethnic backgrounds. The value of inclusion also comes to mind when viewing the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, with its poignant depiction of a nurse cradling a wounded soldier while another female soldier kneels and a third looks to the sky for what we in Vietnam called a “dust off” chopper. The names of eight women on the Wall demonstrate that sacrifice for our nation knows no gender boundaries. The Women in Service to America Memorial at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery reminds us that in all of our conflicts, women have played an indispensable role in protecting our freedoms.

While the Mall contains monuments to those who fought and died in past conflicts, we must never forget those who continue to serve – including the service members deployed today in Iraq and Afghanistan. But particularly those of us in the legal profession must also remember that by making the noble choice to defend the Constitution, they did not forfeit their status as fellow citizens. As the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently emphasized, “The Constitution each service member swears to defend affords to every service member constitutional protections.” Just nine days after the Battle of Bunker Hill, General Washington made a similar point. He wrote, “When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.”

The Mall and Military Justice

The message from the Mall speaks directly to those of us involved in the military justice system. As we have noted, the men and women whom the National World War II Memorial honors provided the impetus for the military justice reforms that resulted in the UCMJ, which continues to serve us so well today.

If we stand at the World War II Memorial and look toward the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is off to our left. President Truman signed the UCMJ into law just one month before the United States entered the Korean conflict, and the service members fighting that war were the first to serve under the UCMJ. Our Court also came into existence during the Korean conflict, providing meaningful civilian judicial oversight of the military justice system for the first time.

Across the Reflecting Pool from the Korean War Veterans Memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Even in the midst of combat operations in Vietnam, the military justice system continued to evolve. The year after I joined the Army JAG Corps, Congress adopted the Military Justice Act of 1968, which created the position of military judge. I joined a group of the first people to fill such a position, serving as a military judge in Vietnam from December 1969 to December 1970.

After my Army service ended in 1971, I turned to North Dakota to practice law. I later had the honor of serving for eight years on the North Dakota Supreme Court. While I was sitting on that Court, in 1991 President George H.W. Bush appointed me to what was then called the United States Court of Military Appeals. Congress has since changed the Court’s name, but our mission remains the same – to strike the proper balance between military discipline and the constitutional rights of service members. During our deliberations, it is important to hear the message from the Mall.

Listening to the Message from the Mall

The Mall has been a forum where hundreds of thousands have listened to great ideas, like the speech Martin Luther King delivered on August 28, 1963. In 1939, the Mall literally became a stage when 75,000 people listened to Marian Anderson sing from the Lincoln Memorial’s steps after she was denied permission to perform at Constitution Hall because of her race. Since President Reagan moved the inauguration from the Capitol’s east side to its west side in 1981, Americans have gathered on the Mall every four years to listen to their newly-elected President. But on most days, the Mall is a quiet place that invites contemplation and reflection. The Mall reminds us of the importance of listening and being open to new ideas.

Recommitting Ourselves to the Message from the Mall

The Mall is also a place that calls us to recommit ourselves to our nation’s fundamental constitutional values. The constitutional value that I am engaged with on a daily basis is justice. In seeking to do justice, I am guided by one overarching principle: fairness.

Fairness includes two important dimensions. A court martial, like any other trial, must be fair and must appear to be fair. The military justice system must meet both of those requirements if it is to win – and deserve – the public’s confidence. That confidence is particularly important in this era of an all volunteer military. If our armed services are to convince Americans to entrust their precious sons and daughters to the military, the public must be confident that the military justice system will be fair.

Conclusion

One message from the military memorials on the Mall that speaks particularly loudly to me is the inscription on the Korean War Veterans Memorial: FREEDOM IS NOT FREE. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial reminds me every day that 58,245 of my fellow service members in Vietnam paid the ultimate price for freedom.

I realize the magnitude of their sacrifice when I think of the privileges I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, since returning home from Vietnam 34 years ago: the privilege to pursue the profession for which I was educated; the privilege of not only raising my children, but enjoying their company as adults; the privilege of hearing the laughter of my grandchildren. My colleagues who sacrificed all are not just 58,245 names on a wall. They were flesh and blood people. Men like my friends and classmates at the University of North Dakota: Marine Captain Robert J. Himler, a helicopter pilot who was killed in Quang Nam in 1968, as well as Air Force Major Glenn A. Belcher, a pilot, and Captain William T. Potter, an aircraft crew member, who were both killed in Laos.

I think of those who continue to sacrifice all for their country. I think of Sergeant Major Cornell Gilmore and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Sharon Swartworth of the Army JAG Corps, who were killed in 2003 in a helicopter crash in Iraq. I also contemplate family members who have died in battle: my uncle, Pat Kelly, who was killed in World War II and my cousin, Warren Kelly, who was killed in Korea. I think of all those who died in our nation’s service.

But other heroes have also paid a high price for the freedoms we all enjoy. I think of my good friend, fraternity brother, and roommate from the University of North Dakota, Loren Torkelson. You won’t see that name on the Wall, but he made enormous sacrifices for our country.

In April 1967, Tork’s F4 Phantom jet was shot down over North Vietnam. He spent the next six years as a prisoner of war in the hellish “Hanoi Hilton.” I remember waiting with anticipation into the middle of the night to watch on television as Tork landed at Clark Air Force Base in 1973. I’ll never forget the sight of him saluting and reporting on the tarmac, finally a free man.

Tork lived an impressive life. After coming home in 1973, he started a family, earned a law degree from the University of North Dakota and established a law practice in Billings, Montana. He also built a house there – a house that he had meticulously designed in his head during those six grueling years of captivity and torture.

Tork died in 1995 when he was just 54 years old , a death that was, in all likelihood, hastened by the mistreatment he suffered as a P.O.W. Among his possessions when he died, his family found a hand-written poem that was no doubt inspired by his time in captivity: “She stands before me, silent, across the wide river. Watching through my peephole, I can only whisper her name – FREEDOM. And I, within my hardened shell, await rebirth.”Loren Torkelson as well as the other heroes and patriots that we honor in this article knew that freedom is not free. They paid the price, for all of us who enjoy that freedom.

The message from the Mall reminds us of his – and so many others’ – sacrifices. We honor their sacrifices by striving to protect their legacy of a strong, just United States of America.

(Born in Williston, North Dakota, Herman Fredrick “Sparky” Gierke III; March 13, 1943 – August 7, 2016) Justice Gierke attended the University of North Dakota and received a B.A. degree in 1964 and a juris doctor degree from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1966. He attended Judge Advocate General’s School of the Army at the University of Virginia in 1967. He served as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the Army from May 1967 to April 1971. Upon return from Vietnam, he served as a military judge at Fort Carson, Colorado, until release from active duty in April 1971. He served as State Commander of the North Dakota American Legion from 1983 to 1984, and was appointed State Judge Advocate of the North Dakota American Legion. On August 28, 1985, he was elected National Vice Commander of the American Legion, and on September 8, 1988, was elected National Commander of the American Legion. On September 2, 1983, Governor Allen I. Olson appointed him to the North Dakota Supreme Court. He was elected to complete that term in November 1984. In November 1986, Justice Gierke was elected to a ten-year term. After serving on the Court for eight years, Justice Gierke resigned November 20, 1991, after his appointment by President George H.W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (previously the Court of Military Appeals) in Washington, D.C. He served as Chief Judge of that court from 2006-2008, and then took senior status. He was a 45-year member of American Legion Post 29 in Watford City.

Boys State Program Features Training in Citizenship

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The American “Doughboys” of World War I left the farms, shops, villages and cities of America to fight the “war to end all wars.” They saw the dangers of tyranny and met them head on … and these citizen soldiers won! They came back and picked up their lives where they had left off. One thing was different; they had formed an organization of veterans of that Great War.

During the great depression of the late 20s and early 30s, clouds of tyranny began to form on American soil. Extremist groups were organizing youth training camps called Young Pioneers and Freedom Camps. They not only taught communism, but utilized the brown uniforms and high black boots that would later become familiar in Nazi Germany. In these camps American boys were being taught that democracy had outworn its usefulness and should be replaced by communism.

Haves’ Kennedy, a teacher at Loyola University Law School, and Harrold L. Card, along with other Illinois Legionnaires who had an Americanism meeting in New York, saw what was happening when they visited a Freedom camp in Pennsylvania. Kennedy and Card, supported by the Commander and Adjutant of the Illinois American Legion, persuaded the Illinois American Legion state convention to pass a resolution that Boys State be made a part of the Americanism program of The American Legion to help youth develop a better understanding of our system of government. The resolution was adopted by The American Legion national convention.

Civic clubs such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions were approached and invited to join in this effort. They asked The American Legion to organize the program and promised to be supportive of it. The first Boys State was held in Illinois in 1935 with 235 delegates in attendance. Since then, Boys State has become an American Legion program in 49 states.

Guests at the third annual Boys State of Illinois (1937) were LeRoy Pease, Richland County superintendent of schools; M. B. Zimmerman, Wahpeton superintendent of schools; G. W. Haverty, assistant state supervisor of trades and industrial education at the Science School; John Peschel, Richland County clerk of court; and Frank Webb, public relations officer at the University of North Dakota . Inspired by what they learned, they proceeded to organize the first North Dakota Boys State, held in 1938 at the Wahpeton State School of Science, with 238 delegates, Tom Roney of Oakes was the first boy selected to attend that initial session.

The first five years (1938-1942) North Dakota Boys State was held on the campus of the North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton . There was no Boys State during the years 1943-46 due to World War II. In 1947 Boys State was resumed on the campus of North Dakota Agricultural College (later renamed NDSU) in Fargo. With the exception of 1957 when Boys State was “blown out” due to a tornado, North Dakota Boys State has continued every year. The 1994 session brought 400 delegates to the 52nd North Dakota Boys State, for a total of 27,625 young men who learned the meaning of citizenship in the “hands on” experience of Boys State in North Dakota .

In addition to Pease, Zimmerman, Haverty, Peschel and Webb, listed above, early developers of North Dakota Boys State included Judge James Morris, Arve Dahlen, Carl F. Seifken, Forrest Henderson and George Bertelson. Henderson and Bertelson were early “Governors” who continued on staff for many years.

Since 1938 there have been only five North Dakota Boys State Directors. They are: LeRoy Pease, Wahpeton-Fargo (1938-1956); M. B. Zimmerman, Wahpeton (1956-69); David A. Wolf, Fargo (1969-73); Marcus L. McDonald, Fargo (1973-12-31-91) and Joe Yenkosky, Fargo (1-1-92-94). Between them these five men have well over 100 years on the North Dakota Boys State staff. Wolf has served on staff for 44 years and McDonald, 22 years. Directors emeritus status has been conferred upon Zimmerman, Wolf and McDonald.

THE BOYS STATE GOAL… as stated by Wolf…”The strength of any nation is not measured by its armed forces alone. First it lies in the character, the honor, the courage, the devotion, the intelligence, the loyalty and the sincerity of its citizenship. A nation is only as strong as its citizenship is strong. Citizenship with its privileges carries with it corresponding duties and obligations.

“A man becomes a good citizen only when he understands his government, when he recognizes his duties and his responsibilities to his government, when he participates in its problems, share in its burdens, protects its good name and contributes to the richness of its life.” “At Boys State we try to establish that our government is not a relic of the past, that it has not outrun its usefulness and that it should not be replaced. It is just as firm, just as fair and just as workable as the day it was founded. All it needs is a clear understanding of its structure and a desire, willingness and determination on the part of its citizens to preserve it.”

Having just completed their junior year in high school, those who attend Boys State are given an opportunity to study their own government by the interesting and novel method of actually operating it. They organize a mythical state, patterned after North Dakota; they elect their own city, county, and state officials; they have their own senate, House of Representatives and city council; they introduce their own bills; they organize their own police department and enforce their own laws.

In short, they act as self-governing citizens for a full week, thus learning their responsibilities as citizens plus learning the premise that every act of their government has a bearing upon their own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

There are many other aspects of the week-long Boys State program. Boys State each year presents a court trial. A daily newspaper, the NOKOBOTA, is printed, completely covering the news and progress of Boys State as well as schedules, etc. Each year a band and a chorus are organized, and competitive athletic events number among additional activities for Boy Stater participation. Assemblies are held for all Boys Staters each morning, afternoon and evening. The evening assemblies feature outstanding speakers, many of national reputation.

A list of people who have served as staff and speakers at North Dakota Boys State through the years read like a “Who’s Who in North Dakota.” Governors, Attorneys General, Supreme Court Justices as well as other judges, members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, astronauts, business and educational leaders all have been involved. Les Pavek and Jim Ferguson, both deans of counselors for well over a decade, and Fargo Attorneys Paul Pancratz, Peter Crary and Jack Kennelly, who assisted with the judicial program for many years, are also commended for their extraordinary services to Boys State.

In serving those 27,625 men during 52 years (with attendance ranging from the initial year 238 to the high of 689 in 1969), that array of cooperating expertise has enabled The American Legion to achieve these goals of the North Dakota boys State program:

*To develop a sense of civic responsibility; *To foster an understanding and appreciation of democracy; * To inspire a spirit of courageous Americanism and * To promote a commitment of excellence!

Looking at the list of Boys State Governors through the years, you will recognize many names of people who went on to give outstanding leadership in our communities, state and nation.

The first Boys State was held in Illinois in 1935 with 235 delegates in attendance. Since then, Boys State has become an American Legion program in 49 states.

Guests at the third annual Boys State of Illinois (1937) were LeRoy Pease, Richland County superintendent of schools; M. B. Zimmerman, Wahpeton superintendent of schools; G. W. Haverty, assistant state supervisor of trades and industrial education at the Science School; John Peschel, Richland County clerk of court; and Frank Webb, public relations officer at the University of North Dakota . Inspired by what they learned, they proceeded to organize the first North Dakota Boys State, held in 1938 at the Wahpeton State School of Science, with 238 delegates, Tom Roney of Oakes was the first boy selected to attend that initial session.

The first five years (1938-1942) North Dakota Boys State was held on the campus of the North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton . There was no Boys State during the years 1943-46 due to World War II. In 1947 Boys State was resumed on the campus of North Dakota Agricultural College (later renamed NDSU) in Fargo. With the exception of 1957 when Boys State was “blown out” due to a tornado, North Dakota Boys State has continued every year. The 1994 session brought 400 delegates to the 52nd North Dakota Boys State, for a total of 27,625 young men who learned the meaning of citizenship in the “hands on” experience of Boys State in North Dakota .

In addition to Pease, Zimmerman, Haverty, Peschel and Webb, listed above, early developers of North Dakota Boys State included Judge James Morris, Arve Dahlen, Carl F. Seifken, Forrest Henderson and George Bertelson. Henderson and Bertelson were early “Governors” who continued on staff for many years.

A list of people who have served as staff and speakers at North Dakota Boys State through the years read like a “Who’s Who in North Dakota.” Governors, Attorneys General, Supreme Court Justices as well as other judges, members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, astronauts, business and educational leaders all have been involved. Les Pavek and Jim Ferguson, both deans of counselors for well over a decade, and Fargo Attorneys Paul Pancratz, Peter Crary and Jack Kennelly, who assisted with the judicial program for many years, are also commended for their extraordinary services to Boys State.

Looking at the list of Boys State Governors through the years, you will recognize many names of people who went on to give outstanding leadership in our communities, state and nation.

Judge James Morris of North Dakota Supreme Court at Bismarck organized the judicial branch of the North Dakota American Legion Boys State for the initial 1938 session and continued in that capacity until 1965, two years after he retired as Chief Justice of our state’s highest court.  Giving a week of his time each year to this program, He was a counselor at all Boys State sessions held within that period except the 1948 session when he was overseas serving as a member of a three-judge war crimes tribunal in Nurnberg, Germany.

Judge Morris was in charge of the organization and instruction of court procedure, directing a simulated trial in which actual trial procedure is followed. The trial is held before the entire Boys State assembly, and it is the only one in the United States to give this trial such importance. At each of these sessions he administered the oath lo the elected state officials and to the Governor of Boys State. He also served as a member of the Department Boys State Committee for two decades ending in 1972.  His special hobby has been described as “youth,” for he devoted much time and talent to youth programs. In addition to his judicial instruction at Boys State, he also directed our state Legion Boy Scouts program during 1941-47.  Judge Morris was also a pioneer leader in The American Legion: a delegate to the first department convention at Bismarck in October 1919, representing Post 25 at Carrington as its first commander; a delegate to the first national convention at Minneapolis, serving on the constitution committee which drafted the Legion constitution; and was the first person to serve as Fourth District Deputy, serving two one-year terms (1923-25) when the state Legion was divided into districts.

2019 Boys State Elected Officials State Auditor Jacob Shelver, Fargo; Lieutenant Governor Jacob Reinche, Bottineau; State Treasurer Timothy Hulbert, Horace, Attorney General Ethan Haynes, Dickinson; Secretary of State Gavin Sunderland, Fargo; Governor Nikoli Schoenborn, Bottineau; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Punton, Ayr.

Centennial American Legion Boys State

By Neil Litton

Boys State Director

The North Dakota Boys State session for the 100th year of The American Legion brought 74 delegates to the North Dakota State College of Science campus in Wahpeton June 9-14, 2019.

There were five no-shows, compared to only one the previous year, but 24 the year before that. The counselors had started calling their delegates a month and a half before Boys State was to start. I think the Posts did a better job of following up this year, but I do feel the Posts need to do a better job of recruiting the young men to attend Boys State. It is up to all of us to keep this great program moving forward. We will be short on income because of the low enrollment, so we need to do a better job of delegate recruitment. We have a great program and should be very proud of it.

 The boys started registering on Sunday afternoon of the 9th, with Wahpeton Post 20 Legionnaires present to help. The boys checked into their rooms and then had their evening meal. Afterward, they met in the Stern Culture Center where I had a chance to welcome them to Boys State.

  On Monday, delegates started to campaign for elective offices. This is a very exciting time for all the boys.

Tuesday was Legion Day and voting for the Boys State Governor, Lt. Governor and the Governor’s cabinet. Elected this year were Governor Nikoli Schoenborn, Bottineau; Lt. Governor Jacob Reimche, Bottineau; Secretary of State Gavin Sunderland, Fargo; Attorney General Ethan Haynes, Dickinson; State Treasurer Timothy Hulbert, Horace; State Auditor Jacob Shelver, Fargo; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Punton, Ayr.

 We had a good turnout from our Legion Members again this year. I want to thank all who took time out of their busy schedules to be there. We judged 12 Samsung American Legion college scholarship applications and selected Dakota Tahran from Valley City as the winner. I want to thank Ron Matthews, Teri Bryant, Carroll Quam, Commander Glenn Wahus, Bob Krause and Kenny Wiederholt for helping with the Samsung judging. 

 Wednesday the boys started the DEM, known as the Disaster Emergency Management exercise.  They are presented with different mock disasters in cities, counties and the state. I was asked to be part of this exercise and I had a great time. Wednesday evening was the baseball game between Wahpeton and LaMoure, which LaMoure won 8-2.

Thursday was Flag Day and again we had the Wahpeton Post 20 show the boys the retirement ceremony of our flag. I would encourage everyone to thank Post 20 for all they do for Boys State when we are in Wahpeton. We also need to thank Gwinner School District for providing the bus service again this year.

 Thursday was the last day of the DEM and, in the evening, the Governors Ball. On Friday, awards were presented, with a number of parents and grandparents in the audience. We served coffee and cookies, so I had a chance to visit with those parents and grandparents.

Each of them thanked The American Legion for giving their son/grandson this great opportunity.

The 2019 Boys State Elected Officials were: Back row (L to R) State Auditor Jacob Shelver, Fargo; Lieutenant Governor Jacob Reinche, Bottineau; State Treasurer Timothy Hulbert, Horace; Front row (L to R) Attorney General Ethan Haynes, Dickinson; Secretary of State Gavin Sunderland, Fargo; Governor Nikoli Schoenborn, Bottineau; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Punton, Ayr

Disaster Emergency Training Added to Boys State Program

Prior to the 1985 session, Director Marcus McDonald was searching for a program that would involve newly elected delegates in Boys State city, county and state levels of government by working together to jointly solve problems in a realistic environment.

Talks ensued with officials of North Dakota’s Division of Emergency Management (DEM) whose job in everyday life includes exercises and training, planning, resource management, disaster response, engineering, radio communications, computer technology and hazardous materials.

The main mission of DEM is to coordinate state and federal resources in association with other government entities to prevent, prepare, respond and recover. Boys State and DEM leaders teamed up to incorporate this program into the activities schedule for North Dakota Boy Staters. The exercises are designed to train the delegates in disaster emergency response. The process begins when a counselor de1ivers a situation report of county officials, reporting a fake disaster. Floods, hazardous material spills, dam bursts and tornadoes are potential situations in which they may be confronted.

The county officials file a report for the state office and determine what actions are to be carried out. If the county’s needs cannot be met with the assistance of nearby cities and/or counties, the county officials make a request to the state for the aid needed. The state officials have the responsibility of gathering information, assess which counties need help the most, and then make sure that they get it. These disaster emergency training experiences turned out to be exactly what McDonald was seeking to challenge Boy

State delegates to additional meaningful involvement at Boys State. And the partnership with DEM also benefitted that agency.

The cooperation of North Dakota Boys State and DEM has been highly recognized by the national DEM office in Denver. That officer also commended the North Dakota DEM officials for their efforts, both for training Boy Staters and providing refresher training for their personnel from all over the state. Several national DEM officials have visited and observed the harmonious workings of these two groups.

Over the last decade at least 10 DEM staff have supervised disaster emergency training at each Boys State session. Ron Affeldt, Doug Frieze and Ken Jarolimek, all of the state office at Bismarck, were joined each year by staff located at other cities in their statewide network. Some other states have adopted this North Dakota program as a model in presenting disaster emergency training at their Boys State sessions.

Judge Morris Organized Court Program at Boys State

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Judge James Morris of North Dakota Supreme Court at Bismarck organized the judicial branch of the North Dakota American Legion Boys State for the initial 1938 session and continued in that capacity until 1965, two years after he retired as Chief Justice of our state’s highest court.

Giving a week of his time each year to this program, He was a counselor at all Boys State sessions held within that period except the 1948 session when he was overseas serving as a member of a three-judge war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany.

Judge Morris was in charge of the organization and instruction of court procedure, directing a simulated trial in which actual trial procedure is followed. The trial is held before the entire Boys State assembly, and it is the only one in the United States to give this trial such importance. At each of these sessions he administered the oath lo the elected state officials and to the Governor of Boys State. He also served as a member of the Department Boys State Committee for two decades ending in 1972.

His special hobby has been described as “youth,” for he devoted much time and talent to youth programs. In addition to his judicial instruction at Boys State, he also directed our state Legion Boy Scouts program during 1941-47.

Judge Morris was also a pioneer leader in The American Legion: a delegate to the first department convention at Bismarck in October 1919, representing Post 25 at Carrington as its first commander; a delegate to the first national convention at Minneapolis, serving on the constitution committee which drafted the Legion constitution; and was the first person to serve as Fourth District Deputy, serving two one-year terms (1923-25) when the state Legion was divided into districts.

Legion and Auxiliary activities received high priority in Judge Morris’ household. His wife, Amelia, was the first member of the state’s ladies Auxiliary to serve as National President during 1938-39.

Former Governors of North Dakota Boys State

NameTownYear
James SchwarzrockWahpeton1938
George BertelsonSteele1939
George SwendimanGrand Forks1940
1941 – Forrest HendersonGrafton1941
E. G. Conlin Jr, Williston1942
1943 to 1946 – No Boys State due to World War II
Kirk SmithCogswell1947
Don DavisMinot1948
Stuart McDonaldGrand Forks1949
Dickinson SmithGrand Forks1950
Noel FedjeHoople1951
David KnutsonFargo1952
Robert LangfordBismarck1953
James SchiosserJamestown1954
Pat WilliamsMandan1955
Donavon EvashenkoVelva1956
1957 – Boys State cancelled due to tornado in Fargo
Andrew FeddersMinot1958
Robert WefaldMinot1959
George WelderBismarck1960
Stephen MayerBismarck1961
Paul PresthusRugby1962
James RamstadJamestown1963
Lynn Hartje
Cavalier1964
John SandagerFargo1965
J. Casey RyanGrand Forks1966
Tim C. McLaughlinFargo1967
Paul W. ColinsFargo1968
John R. McLaughlinFargo1969
Kenneth R. OlsonFargo1970
Craig R. CampbellBismarck1971
Tim GrasselBismarck1972
Mike WilliamsFargo1973
John HoevenMinot1974
Andrew McLeanHillsboro1975
Ken WeisenburgerNew Rockford1976
Tom BriglMandan1977
Dan MagillFargo1978
Tom HackenbergGrand Forks1979
Mike MohnGrand Forks1980
Bill AltringerDickinson1981
Mike MathiasOakes1982
Jorge SaavedraBismarck1983
Arthur RosenbergBismarck1984
Jeff GendreaDickinson1985
Adil HusainGrand Forks1986
Kenneth L. ClonstonMandan1987
Eric EhlisNew England1988
Gregory TschiderBismarck1989
Jason ClementMandan1990
Radd KulsetBowman1991
Troy StarkMinot1992
Art ThompsonWashburn1993
Kip MoenHettinger1994
Brady StorhaugLisbon1995
Sellano SimmonsMinot1996
Daniel WebberGrand Forks1997
Kyle Althoff, Mooreton1998
Tyler LebenMandan1999
Thomas BeattieHettinger2000
Jonathan Caspe Wahpeton2001
William LoudenLisbon2002
Adam LandstromFinley2003
Sean MebergPark River2004
Dallas HansenHunter2005
Michael TraynorFargo2006
Luke ThompsonFargo2007
Mitchell SmetteGranville2008
David StebbinsBowman2009
Joseph BurgumFargo2010
Garret FraserWalhalla2011
Aaron WeberWishek2012
Ray SalataGrand Forks2013
Reed JohnsonDickinson2014
Paul MoffeBarney2015
Dawson SchefterLangdon2016
Raeef RahmanWest Fargo2017
Theodore Mayer Mott2018

HONORARY GOVERNORS

NameTown
M. B. ZimmermanWahpeton
David A. WolfFargo
Marcus L. McDonaldFargo

Boys Nation Teaches Basic Functions of Federal Government

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Youth training citizenship programs of The American Legion find their acme in Boys Nation, held annually since 1946 at a Washington, DC, area university campus. The opportunity of learning how the various divisions of the federal government function is given to two outstanding high school juniors selected by the respective departments from their Boys States.

Originally named the Boys Forum of National Government, this program was re-designated Boys Nation effective for the 1950 annual gathering.  Since North Dakota did not hold a session of Boys State in 1946, Les Polk of Williston was appointed to represent our state at the first national meet.

From 1947 on, except in 1957 when a tornado forced cancellation of that session, North Dakota has sent two delegates to Boys Nation. Their names and home towns are listed on this page.

All connected with the program are proud that Robert Langford of Bismarck, who was our 1953 Boys State governor and a delegate to Boys Nation, won election as President of Boys Nation that Year.

At American Legion Boys Nation, the delegates–who are titled Senators–learn firsthand what it is like to run the federal government. They attend “Senate” sessions to conduct hearings on bills submitted for their consideration. Actual participation in the political process is highlighted in the week’s activities to include the organization of party conventions and the nomination and election of a president and vice president to govern Boys Nation.

During the week the delegates attend lectures, hear guest speakers and visit Capitol Hill, the White House, and some of Washington’s historical, governmental and memorial sites. Over the years the delegates have been received by the various presidents of the United States, the latest being Bill Clinton who is the first graduate of Boys Nation to be elected our nation’s chief executive.

Former long-time Flickertail Boys State Director Marcus McDonald has served on the staff for the past six (1989-94) Boys Nation assemblies. Subsequent to his being appointed as an associate judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, located at Washington, DC, Past National Commander H. F. “Sparky” Gierke addressed the senators and then administered the Oath of Office to the newly-elected Boys Nation President and Vice-President in 1993 and 1994. He is a graduate of North Dakota Boys State.

Delegates to Boys Nation

NameTownYear
Les PolkWilliston1946
John CasselJamestown1947
Oliver SampsonEdmore1948
Robert C. GlockHankinson1949
Leo ReinboldHebron1950
Jack EichhorstFalkirk1951
Peter GunnessFargo1952
William LordMandan1953
Dean BakerFargo1954
Scott AndersonJamestown1955
David MiddletonGilby1956
David J. LutesFargo1958
Michael R. HalcrowDrayton1959
Michael D. WolfFargo1960
Jeffrey R. MadsenJamestown1961
Lawrence W. WilsonBismarck1962
David BatemanFargo1963
Paul HannahGrand Forks1964
Daniel E. MayerBismarck1965
Jay D. DavisBismarck1966
Decker AnstromDrayton1967
Tom MonsonJamestown1968
Mark ErikstadBismarck1969
Martin KellerDickinson1970
Mark C. JohnsonHillsboro1971
Mark GilesBismarck1972
Greg F. GallagherMandan1973
Franklin Gokey Fargo1974
Mark G. Nelson Grand Forks1975
John Tello Bismarck1976
Jim FergusonDevils Lake1977
Tim GokeyFargo1978
John KelnerPark River1978
Mark McMullenFargo1979
Bruce Wolff Dickinson1980
Jon Fenno Gwinner1981
Craig Olson Grand Forks1982
Richard RichterWahpeton1983
Wayne Losey Dickinson1984
Trevor Van Berkom Minot1984
Justin GulleksonGrand Forks1985
Brett BourneFargo1986
Wayne SattlerDickinson1986
Jason SpaethGrand Forks1987
Tyler S. TownesBismarck1987
Richard GammillFargo1988
Lance MathernGrafton1989
Scott Schnobel Mayville1990
Jason LaDukeBismarck1990
J. W. StriefelTowner1991
Travis ElspergerCando1992
Tyler ScheelerBismarck1992
Peter FossMaddock1993
Jon SicklerDickinson1994

Record of Annual Attendance at North Dakota Boys State

Notes: Boys State was not held for the years of 1943 through 1946 due to travel restrictions and other problems caused by World War II. The Fargo tornado inflicted severe damage upon N.D. State University, forcing cancellation of the 1957 session.

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Students Competing for Scholarships in Oratorical Contest Develop Deeper Knowledge of US Constitution

The American Legion National High School Oratorical Contest helps develop deeper knowledge of the Constitution of the United States in youth as they prepare to accept citizenship duties and responsibilities. Other contest objectives include the development of leadership qualities, the ability to think and speak clearly and intelligently and setting the stage for high school students to respect the rights and privileges of American citizenship.

Scholarship awards across all levels of competition have risen significantly since the first national contest in 1938.  Currently, including the 1994 contest, $18,000 is awarded down to $12,000 for the first- through fourth- place national finalists. Lesser scholarship awards also are made on sectional, regional, state and local levels. Funds for scholarships awarded by the national Legion organization are now provided by The American Legion Life Insurance Trust Fund.

The American Legion of North Dakota has been actively involved in the tournament-style contest since 1939 through a variety of funding sources.

Longtime Legion member Bill Stern, national executive committeeman, of Fargo provided a $250 scholarship award to the state champion- Stern passed away in 1964 and the Dakota National Bank in Fargo continued the award in Bill’s name to 1968.

Effective for the 1969 state contest, Past Department Commander Sam Tolchinsky of Bismarck and later of Denver, CO, provided a $250 scholarship award to the state champion. In 1972 the Sam Tolchinsky Scholarship Award was shifted to provide $150 to the state champion and $100 to the first runner-up. That change, approved by Tolchinsky, was made concurrent with the national Legion organization instituting an annual $500 (increased to $1,000 in 1984) scholarship to the state champion upon competing in the four-state Region 9 contest. It was felt that this would offer a better award to the state’s first runner-up. Since 1980, the Tolchinsky Awards have been administered by the North Dakota Community Foundation.

The Chuck Schroeder Memorial Oratorical Fund was established in 1990 to provide for improved scholarship awards and uniformity of those awards at the district level of competition. The fund accepts post, individual, unit or memorial contributions which are invested, and the interest income is applied towards the purchase of scholarship awards for the district contest in each of the state’s 10 districts. Goal of the plan is to achieve income to offer Savings Bonds awards of $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place in each district.

The fund was named in memory of Charles H. “Chuck” Schroeder of Bismarck who directed the oratorical contest for over 10 years during several intervals in the 1970s and 1980s and gave distinguished leadership to this program up to the time of his untimely death in 1988.

To help provide incentive among high school students for greater participation in the oratorical contest, the Legion Ongoing Veterans Endowment (LOVE) Charitable Trust makes an annual grant to sponsor upgraded scholarship awards among the finalists in the State Championship contest and for the winner and runners-up in the preceding Division (east and west) contests. Additional funding has come from the John K. Kennelly Memorial Scholarship Award. Kennelly, of Mandan and later of Fargo, had served the Legion as Department Commander and National Vice-Commander.

The oratorical contest furnishes an excellent, live vehicle for correlated work in the fields of social science and English.

Prepared orations and extemporaneous speaking feature talks based on the US Constitution. Prepared orations are from eight to ten minutes long. All students speak on the same extemporaneous subject between three and five minutes as a test of their knowledge, the extent of their research and their ability to discuss basic principles of our government.

Eight ND state champs went on to victory in regional meets: Harold Pollman of Carrington in 1942, Paul R. Vogel of Bismarck in 1945, Jerry Butler of Jamestown in 1947, Roger Roberts of Minot in 1962, Dan Cozort of Fargo in 1970, Neal Nygard of Des Lacs in 1971, John C. Palenberg of Mandan in 1974 and Michele Horner of Fargo in 1983.

Pollman and Horner have been the only two North Dakota state champions to date to win the sectional contest and to appear in the national finals. Pollman placed third in the ’42 national championship round to win a $500 scholarship, the amount granted for third place at that time, which was subsequently increased to $10,000 when Horner won third place in ’83.

Most annual state contests have been held at Bismarck. Legionnaires of Lloyd Spetz Post l have also hosted and conducted a total of 13 national rounds of competition in our capital city seven Regionals in 1964, 1971, 1973, 1977, 1984, 1986 and 1991; five Sectionals in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1979 and 1988; and the National Finals in 1982.

State Legion Oratorical Contest Champions

   
Dolores BradyCarrington1939
Caryl AndrewsOakes1940
Norma LilloJamestown1941
Harold PollmanCarrington1942
Robert LilloJamestown1943-44
Paul R. VogelBismarck1945-46
Jerry ButlerJamestown1947
Roger K. MosvikMinot1948
John ReillyGrand Forks1949
Patty AmonBismarck1950-51
Nondice CarothersJamestown1952
Clayton J. JohnsonJamestown1953
Patrick WilliamsMandan1954-55
 Robert HunterBismarck1956
 Wallace MartzRolla1957-58
Howard AbbottMinot1959
Ted CoonrodBismarck1960
Roger RobertsMinot1961-62
Loren J. AndersonRugby1963
 Betty MalenFargo1964
Don GaetzRugby1965-66
Robert UmlandMinot1967
Pamela Kay WalzBeulah1968-69
Daniel CozortFargo1970
Neal NygardDes Lacs1971
Wayne D. StrubleFargo1972
Lyla Ann SafelyAlexander1973
John C. PalenbergMandan1974
Bradley EdinJamestown1975
Becky OmdahlGrand Forks1976
Julie SwedbackFargo1977
Myron BraunJamestown1978-79
John BickelBismarck1980
Nadine GassnerFargo1981
Craig CerkowniakDes Lacs Burlington1982
Michele HornerFargo1983
James W.M. FischerRaleigh1984
Lisa GordonFargo1985
Julie AlbertsonStanley1986
Winifred SmithNew Salem1987-88
Michael EatonFargo1989-90
Brendt AntonDickinson1991
Nancy BrodersonWatford City1992-93
Doug LarsenGranville1994
Jason MatthewsGarrison1995-96-97
Stephanie RitterSherwood1998
Mike RylanderMinot1999
Jordan HyldenPark River2000-01
Teresa OeBelfield2002
Jeffrey JohnsonRolette2003
Garrett BoyerCarrington2004
Krista ThomEdgeley2005
Rebecca SheltonGrand Forks2006
Robert VallieChristine2007
Andy BackstromMaddock2008-09
Sibinee JoikelaWatford City2010
David SheltonArvilla2011
Anjali LallFargo2012
David SheltonArvilla2013
Samantha GoergerWyndmere2014-15
Lida LehtoWatford City2016
Preeti ChemitiFargo2017-18

Department Oratorical Contest Committee Chair or Directors

Louis F. TemmeBeulah1938-39
Curtis B. JenkinsLinton1939-40
Arve DahlenFairmount1940-41
Floyd E. HendersonGrafton1941-42
Perry GossCarrington1942-44
C. W. LeifurBismarck1944-53
Robert E. DahlGrafton1953-54
C. W. LeifurBismarck1954-55
Mel ChristiansonMinnewaukan1955-56
Robert E. DahlGrafton1956-57
Clair T. BlikreRolla-Stanley1957-62
Elton SkarperudGrand Forks1962-65
Edward J. DrashilBismarck1965-68
Boyd ClemensBismarck1968-70
Charles H. SchroederBismarck1970-71
Boyd ClemensBismarck1971-72
Charles H. SchroederBismarck1972-75
Vane ThomasMinot1975-78
Frank J. KosandaGrand Forks1978-81
Charles H. SchroederBismarck1981-3-3-88
Vern FetchBismarck3-7-88-94

Freedom is …

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence risked their lives for American freedom. If the newly-born nation was victorious against Britain, they would be honored as heroes. If America was defeated, they would be hung as traitors. Freedom is always costly. Throughout America’s history, thousands of men have given their lives that America might be free. Their blood bought our freedom!

Legion Orators Prominent at Constitutional Bicentennial

Winners of North Dakota American Legion oratorical contests were prominent among the 229 statewide students invited to the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks for final events surrounding the observance of the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution that climaxed Sunday, March 15, 1987.

Eleven participants in the Legion program, including State Champion Winifred Smith of New Salem and runner-up Tom Derrig of Fargo North High School, each of whom gave their winning orations just prior to the address by US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the Chester Fritz Auditorium at UND, attended the events.

In addition to Smith and Derrig, Shane Goettle of Donnybrook, Len Homelvig, New England; Derek Johnson, Minot; Darin Lee, Walcott; Esther McGinnis, Wilton; Julie Sauer, Langdon; Lynette Praska, Pisek, and Karin Kurtti of Rock Lake were listed as out-of-town participants and Tonya Hess of Grand Forks was among the district oratorical contest champions recognized on that occasion.

A total of 177 North Dakota high schools participated in one or more of the events held for high school students and, over all, 8,300 high school students from across the state took part in the competitions that were a part of the celebration. The 229 were invited to the state finals held March 15-16, 1987.

The American Legion was warmly thanked by both UND President Thomas Clifford and Bureau of Governmental Affairs Associate Director Phil Harmeson for the financial assistance furnished by a number of contributing American Legion posts to help underwrite some of the costs of the program.

The American Legion and Scouting: Duty to God and Country

The Boy Scouts of America was organized in 1910. Just nine years later the veterans returning from World War I formed The American Legion. The Americans who had served their country in war realized the importance of training our youth and, at their first national convention, endorsed the Boy Scouts movement as an organization they could support. Three years later, in 1922, Scouting became an official part of Americanism emphasis of The American Legion.

Legion members in North Dakota placed first priority on some other programs, but they picked up the emphasis of supporting the Boy Scouts movement early on. The earliest official record we have of that is in 1926 when J. Lloyd Monson of Fargo was appointed the department Boy Scouts chairman.

At the 1931 winter conference of the North Dakota American Legion, held March 23-24 at Kenmare, Tom S. Harkison of Willow City presented a paper he had written on the Boy Scouts program. Some of what he wrote is of interest today, more than six decades later: “… The efforts of our organization must be directed in more channels than merely the problems of the disabled, the widow and the orphan … In the programs for peacetime service; our efforts must be national in scope and yet of such character as to include the smallest community in our land and Boy Scouting offers us a most excellent opportunity. We pick up any newspaper of today and its headlines scream incidents of crime, graft, corruption and general disrespect for the law, and we instinctively wonder what this old world is coming to … We have to acknowledge ours is a changing civilization. “In the early years of our land the dangers, privations and labor required of those who lived here, had to wrest their very existence from the forces of nature and developed them into a race of self-reliant people. The efforts they put forth made possible the comforts, ease and safety we enjoy today. “These conditions have brought a change in our standard of living, and with that change a certain softness is creeping into our lives. Young Americans today generally take life as they find it. Our youth in general have no responsibilities, as boys had in the days of our grandfathers and even our fathers. On the contrary, we find too many cases where they are shielded, pampered and protected by overzealous and foolishly-fond parents, and the result–an arrogant, self-centered boy with absolutely no initiative or ambition.

“This condition may not be true in our rural North Dakota. It is found in the more densely populated areas of our land and cases of it have been recognized by all of us in our own localities. What we have seen of it makes us believe it might be mighty contagious.”

That was written in 1931! Sounds like it could have been written in 1994. The point, however, is that even back then, members of The American Legion recognized the importance of reaching our youth with the principles of service to God and Country.

As early as the late ’30s, there were at least 50 Legion posts in North Dakota sponsoring Boy Scout troops. This has continued through the years. Currently there are 36 Scouting units serving 645 boys in North Dakota that are sponsored by Legion posts. In addition, Scouting in general is aided by the assistance of many other Legion members who volunteer their time and support to this movement. Some other statewide posts, while not sponsoring a Scouting unit, back area Scouting activities with generous contributions.

The long-standing support of Boys Scouts by The American Legion in our state is evidenced by the Department of North Dakota being awarded the prestigious Frank N. Belgrano, Jr., Award by the national American Legion in 1970. This award is given annually to the department establishing the most outstanding record of service to Boy Scouting.

More recently the national Americanism commission has chosen a Boy Scout of the Year. Each department may submit one nominee for this honor each year. The National Boy Scout of the Year is awarded an $8,000 college scholarship. The three runners-up each receive a $2,000 scholarship.

Nationally, American Legion posts sponsor 2,600 troops serving 66,000 Scouts. North Dakota has not yet had a Boy Scout become one of the top four nationally, but we have had a Department Scout of the Year for the past several years.

North Dakota American Legion Scout of the Year

NameTownDate
Jason M. BunchHettinger1986
Matthew Joe MarohlWahpeton1988
Christopher P. GourdeHarwood1989
Christopher J. SeegerTurtle Lake1990
Cory BergAbercrombie1991
Wade M. VenstadVelva1992
Searle SwedlundVelva1993
Michael DunkleFargo1994

Legion Honors Mott Eagle Scouts

An example of The American Legion involvement with the Boy Scouts of America was illustrated at the Nov. 27, 2010, Eagle Court of Honor ceremony in Mott. The event was held in the Mott/Regent school gym for Troop 58 Eagle Scout candidates Brandon Friez, Joseph Greff, Justin Herner, Alexander Johnson, Dylan Poehls and Craig Roll. Mott American Legion Post 71 sponsors Troop 58.

Post 71 Honor Guard escorted each of the parents and the Eagle candidates to the stage where their mothers pinned their sons with their well-earned badges.

The new Eagle Scouts then, in turn, pinned their parents with their Eagle badges. Guest speaker was Vern Fetch, representing the American Legion.

Past Post Commander Bruce Colgrove and current Commander Dave Glasser presented the Scouts with American flags from Sen. Byron Dorgan’s office. Each flag had flown over the U.S. Capitol in the name of each Eagle Scout. American Legion Post 71 also gave the young men plaques to display their badges and their Eagle Scout certificates. Among other presentations were a letter and certificate from Gov. John Hoeven.

Excerpted from North Dakota Legion News, December 2010.

Flag Education

For decades, two of the most commonly-used American Legion Flag educational tools have been the Let’s Be Right on Flag Etiquette brochure and The Flag Code leaflet. Legion posts have provided these guides to schools in the community. Also, department headquarters has worked with state officials in distributing these and other Flag education items to the schools.

At different times over the years, Dr. Wayne G. Sanstead, state superintendent of public instruction, has received letters from the citizenry decrying student inattention, gum chewing and covered heads during the playing of the national anthem and the passing of colors at school events. In reacting to such complaints, Dr. Sanstead has emphasized in communications to affiliated school officials that, for obvious reasons, the school system can ill afford the criticism of failing to teach the fundamentals of citizenship … occasionally enclosing Flag education literature supplied by the Legion’s state office.

During a few years in the late 1980s, Gelaine Orvik of Fargo, the secretary-treasurer of the ND Coaches Association, extended his cooperation by including these materials in mailings to statewide coaches. Also enclosed were suggested public address announcements for use preceding the Flag ceremonies to both alert and encourage the audience to join in rendering appropriate respect to the Flag.

Thousands of colorful 3″x5″ Pledge of Allegiance/Salute to the Flag cards (depicted on this page) have been distributed by Legionnaires to people as they arrive for athletic events, for selected classroom use and for place cards at banquets.

The Story of Taps

Day is done, gone the sun

from the lake, from the hill, from the sky.

All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.

Thanks and praise for our days

‘neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky.

As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sad but sweet, brief but hauntingly melancholic, the bugle call Taps has been sounded countless times since a Union Army general composed the 28-bar piece on July 2, 1862, after 11,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died during the week of the infamous Seven Days Battle in the Civil War.

Taps originated as a personalized brigade bugle call for lights out at day’s end. But its spiritual mystique spread across the country and, in 1874, the US Army adopted Taps to mark the end of life at military funerals . Its distinctive notes also are sounded at lowering the flag at day’s end.

The composer, Gen. Daniel A. Butterfield, believed that a commander should have a set of calls known only by his troops. He was a bugler but could not read music. So, combined with sadness for his high casualty count and his dissatisfaction with a commonly-used French lights out, Butterfield had an aide pencil some hummed and whistled notes onto a staff written on an envelope. He then called in his regimental bugler, a 22-year-old private, to try the notes on his horn.

“I did this several times, playing the music as written,” Oliver W. Norton said some years later in explaining the origin of Taps. “He (Butterfield) changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter, in place of the regular call.”

According to a story in the August 1974 issue of The American Legion Magazine, “That night, Norton took his accustomed position in camp: stood at attention and, pursing his lips, poured out the plaintive strains of the Taps we now know, loud and clear. ‘The music was beautiful on that summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our brigade,’ Norton recalled.”

The magazine story noted that “Taps soon replaced rifle volleys at battlefield burials because the volleys were sometimes mistaken by Confederate pickets for an attack. Quickly sensing the universal appeal of the melody echoing across no-man’s land, the Confederate buglers copied Taps. One of them sounded it at the funeral of Stonewall Jackson less than 10 months after Butterfield composed it.”

Eli Hanson, Bugler Fargo

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Eluth (Eli) Hanson, a WW I member of Fargo’s Post #2 until his death in September 1972, was representative of dedicated Legionnaires serving as color guards, drill and rifle teams and buglers at community events and for funeral rites for departed comrades.

Hanson set a remarkable record as a bugler from his Army service to well after he retired in 1965 at age 70 from guard and fireman duties at the Post Office in Fargo.

Trained as a musician, Hanson became a sought-after bugler for funerals of Legionnaires, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. A member of each of those organizations, it was estimated at the time of his death at age 77 that he had played Taps at more than 2,000 funerals.

His devotion to service at funerals for deceased veterans was all the more extraordinary in that he did so on his own time.

Post Office rules then included that each hour he took off from work was deducted from his vacation time. It was only in his late years of employment that the postal department allowed time off for him to play Taps at funerals. There was no recorded date for when he officially turned over bugling to younger men. At the height of WW II, he was called for as many as four funerals a day.

Fritz Finger, Bugler Grafton

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Frederick E. (Fritz) Finger grew up in Grafton, ND, and developed his interest in music in the high school band before graduating in 1931. He worked as a representative of a hardware chain, which had him assigned temporarily in numerous towns.

Being single then, Finger joined local musical groups, an avocation that the Army app1ied to his military training, beginning in April 1942, when he became an instructor at the Fort Warren, WY, bugler school. That duty for a year and a half featured one-on-one instruction during which trainees had to be able to play required bugle calls to graduate. Taps was included.

After serving in Europe in psychological warfare units, Finger was discharged and returned to Grafton in December 1945. He promptly joined Grafton Post #41 and became its bugler, a duty he treasured over the next 42 years. He estimates that he played Taps at about 1,000 funerals and never missed sounding Taps at the annual Memorial Day program until moving to Moorhead, MN, in 1988.

Finger was awarded a life membership in Grafton Post #41 and, while living with his wife in Moorhead, he has substituted occasionally as bugler for Post #2 in Fargo.

Dale Thorson, Bugler Valley City

Dale Thorson was the ceremonial bugler for Post #60 at Valley City for 37 years. His affiliation with the Legion began in 1949, following his return home from Navy duty in WW II. The Valley City Legion’s Drum and Bugle Corps was being reorganized, and Dale became one of the lead bugle players. From that beginning and with his talents as a horn player, Thorson was called upon more than 500 times to play Taps for local and surrounding area funerals, Memorial Day observances and other veterans programs.

Dale never said no when asked to participate if he was available, and it was not easy to find a replacement if Dale was out of town.

He blew Taps for the last time at a funeral in 1985 when a small son of the deceased father came up to him, wrapped his arms around his legs, looked up at Dale with tear-filled eyes and said, “Thanks!” A very soft-hearted person, Dale stated that his emotions would no longer endure playing Taps and hung up his horn.

Stan Wright, Bugler, Stanley

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A trombonist since 1938, nearly 60 years, former Stanley, ND, mayor and state senator Stanley Wright first played Taps for a military funeral (on trombone) while home on his first furlough in May of 1946.

A farm youth right up until he was drafted late in WW II, Wright was sent to New Jersey and trained as a radio operator, enlisted after his draft status expired and was sent to Korea as a member of the 17th Regiment Headquarters unit of the Seventh Army Division. He was almost immediately drafted into a unit band and ended up traveling all over Korea with various USO shows.

A former longtime member of the State Legion Band, Wright estimates (conservatively) he has played Taps for more than 500 funerals over the years as the sole “bugler” for Charles Hartman Post # 134, of which he is also a past commander. At one time his brother, Hugh, shared the bugling duties with him, but has been deceased for some years.

In addition to the bugling chores, Wright is also an excellent vocalist and says he expects he has sung for an average of three funerals a week since he was in high school, excepting his wartime service away from the Stanley area.

Ed Koshney, Bugler Cando

Ed Koshney first bugled Taps on Memorial Day 1942 after graduating from Beach High School. “In those days,” he recall s, “the Beach Legion (Harley Salzman Post 5) had a regular Memorial Day program in Beach in the morning. Then, later on in the afternoon, they would drive over to Sentinel Butte Cemetery about eight miles east and have a short service, followed by the firing squad and Taps.

“The next time I played Taps was on Memorial Day 1946. Because I had been in the Army for three years, this was the first time I had been home on Memorial Day since 1942. In 1946, I was a member of the Beach Legion post and played Taps in Beach and Sentinel Butte.

“Then I went to school and did not play Taps on Memorial Day anywhere until possibly 1952 or 1953 in Cando. I joined the Leg ion (Hal Parker Post 79) in Cando in 1954 and have been playing Taps for funerals and Memorial Day ever since. Although I never kept track of it, I would guess that I haven’t missed playing Taps on Memorial Day more than five times since 1954, and, unless we are out of town, I am the one who plays Taps for funerals.” Koshney is a longtime member of the State Legion Band.

Kermit Rosendahl Bugler, Fairmount

Kermit Rosendahl returned from Army duty in the spring of 1945 and began a half-century of answering requests for a bugler at burials of veterans and for Memorial Day services around his home area of Hamberg, Heimdal and Fessenden.

During the years he was employed at Velva, Rosendahl , was the player-manager of Kermy’s Quintet band that played for dances in that region.

Subsequently moving to Fairmount (all in North Dakota), he continued sounding the salute to departed comrades into the mid-1990s. He has been a member of the State Legion Band for many years.

Ed Hollan, Bugler, Kulm

A WW I bugler, Edwin C. “Ed” Hollan of Ku m, another longtime state Legion Band member, handled bugling chores in that area and for Robert Kurtz Post #57, in addition to running the Kulm City Band for 48 years.

Ed was also the faithful bugler for raising of colors early Monday morning at many department conventions at the post office of the host city. The ceremony, no longer carried on, was an annual function of the State Band.

Born in a sod house south of Kulm, where his parents homesteaded, Hollan returned to Kulm after he was discharged from Army service in 1919 and got married. He moved to Elkhorn, WI, where he worked for the Holton Band Instrument Co. and played in the company band for about five years.

On return to Kulm and farming, Ed took over the Kulm Band in 1925, and ran it throughout a wide range of appearances in a large area of North Dakota for nearly 50 years until a stroke, in 1973, curtailed his activity. He passed away Oct. 4, 1983.

Orville Holtan, Bugler Washburn

Orville Holtan, originally of Washburn, was awarded a Boy Scout merit badge in bugling. He began playing Taps at the young age of 12 for his home town’s Victor B. Wallin Post #12 of The American Legion.

Except for periods away for World War II duty and for college, Holtan continued to provide military funeral and Memorial Day bugling service in Washburn until 1971, when he moved to Bismarck. He is a former longtime member of the State Legion Band.

Legion Big and Longtime Benefactor of the International Music Camp

“NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That Fred C. Wagner Post 235 of The American Legion, meeting this 5th day of February, 1964, at Rolla, North Dakota, does recommend to the North Dakota American Legion in assembly at Department Convention at Grand Forks on June 21-23, 1964, that it endorse the objectives of the International Music Camp and recommend local Legion posts to sponsor youth from their communities to attend week-long sessions of instruction in the arts at the International Music Camp.”

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be sent to each American Legion post in North Dakota for consideration prior to the Department Convention.”

With those two resolving clauses, the spark was struck that blossomed into a full-fledged fire of American Legion support for the International Music Camp located at the Peace Garden on the North Dakota-Canadian border near Dunseith. Actual state Legion involvement with IMC, as it is known in brief, began a few years before passage of the resolution. The camp was originated in 1956 as a one-week session for 115 students held each summer. In 1962, the North Dakota Legion donated $700 for erection of a 16’ X 16’ weatherized rehearsal hut that was completed for the 1963 sessions. It was one of the first of its kind.

The camp was the brainchild of Dr. Merton Utgaard, a Maddock, ND, native who had the idea when participating in the dedication of the Peace Garden as a Boy Scout. He carried it with him through military service, addition al education and many years as an outstanding music educator on the faculty of Ball State College in Muncie, IN. He brought it to fruition upon retiring and moving back to North Dakota where he still resides at Bottineau.

Among the team of Legionnaires at Rolla instrumental in managing the enabling resolution by Post 235 were a pair of former Valley Citians, Peter MacDonald and Tom Peterson, and local businessmen Tom and Pat Keegan and Bud Anderson.

In the camp’s early years, students from seven states and three Canadian provinces enrolled in classes for band, orchestra, twirling, piano, organ, art and musical drama. A staff of 40 nationally known music educators, conductors, clinicians and other artists provided instruction and inspiration for the young people. In recent years, nearly 200 guest conductors, artist teachers and support staff direct activities of an annual enrollment of approximately 3,000. Students in the modern camp come from more than 60 countries and are involved in the basic courses but have available to them such exotic instruction as music technology, piping and drumming, fiddling, jazz and dance.

Although accurate records have not been kept, The American Legion and Auxiliary and the 40 et 8 Society in North Dakota have been responsible for sending hundreds of students to camp over the years, and continue to do so as well as contribute to special projects to supply items for camp use .

In 1973, a need for additional facilities at the camp initiated a fundraising program within the Legion with the department executive committee endorsing a program to raise funds to build additional practice huts at the camp. The program, spearheaded by then IMC Director for the Department Morris Halvorson of Rugby, was aimed at furnishing nine rehearsal huts costing $500 to $1,000. Posts and individuals were asked to contribute to the cause. Almost before the drive was underway, Rugby’s Clarence Larson Post 23 had pledged to underwrite the cost of one hut. As with most Legion projects, this one was brought to conclusion quickly and, by the 1974 camp sessions, the huts were in place on “Legion Row,” ready for dedication on Legion-Auxiliary Day at the camp on July 7. About 300 Legion, Auxiliary and 40 and 8 members and families were in attendance at the day-long program. Officers of The American Legion, Auxiliary and 40 and 8 and family members were guests of the music camp at a noon luncheon, following which all attended a series of concerts by members of four bands that had been in attendance at the camp the preceding week.

Between concerts, Camp Director Utgaard called upon Department Commander Carleton J. Likness of Milnor, Auxiliary Department President Mrs. Frank Kosanda of Grand Forks, and Grand Chef de Gare Joseph Steier, Reeder, of the 40 & 8, for remarks. Past Department Commander Boyd Clemens of Bismarck and Past Department President Mrs. Jerome Stevens of Underwood also spoke, since the project was initiated and carried out during their terms of office.

In addition to other costs defrayed by the Legion project, Post 1 at Bismarck arranged for signs to be erected at the entrances to the row of huts and Post 14 at Jamestown took care of identifying individual huts as to donors.

Individual posts that contributed huts were the Rugby post, home post of IMC Program Director Morris Halvorson; Bartlette-Resler Post 62, Walhalla; Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2, Fargo; Rundell-Holicky Post and Unit 21 at Lakota; and the Ted Valerius Post 97, Larimore. In addition, huts were purchased from donations by Legionnaires and Mrs. Harry Wadeson and family of Alice; the Auxiliary Department; posts of the Ninth Legion District and the Grand Voiture of the 40 & 8. In addition to the buildings, sufficient funds were received to allow the furnishing of each hut with a rebuilt piano at a cost of $200 per piano. In 1980, the Legion, this time through Minot’s William G. Carroll Post 26, again came to the camp’s aid, this time with a $5,000 contribution to fund the erection of a combined classroom and practice building, with Department IMC and Boy Scouts Director Donald Darling and past Post 26 Commander Don White, both of Minot, pointing the way.

At the same time, Darling led a department-wide drive for $8,000 needed to install 16 new flagpoles at the camp from which to fly flags of the many nations represented by students at the camp. And on July 5, 1981, American Legion and Auxiliary Day at the IMC, the 16 poles donated by various Legion posts, the Auxiliary and individuals, were dedicated in the center of the camp complex. Then Department Commander Robert E. Hennessy of Minot was the dedicatory speaker, assisted by Auxiliary Department President Mrs. Ken (Rosie) Weber and IMC Legion Director Donald Darling, also of Minot. In addition to assisting as requested on individual projects, The American Legion and Auxiliary continue to aid this outstanding program for our youth by contributing scholarships to the camp for young people in their respective post and unit areas.

The Last Twenty-five Years

American Legion Department of North Dakota

And the International Music Camp

1994 – 2019

The Last Twenty-five Years American Legion Department of North Dakota And the International Music Camp 1994 – 2019

The last 25 years of interaction between the Department Headquarters, the leadership and most important the local Legion posts across the state and those posts located close to the International Music Camp seems long when you look at it as a block of time. That same 25 years could be a blink of time if one is trying to stay with it day to day. This portion of history will touch on events that happen every year and the special commander projects that had a direct impact on both the Department (NDAL) and the International Music Camp (IMC).

The greatest activities and events that occur each year involve participation by the local post and auxiliary units. These entities have been active in their community’s high school programs soliciting students who have demonstrated an interest in the musical arts. These organizations have sponsored youth to attend a variety of programs, paying an agreed-upon registration fee. Each year the IMC host approximately 2,400 students from across the country and other international countries as well. Of these, 75 percent come from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. North Dakota provides 50 percent or 1,200 of those 1,800 regional students. As indicated, there are the regional posts sponsoring students; the local posts that function as neighbors to the Peace Gardens and Music Camp are continuously called upon for more dynamic sponsorships. These posts and communities provide labor, material support and, of course, financial funding for special projects. Jeff Hall, Past NDAL Commander from Bottineau knows this very well—his local post has been instrumental in its support of the Camp.

The relationship between the organizations’ leadership continues to be very close. Every year around July Fourth the Music Camp holds a Legion Day, recognizing the commander and president during a Sunday concert at the Camp. During the Department’s Winter Conference the Camp directors typically attend to thank the posts for sponsoring students and to present the previous leaders with the coveted IMC custom-made artists’ coffee/tea mugs. They of course use this time to promote the next year’s programs to the Legionnaires. The Winter Conference is a great opportunity for the leadership to meet and greet and visit about upcoming programs that may be of mutual benefit. The Music Camp has celebrated 66 years of existence and the Department has been with it for 64 of those years. NDAL recognizes the obvious connection to the Camp in its direct support of The American Legion’s Children and Youth pillar. This led to the IMC and NDAL celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Legion Day at the July 2005 event, enjoying an ice cream social with the parents and students during their last concert.  

As a review of the early years, the Legion assisted in building/acquiring practice huts located on American Legion Row and the placement of 16 sponsored flagpoles in the common park area in front of Howard Hall. These flagpoles each carry a placard with the name of the posts, units and individuals who sponsored a pole.

Special programs and projects have been numerous toward the end of our last quarter-century. During the summer of 2012, the NDAL Dance Band was invited to present a concert to the adult campers during the final camp session. Joe Alme, the previous Camp director, had joined the Legion Band as a trombone player and was back to the Camp as a member of the dance band. This concert was well received by the campers who provided several standing ovations requiring multiple encore presentations. This concert helped to launch two major commander projects that would cement the relationship between our organizations. Commanders Don Wieble (2014-2015) and Bud Goldsmith (2015-2016) provided the leadership for these projects. Wieble had two projects during his year, the first an ongoing teddy bear program for Sanford Children’s Hospital. His second project was directed towards the IMC and building repair of the American Legion Row Practice Huts. These huts, approximately 20, were in dire need of repair, primarily shingles and soffit material. The Department, local posts and units and individuals had planned on an extended weekend of repair and socializing but the weather gods in May decided that snow, rain and hail would be a priority. Wieble’s project donated $12,500 towards the completion of shingling and basic repair at IMC. The delay ended up being the shining star for the Camp’s management by forcing a detailed inspection of their grounds and facilities. 

During 2015-2016 Goldsmith’s project reached out to meet a major need for the Camp. Goldsmith joined with the Auxiliary President Marlene Boyer to consolidate the funds and provide more dollars to a variety of projects. They had several projects identified, but Goldsmith had selected a major one for the IMC. His Streeter American Legion Post 265 was fully behind his quest for the leadership role as the Department Commander. They raised tens of thousands of dollars from rifle raffles, dinners, fundraisers and events.

Goldsmiths’ major project was purchase of a marimba, a seven-octave keyboard style percussion instrument. These instruments retail for $25,000; this one was acquired at cost, a fifty percent savings. This was achieved and the instrument was delivered to the Camp and used in the summer of 2016. That year, the Department also hosted the National Commander for the July Fourth activities across the state beginning with the Park River Parade and Commander Charles Schmidt’s “Walk for Veterans” held in Fargo and again during the parade in Park River. Following the parade, the Department leadership motored to Dunseith and the Music Camp for a visitation of the Department’s support of NDAL Children & Youth activity and to witness a master’s class and performance on the donated marimba. National Commander Schmidt, along with a dozen Legionnaires and Auxiliary members, enjoyed a performance by a seven-student ensemble playing an impromptu piece. This marimba highlights a placard with the logo and both Commander Goldsmith and President Boyer’s names.

The impact of both the Wieble and Goldsmith donations to the IMC music programs will have a lasting effect on North Dakota youth for decades into the future. The arts are as important to a child’s mental and cognitive development as sports are to the physical development of our youth.

Another project that was undertaken by the Department with the IMC did not require fundraising but has had a significant impact on several of the youths who have attended the camp. During the 2013 summer, the Department introduced two certification programs for the IMC to offer student campers. The first was to answer the shortage of qualified trumpet/bugle player who could perform “Taps” at veteran’s funerals. The second was to certify vocalists in the performance of the National Anthem, free of embellishments, at local events, sporting activities and other places in need of the anthem. The students received training material and music to explain the meanings and purpose of the music. It also required a student’s signature promising to perform it for the solemn or patriotic purpose that was intended. This program has continued to be successful with students attending camp to acquire these certifications.

In essence, over the last 25 years, the North Dakota American Legion’s involvement with the International Music Camp continues to impact the youth of our state. Thousands of kids have enjoyed the educational opportunities to develop their skills as musicians, carrying forward with them into their adult years the awareness that music is a lifelong endeavor. The Department, along with the support of the local posts, auxiliaries and communities, looks forward to many more great years of associating with another great organization, the International Music Camp.

Department International Music Camp Directors

NameTownDates Served
Peter H. McDonaldRolla1964-73
Morris O. HalversonRugby1973-78
Fred MauMohall1978-79
Donald DarlingMinot1979-94

Legion Urges Americans to Conserve Energy

The American Legion has been a constant supporter of energy conservation. Studies conducted by its energy subcommittee show our national security has a direct tie to the conservation of energy. It has been pointed out that the ability of the American economy to provide jobs for everyone cannot be separated from an expanding energy supply.

Believing that immediate energy conservation measures were necessary, the North Dakota American Legion took the cue from its national organization and began doing something about the energy crisis in the ’70s.

In 1978, Department Energy Chairman Robert Nygard of Jamestown issued a litany of 19 items to be considered as top priority, with little or no cash outlay, to guide citizens toward energy conservation. Such simple suggestions as setting the thermostat back at night and when away, maintaining proper humidity, caulking windows and weather-stripping doors, minimize use of exhaust fans and reducing lighting levels when possible. He also pointed out that a reduction of energy use during peak hours, 5 to 9 p.m., would help.

Having had cheap energy, Americans were suddenly shocked when the Oil Producing Exporting Countries (OPEC) created an energy crisis with their caucus vote to raise prices a staggering 70%. The nation’s strong reliance on foreign oil, which until this time had been relatively cheap, placed America in a vulnerable position.

Since its inception after World War I, The American Legion has been a part of the solution to America’s problems. Any situation which jeopardizes our standard of living will be challenged by our organization – the energy crisis was no exception.

ND Legion Invites Public to Join Organ Donor Program

During the summer of 1970, the North Dakota Department of The American Legion was contacted by the Kidney Foundation of the Upper Midwest to host a voluntary donor enlistment program making available vital organs for transplant.

The department executive committee recognized this as a worthwhile community and statewide service project. The program was formally endorsed for 1970-71. Officially kicked off in February 1971 at the winter conference in Dickinson, the first presentation was made by Richard Truax, executive director of the Kidney Foundation of the Upper Midwest. His description of the proposed project was accepted enthusiastically by Legion and Auxiliary members present.

Following the conference, work packets for the initial drive were mailed to Legion posts and Auxiliary officers. Again, there was a positive and united response. News media in the state cooperated subsequently with generous donations of advertising space for public service announcements and television interviews to encourage the donation of vital organs.

Gordon Stark of Grafton was the Legion’s first program director for developing public awareness and acceptance of donating life-sustaining organs from one human to another. The second year’s emphasis was directed to church cooperation, doctor orientation and public education.

Morton Johnson of Mandan, the 1971-72 director, credited Bill Still of Jamestown for giving untold volunteer hours in serving the program, including giving numerous interviews. Still spoke from a first-hand point of view, having had a kidney failure and then receiving a kidney transplant. In the second year of sponsorship, Legion Auxiliary units conducted Betty Crocker drives that made it possible to acquire several home hemodialysis machines.

Funding assistance was provided by the Kidney Foundation and the North Dakota Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to match Auxiliary funds to purchase and install home hemodialysis units.

Don Millet of Wahpeton directed the program in the third year, when statewide publicity was the main thrust. The goal was to enroll 60,000 card-carrying donors in the life-saving program. Ralph Shults, a Legionnaire from Hettinger who was president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, spearheaded a drive to have a tabloid-sized ad in all newspapers. The ad was designed so it could be increased in size or reduced to fit local column width. A card-sized tear-off was incorporated into the ad to be used as an organ donor card.

Shults sent a Jetter to all of the state newspapers and Miller sent letters to all the Legion posts in the state. The response?

More than 60 per cent of the daily and weekly newspapers in the state ran the ads for an estimated readership of more than 500,000 in North Dakota and surrounding areas. In addition to sponsoring the ads, Legion posts conducted organ donor registration programs through their local ministerial associations and civic groups. Truax resigned as executive director and the Kidney Foundation of the Upper Midwest, headquartered in the Twin Cities, underwent a major staff reorganization by 1976. Peggy McGrew succeeded Truax. The organ donor program received legislative help in North Dakota in 1977 with the passage of enabling legislation allowing individuals the opportunity to designate themselves as an organ donor. This was made possible through an option made available when completing driver’s license applications or renewals. The provision made registration of donors much easier.

Robert Short of Langdon was named the 1973-74 Gift of Life program director and launched a new approach. Kits were mailed to all North Dakota high schools, with administrators asked to have student councils or other student organizations be responsible for carrying the program forward. Each kit contained a suggested speech, news releases and a question and answer sheet. Legion posts were asked to offer assistance to the school administrators and students.

Without question, The American Legion in North Dakota is to be commended highly for its foresight in 1970 in recognizing benefits to be derived from this special public service program and for supporting the legislative effort to put “organ donor” on driver’s licenses.

Put another way, the public service effort underscores the spirit of American ex-servicemen: In time of war, they stepped forward to defend our nation and, in private life, they have led the way to provide a means to help others with the donation of organs, a “Gift of Life” to those less fortunate.

Department Adjutant Vernon Useldinger received a complimentary letter in April 1989 from Peggy McGrew, who then was the administrator of the Beth Mensing Memorial Kidney Home in Minneapolis. In part, she said: “The Beth Mensing Memorial Kidney House has been functioning for several months and has served kidney patients and their families from 16 states and three countries, coming to the Twin Cities for treatment. Eighty-six North Dakota residents and families have come to the ‘Kidney House’ since its opening.

“The sleeping rooms (214 and 216), donated by The American Legion, Department of North Dakota, and The American Legion Auxiliary overlooks the Garden of Hope in front of the ‘Kidney House’ and has been in continuous use by patients and their families.” Earlier in the 1980s, statewide Legion posts and Auxiliary units contributed $17,000 that funded the two sleeping rooms for the ‘Kidney House’ project.

The house is named for Beth Mensing, a woman who dedicated her life to caring. A nurse with Hennepin County General Hospital, Mensing was instrumental in developing a clinic for the post-operative care of patients involved in the kidney transplant program. Dr. Morris Davidman, medical director of Regional Kidney Disease program, stated: “The Beth Mensing Memorial Kidney House is the first of its kind in the United States to provide inexpensive temporary housing and support services to all kidney patients and families coming to the Twin Cities.”

Marksmanship, Shooting Sports

Rifle marksmanship competition among North Dakota American Legion posts had its start in the 1930s and its first organized matches in 1938. A Golva farmer, a WW I veteran who was a member of Beach’s Harley Salzman Post 5, Nic. G. Johnson purchased top-scorer medals with his own meager funds until department headquarters on the other side of the state could scrape up reimbursement from its own cash-short treasury.

Johnson urged anyone interested to organize, shoot and report the results to him. For all that, he was complimented in a March 1939 letter from the national committee chairman that Williston’s Edgar M. Boyd Post 37 was the first North Dakota entry of Legionnaires in any national Legion marksmanship competition.

Johnson was the department marksman committee chairman 1938-44 and would write in longhand to Department Adjutant Jack Williams in Fargo that bronze medals for first and second-place scorers cost only 90 cents each, “which if I am reimbursed will be fine. No special hurry. Thanks.”

Johnson also organized Sons of The American Legion (SAL) rifle matches in 1938 with two teams from Williston and one each from Beach, Fort Yates, Bowman, Belfield and Kenmare. Generally, he was dismayed by the scarcity of competitors, especially from the larger cities that had shooting clubs. Maybe it was the costs involved: $1 per team; 20 cents per individual. The May 1939 matches cost $12.10 for postage, targets and award medals.

In 1939 the national matches had both junior and adult rifle club units. SAL Squadron 48 of Bowman placed 25th in a field of 26 teams. The national statistics report noted: “Many of the teams never entered our matches before and a lot of credit is due to some of the lower teams who fired on short notice without preliminary practice and still were sports enough to send their targets because they did the best they could, and that makes them better than those who never tried.”

Johnson tried valiantly to fire up interests but hints of success faded time after time despite the excitement of possibly winning an award. He wrote Williams that a January 1941 match “was a complete dud … Not one entry was received for this elimination match.” He said his own individual entry was North Dakota’s only representation in the national competition, which drew many individual entries plus teams from 16 states.

Roger W. Snyder of Fargo became the marksmanship committee chairman in 1944 and reported two years later that competitive activities were down “due to the scarcity of rifles and ammunition.” Almost everything was rationed by then – manpower was sent off to war; tires almost bald and gasoline was subject to confiscation for misuse; spare money was to be applied to defense efforts like war bonds. Even so, Snyder praised Beach ‘s Harley Salzman Post 5 for faithfully entering teams in the matches “in order to keep the program alive within the state; however, with all the other wartime activities, such as bond drives … there has been little time for recreation and rifle practice.”

SAL rifle clubs, mainly pre-induction-age youths then, received encouragement from former members in military uniform. Letters home frequently told of men qualifying as marksmen or experts the first time on firing ranges. Besides satisfaction, this brought additional pay, Snyder stated!

Throughout its history, the Legion’s rifle marksmanship program has provided both youths and adults instruction in gun safety along with training in a wholesome recreational activity through organized competition. That has spurred challenge between siblings and encouraged children to follow the example of parents. Harold Holien and his family at Cando and Fargoans Edmund P. Jensen and his son, Neil, are classic examples. In 1955, Holien and Kenneth Muir of Fargo, both leaders in the then-named ND Rifle and Pistol Association, co-founded the State Junior Gallery Rifle Championship Tournament. Holien was in charge of the junior program for about 25 years and, having been a Marine expert rifleman, held three state shooting titles, was honored as “Distinguished Rifleman of the United States” and was a 1992 inductee into the ND Shooting Sports Association Hall of Fame.

All eight of Holien’s children became strong competitors in the junior program in the 1960s and ’70s. In a close battle in 1969, daughter Christie, the 1968 state girl’s champion, edged out her brother Duane for the title of State Junior Rifle Champion. Duane subsequently became a Distinguished Rifleman and held more than 20 state titles.

In the mid-1970s, the rifle and pistol association was renamed the ND Shooting Sports Association; Ed Jensen was its president in 1972. An inductee into the ND Shooting Sports Association Hall of Fame in 1992, he held at least 30 state shooting titles and traveled to matches across the country. Some of that competitive spirit carried over to son Neil, who became the champion mid-junior (age 14-15) shooter in 1976.

Awards ranging from costs of $250 to $450 for state junior rifle tournaments were provided by the state Legion organization from 1956 through 1979, after which the awards were sponsored by these American Legion posts: Valley City in 1980, Williston 1981, Bismarck 1982, Mandan 1983, Cando 1984, Mohall 1985 and 1986, and Mandan 1988 and 1989. The Legion Ongoing Veterans Endowment (LOVE) charitable trust furnished the awards in 1987.

“With The American Leg ion furnishing the awards, the result is a lower tournament entry fee and makes it possible for all boys and girls who are interested to compete,” said Holien, who was the department’s volunteer liaison for Shooting Sports for over three decades. “Without this assistance this tournament would not be possible for any one club to conduct, and the awards trigger tremendous interest among the youth in the shooting competition,” Holien added.

Around 1990, federal funding for the office of Director of Civilian Marksmanship was reduced and dollar support was terminated for junior rifle clubs. The result: Local clubs had to return to the DCM the .22-caliber rifles, costing about $700 each, targets, ammunition and some special awards. Junior participation has diminished to a few juniors accompanying their parents to National Rifle Association Senior Sectionals, where shooting opportunities are arranged for them. Since 1990, the club sponsoring the NRA Senior Sectionals either provided or arranged awards for junior shooters.

Meanwhile, The American Legion launched its own program to train youth in gun safety and marksmanship when the national executive committee approved the Junior Shooting Sports program during its October 1988 meeting. The resolution encouraged local Legion posts to organize and sponsor Junior Shooting Clubs and placed the program under the direction of the National Americanism Commission.

The American Legion selected .177 caliber air guns as the principal gun for its program largely because of cost factors, safety and the availability of ranges for boy and girl participants. By 1994, four N.D. posts at Alexander, Hebron, Watford City and Sherwood were sponsoring Junior Shooting Clubs in this Legion program.

Competitive shooting is not a sport which gives an advantage to individuals of great size or strength. Physical fitness and stamina are important, but it is mental toughness and self-discipline which determine success. Competitive shooting is also one of the few sports where men and women can compete as equals. It is truly a sport which is open to anyone willing to practice and to test their shooting skill on the firing line.

FIRING LINE: The Other Side of the Coin

During the early 1950s, public attention was focused on Firing Line, a publication of the National Americanism Commission. A North Dakota politician (A.C. Townley) used excerpted language which he attributed to Firing Line. A political storm ensued and the validity and integrity of Firing Line was questioned. While the resulting discussion and clamor –throughout North Dakota and the Midwest — had little or nothing to do with the contents of the publication, many American Legionnaires began to inspect it with new interest and inquiry.

Generations of Americans have thrilled to words in the Preamble to our Constitution: “For God and Country” — “To uphold and defend the Constitution” — “To maintain law and order” — “To foster and perpetuate a one-hundred-percent Americanism.”  Uphold and foster are positive terms with which we are all happy to associate ourselves. But, what if there are negatives to be considered? What about those who might be “against” God and Country, “opposed” to the Constitution or “enemies” of Americanism? American Legionnaires learned during their first nation al convention in Minneapolis, MN, on Nov. 11, 1919, that there definitely were “enemies” of the principles they espoused, and those “against” the objectives they sought, and “opposed” to the programs they initiated. On that day, at an Armistice Day parade by the Legionnaires of Centralia, WA, four marchers were wantonly shot and killed by members of the Industrial Workers of the World.

In the long years since that unfortunate event, The American Legion, through publication s such as Firing Line, has found it necessary to direct attention not only to the positives of our declared purpose and policy, but also to the actions, philosophies and intentions of those who oppose us and our country.

A respected adage in military circles is “Know Your Enemy.” An appropriate and commendable service “For God and Country” has been rendered — and continues to be rendered — by our Firing Line.

Graves Registration Started in 1930s

Out of the Civil War, in which about 300,000 North and South soldiers died, came the acute realization that a more appropriate burial record system was needed for those killed in battle. Until then, a simple wooden headboard with a rounded top and bearing a registration number was placed in military post cemeteries or near the point of death in battlefields. No centralized record system existed.

Given the cost factor – five-year life expectancy for a headboard ‘s average cost of $1.23 amounting to $1 million over a 20-year period — public sentiment turned to having a more modern way to mark graves of military dead. From this evolved the current system of government-provided headstones and markers AND a national graves registration plan passed by the 1931 national convention of The American Legion at Detroit. In the Legion plan, departments and posts were assigned the task of appointing graves registration officers. Their principal job was to record the location of area cemeteries in which veterans of military service were interred. Burial plots with no markers or where other means of identification were missing or had deteriorated also were mapped with help from cemetery associations.

All of this helped establish accurate records and made it feasible for Legionnaires to honor deceased members by installing permanent Legion emblems on metal rods that include fittings for placement of US flags at gravesites on Memorial Day or other significant observances.

When an unmarked grave of a veteran was located, an application was made to procure a government marker for that grave. An outgrowth of this program was the development of cemetery plots for indigent veterans in some communities throughout the state. By 1948, the state organization’s involvement in graves registration ended. The work was being handled effectively on the local level.

Legion Posts Cited for Top Performance in Americanism

The American Legion’s National Americanism Commission issues annual awards to the top two Legion posts judged and certified by each department for conducting outstanding Americanism program activities. The Certificate of Distinguished Service is awarded to the post that conducts the most outstanding Americanism program in the state, and the Certificate of Meritorious Service is awarded to the post placing second among posts submitting reports on their Americanism activities. In the earlier years, community services and post activities were also considered in the annual determinations. The winning posts in these two categories appear below for the years indicated. Records are not available for the years not listed.

American Legion Baseball in North Dakota Ranks Among Top Programs in the Nation

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About 66 years ago, The American Legion’s baseball program took shape in North Dakota. From rag-tag teams often playing on makeshift ballparks put together by Legion posts, the program grew nationally and became the largest organized youth baseball activity in the country.

Legion baseball’s birthplace and year was Milbank, SD, in 1925. South Dakota Legionnaires passed a baseball resolution at their department convention that year. The Department of North Dakota entered the game then also. Each department asked national’s Americanism commission to help develop and support the spreading sandlot activity as an Americanism program to encourage healthful recreation, sportsmanship, citizenship, loyalty, team spirit and self-reliance. It was an investment in American youth, they said.

From that joint entreaty, the national convention adopted baseball as an American Legion national program that since has had more than $12 million spent on it annually in recent years by Legion posts and countless value added by Legionnaires volunteering time and talents. A notable result of the program is that about 70 per cent of the major league players are graduates of American Legion baseball programs. Nearly a quarter of a million boys play Legion ball each summer.

The first national tournament was held in 1926. In North Dakota, competition started in 1928, and the ubiquitous Jack Williams, the state adjutant, was the first department athletic officer. Williams directed the first state tournament that year in Minot. Linton became the first North Dakota Junior Legion baseball champion, as it was initially called.

Various plans have been used in play down to determine state champions to qualify for regional competition. A two class system was started in 1949, modified in 1973 and remodified in 1993 to its present plan, which provides small town teams an equal opportunity to advance to the state tournament.

Eight state Legion champions went on to win regional titles: Enderlin (1930, 1940), Fargo (1933, 1969, 1989, 1992), Drayton (1958) and Grand Forks (1967). Grand Forks, in 1967, and Fargo, in 1969 and 1992, had the distinction of playing in the Legion World Series until they were eliminated.

During the past four decades, between 40-50% of our statewide posts have been active in The American Legion baseball program—this percentage ranks high among the top departments. In that period, post sponsorship of Legion baseball teams ranged from 92 to 121, and the 41-year average (1954-1994) was 105 teams playing Legion ball.

Legion Baseball State Champions

TownYear
Linton1928
Fargo1929
Enderlin1930
Cooperstown1931
Cooperstown1932
Fargo1933
Grand Forks1934
Fargo1935
Grand Forks1936
Grand Forks1937
Grand Forks1938
Grand Forks1939
Enderlin1940
Enderlin1941
Fargo1942
Fargo1943
Fargo1944
Bismarck1945
Fargo1946
Fargo1947
Fargo1948
Bismarck1949
Fargo1950
Wahpeton1951
Fargo1952
Fargo1953
Jamestown1954
Jamestown1955
Bismarck1956
Bismarck1957
Drayton1958
Grand Forks1959
Fargo1960
Bismarck1961
Drayton1962
Bismarck1963
Mandan1964
Mandan1965
Bismarck1966
Grand Forks1967
Grand Forks1968
Fargo1969
Mandan1970
Bismarck1971
Grand Forks1972
Williston1973
Fargo1974
Jamestown1975
Fargo1976
Minot1977
Minot1978
Fargo1979
Jamestown1980
Minot1981
Bismarck1982
Fargo1983
Minot1984
Jamestown1985
Bismarck1986
Minot1987
Fargo1988
Fargo1989
Mandan1990
Mandan1991
Fargo1992
Mandan1993
Mandan1994

North Dakota Class B Champs

TownYear
Inkster1949
Inkster1950
Oakes1951
Page1952
Kindred1953
Ellendale1954
Velva1955
Enderlin1956
Riverdale1957
Lisbon1958
Bottineau1959
Park River1960
Cogswell1961
Hillsboro1962
Cooperstown1963
Rugby1964
Langdon1965
Steele1966
Park River1967
Berthold1968
Hatton1969
Steele1970
LaMoure1971
New Rockford1972

B Teams Reclassified Class A in 1973

In 1973, former Class B teams were moved into the Class A division, with just eight of the previous Class A teams in the large cities going into a new Class AA grouping. The new Class A structure consisted of four regions of four districts each, with the regional champs competing in the state finals with four Class AA teams, two from east and two from the west, advancing from divisional competition to the double-elimination tournament to determine the state champion to represent North Dakota in the Central Plains regional meet.

Title Status Reinstated in 1981

Commencing from the 1981 state Legion baseball tournament, the two top Class AA teams from the east and west divisions moved into the state tournament The winners of the four Class A regional events also advanced to the state meet for inter-class playoffs to determine a Class AA and a Class A champion, respectively.

Then a championship three-game series between the Class A and AA champs was played in the home park of the Class AA champion. The team winning two games was declared the state champion and represented North Dakota in the Regional 6 tourney.

TownYear
1981- West Fargo Aces1981
1982- Edmore1982
1983–Devils Lake1983
1984–Devils Lake1984
1985–Fargo Bombers1985
1986–Carrington1986
1987–Fargo Bombers1987
1988–Hatton1988
1989–Sawyer-Surrey1989
1990–West Fargo Aces1990
1991–Munich1991
1992—Munich1992

Classification Reverted to Class B in 1993

Beginning with the 1993 season, teams were reclassified — Class A teams to Class B and Class AA teams to Class A, the same as used for high school sports and the same classifications used in the Legion program earlier for three decades in

North Dakota. Separate A and B tournament plans were adopted starting in 1993. The two top teams in each region advance to the eight-team, double-elimination state Class B tournament.

Any Class B team wishing to participate in Class A competition for the opportunity to advance to national tournaments must attend the announced pre-season Class A scheduling meeting and declare its intention to play Class A ball for the upcoming season.

TownYear
Bismarck Scarlets1993
Sawyer-Surrey1994

American Legion Baseball Players of the Year

Most valuable players in American Legion baseball have been chosen annually since 1965. They are:

Class A

NameTownYear
Mike NortonMandan  1965
Neil Kalberer Bismarck1966
Bernie Graner Fargo1967
Rick FeeGrand Forks1968
Dave JohnsonFargo1969
Mike MontgomeryGrand Forks1970
Steve VoddenGrand Forks  1971
Dennis KyleGrand Forks1972

Class B

NameTownYear
 1965 Neil KalbererSteele1965
Dennis BenzSteele1966
Russ HalvorsonPark River1967
Doug OverbeeBerthold1968
Mike GrandHatton1969
Gary BenzSteele1970
Barry Hebl LaMoure1971
Tim GulerNew Rockford1972

All State

NameTownYear
Al PetersonWilliston1973
Dave RuschFargo1974
Doug HoganJamestown  1975
Jeff FiechtnerFargo   1976
Kevin BartramMinot1977
Steve KellerMinot1978
Tim TweitenFargo1979
Wayne HoganJamestown1980
Derek SolbergMinot1981

Class AA                                                                Class A

Class AA

NameTownYear
Patrick Kadrmas     Bismarck  1982
Ladd BjugsonFargo1983
Robb Atwood, Co-MVPMinot1984
Rob Keller, Co-MVPJamestown1984
Jim RoaldsonJamestown1985
Clayton EnnWilliston1986
Scott CollinsMinot1987
Brent PolumFargo1988
Rick Hiller Fargo    1989
Jason MeyhoffMandan1990
Jon Amundson, Co-MVPMandan1991
Darin Erstad, Co-MVPJamestown1991
Darin ErstadJamestown1992
Chris SchmitzEnderlin1993
Shawn SwartwoutSurrey1994

Class A

NameTownYear
Brent VigerEdmore1982
Scott DeutschDevils Lake1983
Scott Deutsch, Devils Lake1984
Tony Satter, Fargo BombersFargo1985
Kyle SmithCarrington1986
Tim Sandy, Fargo BombersFargo1987
Mike Johnson Hatton1988
Doug NelsonSawyer-Surrey1989
Mike Birrenkott, West Fargo AcesWest Fargo1990
Marty McDonald Munich1992
Justin Fletschock Munich1992
Shannon HolbrookMandan1993
Aaron AmundsonMandan1994

Inkster and Bismarck Clash in ’49; So Did Milligan and McKenna

The end of the 1949 baseball season had tiny Inkster, the Class B champion, challenging Class A champs Bismarck for the right to represent the state in the regional tournament at Aberdeen, SD. But the real battle came before the first ball was thrown.

It was a case of strong Irish personalities clashing between newly-elected Department Commander Edward A. Milligan of Michigan and Department Athletic Committee Chairman James E. McKenna of Jamestown. The dispute centered around adequate playing conditions on the Inkster ball field and accommodations for the visiting team.

After an investigation, McKenna, on behalf of the position taken by the athletic committee, said Inkster lacked the facilities for staging the playoff series and arranged to hold the event at Grafton. Milligan sided with his Inkster neighbors.

McKenna argued for a neutral and better site. Each man was inflexible.

McKenna resigned. Milligan named a new chairman, Einar Wall of Kempton, who was on the athletic committee, as interim chairman to supervise the playoff games, all held at Inkster, concluding state Legion baseball competition for the ’49 season.

Enter a third Irishman, Department Adjutant Jack Williams, who brought Milligan and McKenna back to speaking and friendship terms after the tournament. Milligan demonstrated the “peace treaty” by naming McKenna athletic chairman for the 1949-50 Legion baseball year, after which McKenna was recalled January 1951 for active duty in the Korean War and remained in the Army until he retired Oct. 31, 1965, as a lieutenant colonel.

By the way, Bismarck won two of the three games series. Inkster won the first game, 11-6.

National Legion Baseball Tournaments Held in North Dakota

The high levels of play and event management have brought numerous upper-level Legion baseball tournaments toNorth Dakota. In mid-August 1931, North Dakota was host for the first time to the state champions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the two Dakotas in the regional tournament held at Park River.

Bismarck hosted the western sectional in 1936. Two years later, Post 6 at Grand Forks, was host to back-to-back tourneys, the 1938 regional, then the western sectional. Following WW II, Post 3 at Dickinson entertained the 1950 regional and repeated in 1957.

Post 1 held two regionals, in 1952 and 1954, and the 1955 Sectional C to tune up for hosting the 1956 World Series in the capital city. Then Bismarck Legionnaires hosted three consecutive tourneys, the 1958, 1959 and 1960 regional playoffs, readying for its second national finals, in 1962. Bismarck held one more regional, in 1966.

State title teams met once at Minot, in 1961, to vie for the regional crown. Mandan, in 1962 and 1969, and Jamestown, in 1977 and 1993, each hosted two regionals for this area.

Post 37 at Williston entertained three regionals, in 1968, 1971 and 1990. The 1979 Region 6 at Fargo provided good working experience in preparing for its first Legion World Series in 1983. Post 2 repeated by conducting the 1987 regional preceding the second World Series held at Fargo in 1992.

When Post 2’s ’92 bid was accepted, the national Americanism commission named three rotating sites for the tournament years 1991 through 1996. They were Boyertown, PA, 1991 and 1994; Fargo, ND, 1992 and 1995, and Roseburg, OR, 1993 and 1996.

From 1926 (except 1927) through 1945, there were various formats for the sectional tournament. From 1946 through 1959, the four sectionals were classified as Sectional A, B, C and D. In those years, North Dakota was located in Region 9 of Sectional C. The sectional round of competition, followed by a four-team national championship tourney, was eliminated after the 1959 season. Beginning in 1960, the new format called for the eight regional victors to compete for the national title in the Legion’s annual World Series. Since 1960, North Dakota has been playing in Region 6, also known as the Central Plains Region.

Jensen Letter Prods Baseball Commissioner Landis

After professional baseball almost struck out in popularity as the “national pastime” because of 1919 World Series players falling to temptation, a North Dakota Legionnaire, a leader of youth, stepped up and presented strong arguments for regaining support for the game by involving the American Legion (then titled) junior baseball program.

Clarence L. Jensen, who was the superintendent of schools in Kensal, succeeded Jack Williams as department athletic officer after the 1928 baseball season was concluded. These two positions provided a solid base from which to observe and analyze youths’ basic instinct to compete with honor.

“No political scandal ever rocked the nation any more than did baseball’s Black Sox scandal of 1919, when players were discovered to have thrown games for gambling interests,” wrote Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in the October 1975 American Legion Magazine “Grown men cursed and children wept over the villainy of their former idols.”

Federal Judge Kenneshaw Mountain Landis, a dictatorial administrator, was appointed baseball’s first commissioner in 1920. His first action to restore the game’s then-waning image of integrity was to ban eight Chicago White Sox players from organized baseball for life. Jensen felt a kinship with Landis and, on March 8, 1933, sent a four-page, single-spaced letter to Landis.

Jensen said he didn’t want to burden Landis “with a Jong discourse of what I think is wrong with baseball, but it is my desire to do what I may to bring baseball back to where it was 15 years ago, especially in the more rural communities …

Baseball must have some definite building program. At present there is no effort being made by any organization but The

American Legion to build up the greatest game of all.”

Jensen believed that organized baseball had to reach out in small communities and do missionary work to increase interest in baseball. He said, “Fifteen years ago every little town (in North Dakota at least) had its ball team. Each team had one or two hired players. Baseball was largely semiprofessional. Great rivalry existed between towns. Practically all that is gone now …

“I really believe that this drift from baseball is one of the reasons for the decrease in attendance in the leagues. The non-baseball playing generation is now coming into being … The great number of colleges and high schools who have dropped the game is proof of this … Why should they be interested in playing baseball when their entire athletic life has been devoted to other sports? … If we are to keep up the attendance in the leagues we must create the fans when they are young. This is not being done today and league attendance will show this in the years to come.”

From his association with the junior baseball program, Jensen told Landis that many potentially good ball players had been involved but there was little opportunity or incentive for them to continue because there were few new ball fields on which they could realize their baseball dreams. Jensen proposed that professional baseball organize in each community a group of semi-amateur leagues with each team composed of six or seven ex-Legion players, with the remainder of the rosters coming from local players.

His suggestion also had two games scheduled each week in ballparks provided free of charge as part of city’s recreation activities. Players and managers would get small salaries as added incentive. Transportation, under his plan, could be donated or paid out of game profits. Jensen believed that “the boys in this ex-Legion league would have something definite to play for: the possibility of going up to a higher league,” which would be watched by Big League scouts. And he suggested that his plan would increase the number of baseball fans because more boys would he playing, which would bring out more parents. “The best baseball fan is the Dad who has a boy on the club,” he said.

Seeing beyond the stinging sensation of the Black Sox incident, Jensen, who himself was inducted into the North Dakota

Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968 and the state Legion Hall of Fame in 1987, said baseball needed a tonic, like his proposal for leagues of ex-Legion ball players, to help revive and rebuild public support for the game.

Jack Williams Memorial Leadership Award Established

By adopting Resolution No. 45, the delegates to the 1967 national convention at Boston, MA, authorized the establishment of the Jack Williams Memorial Leadership Award. Since the 1968 World Series of American Legion Baseball, this award, one each, has been presented annually to the manager and to the coach of the national championship team, as representative of the adult leadership Williams stressed during his lifetime.

Williams was the veteran department adjutant (1919-1967) of the North Dakota American Legion. Prior to his Army service in World War I, he was manager of the Fargo Athletics amateur baseball team. Williams assisted Frank McCormack of South Dakota and Dan Sowers, director of the Legion’s national Americanism commission, in gaining 1925 national convention acceptance and endorsement of The American Legion Baseball program.

Williams organized and conducted the Legion Baseball program for the initial 1928 season in North Dakota and remained a lifelong booster of this outstanding program. Legalization of Sunday baseball in North Dakota was another of the achievements largely credited to Smiling Jack. He saw to it that petitions were circulated for an initiated measure which would bring back Sunday baseball.

Fargo Post 2 goes to the 2019 American Legion World Series

Fargo Post 2 warm up prior to the continuation of a
rain-delayed Game 11 of the 2019 American Legion
World Series against Shrewsbury, Mass. Post 397 at
Photo by Ryan Young/The American Legion
Colton Frey and Chandler Ibach Fargo Post 2 help pull
a tarp over the field during a rain delay of Game 10 of
the 2019 American Legion World Series Photo by Chet
Strange/The American Legion

North Dakota came into the World Series with a 51-6 record after beating out Minnesota Post 259 with an 8-0 victory at the Central Plains Regional Tournament. It is the fourth Post 2 team to ever make it to the World Series and the first in 27 years (1969, 1989, 1992) and one of just five appearances from the state of North Dakota. The communities of Shelby, NC and Cleveland County hosted the American Legion World Series and all World Series tournament games were nationally televised on ESPNU. The 2019 American Legion World Series kicked off with the 7th Inning Stretch Festival, annual event that attracted a record-setting 25,000 guests on August 10th. The festival kicked off with 5K run/walk to raise funds for the family of fallen Shelby police officer Tim Brackeen. The all-day festivities included a pageant, games, vendor, music and more. The day ended with the performance of country music superstar Martina McBride. The eight American Legion Baseball teams received their regional championship medallions at the LeGrand Center in Shelby. These were presented by the mayor and city council of Shelby. Post 2 made it to the championship game by winning 3 of the 4 tournament games they played in. Post 2 played Idaho Post 56 on August 15th at game 3 of the tournament. Idaho Post 56 won with a final score of 7-3 but Post 2 still had a long road to play in the championship game. USAA Military Appreciation Day was at the tournament was on August 17th. Medal of Honor recipient Hal Fritz addressed the crowd and met with the teams. Post 2 won game 8 against North Carolina Post 45 with a score of 4-1. Game 11 of the tournament was between Post 2 and an unbeaten team from Massachusetts Post 397 on August 18th and was suspended because of rain at the bottom of the 3rd inning with Post 2 leading by a score of 5-1. The game resumed the following day on August 19th. Post 2 allowed only one hit. This was the 13th one-hitter game in World Series history. Post 2 beat out Massachusetts Post 397 with a score of 9-1 and advanced to the semi-finals. This may have been Post 2’s 4th time to the World Series, but it was the first time Post 2 won two games at the World Series. August 19th was an eventful day. Post 2 completed a suspended game in the morning and then returned in the evening to play Louisiana Post 366 in the semi-finals during game 13. Then in the bottom of the 3rd, the rain came again. The game was delayed for just under three-and-a-half hours. Post 2 won 11-4 and was headed to the championship game while making history as the first team from North Dakota to clinch first-ever title game appearance. Fargo Post 2 played Idaho Post 56 again for the championship game on August 20th, but the skies opened up again and the game was suspended during the second inning with Post 2 leading 2-1. The game resumed the next morning. This was Idaho’s 3rd straight year playing in the World Series and won the championship game against Fargo Post 2 with a score of 5-3. North Dakota had the most players with five out of thirteen selected for the American Legion World Series All-Tournament Team. Over the course of the tournament the All-Tournament Team selection committee watched and evaluated every game played and selected players based on their performance and character on and off the field. The 2019 American Legion World Series All-Tournament Team members from North Dakota are Designated Hitter Zach Sandy, Utility Player Zach Kluvers, Catcher Chandler Ibach, First Base Blake Anderson, and Pitcher Taylor Parrett. The American Legion Department of North Dakota is so proud of Fargo Post 2 on how they represented the state of North Dakota. We also want to thank the Legionnaire’s for supporting this Legion baseball program. These boys could not have done it without your support.

B Teams Reclassified Class A in 1973

In 1973, former Class B teams were moved into the Class A division, with just eight of the previous Class A teams in the large cities going into a new Class AA grouping. The new Class A structure consisted of four regions of four districts each, with the regional champs competing in the state finals with four Class AA teams, two from east and two from the west, advancing from divisional competition to the double-elimination tournament to determine the state champion to represent North Dakota in the Central Plains regional meet.

Title Status Reinstated in 1981

Commencing from the 1981 state Legion baseball tournament, the two top Class AA teams from the east and west divisions moved into the state tournament The winners of the four Class A regional events also advanced to the state meet for inter-class playoffs to determine a Class AA and a Class A champion, respectively.

Then a championship three-game series between the Class A and AA champs was played in the home park of the Class AA champion. The team winning two games was declared the state champion and represented North Dakota in the Regional 6 tourney.

Classification Reverted to Class B in 1993

Beginning with the 1993 season, teams were reclassified — Class A teams to Class B and Class AA teams to Class A, the same as used for high school sports and the same classifications used in the Legion program earlier for three decades in

North Dakota. Separate A and B tournament plans were adopted starting in 1993. The two top teams in each region advance to the eight-team, double-elimination state Class B tournament.

Any Class B team wishing to participate in Class A competition for the opportunity to advance to national tournaments must attend the announced pre-season Class A scheduling meeting and declare its intention to play Class A ball for the upcoming season.

1993–Bismarck Scarlets

1994–Sawyer-Surrey

Inkster and Bismarck Clash in ’49; So Did Milligan and McKenna

The end of the 1949 baseball season had tiny Inkster, the Class B champion, challenging Class A champs Bismarck for the right to represent the state in the regional tournament at Aberdeen, SD. But the real battle came before the first ball was thrown.

It was a case of strong Irish personalities clashing between newly-elected Department Commander Edward A. Milligan of Michigan and Department Athletic Committee Chairman James E. McKenna of Jamestown. The dispute centered around adequate playing conditions on the Inkster ball field and accommodations for the visiting team.

After an investigation, McKenna, on behalf of the position taken by the athletic committee, said Inkster lacked the facilities for staging the playoff series and arranged to hold the event at Grafton. Milligan sided with his Inkster neighbors.

McKenna argued for a neutral and better site. Each man was inflexible.

McKenna resigned. Milligan named a new chairman, Einar Wall of Kempton, who was on the athletic committee, as interim chairman to supervise the playoff games, all held at Inkster, concluding state Legion baseball competition for the ’49 season.

Enter a third Irishman, Department Adjutant Jack Williams, who brought Milligan and McKenna back to speaking and friendship terms after the tournament. Milligan demonstrated the “peace treaty” by naming McKenna athletic chairman for the 1949-50 Legion baseball year, after which McKenna was recalled January 1951 for active duty in the Korean War and remained in the Army until he retired Oct. 31, 1965, as a lieutenant colonel.

By the way, Bismarck won two of the three games series. Inkster won the first game, 11-6.

American Legion Baseball Player of the Year Scholarship

In the mid-1990s the National American Legion and Buick entered into a partnership that led to the establishment of a baseball scholarship trust fund derived from rebates on the sale of Buick cars to Legionnaires.

 Beginning in 1997, then National Legion Adjutant Robert Spanogle announced that a $1,000 baseball scholarship would be awarded to a player in each Department, selected by the Department, as the Player of the Year.

 The Buick name was placed on the scholarship through 1999.  Then Buick, following a General Motors strike, dropped its rebate program with The American Legion, after which the trust remained, and the scholarship was referred to as the American Legion Baseball Scholarship.

The scholarship award is based upon leadership, scholarship, character, citizenship and financial need.  The amount of the scholarship is determined by the Legion’s national treasurer based on interests earned from the scholarship trust fund. 

This scholarship has been awarded to the Player of the Year in North Dakota since 1999.  For years 1999 through 2007, the recipients of this award received $1,000 scholarships.  Then, due to a downturn in investment income in the trust fund, this award was changed to $500 scholarships for the recipients since 2008.

Named as North Dakota’s Player of the Year in 1999, Mark Trout’s scholarship application was then forwarded to the Central Plains Regional Tournament in Dickinson where it was reviewed for consideration as Regional Player of the Year.  The selection committee there also found Trout of Sherwood to be deserving and he was selected for the Gatorade Sportsmanship Award, thus earning him an additional $1,000 scholarship.

Scholarship recipients are eligible to receive their scholarships immediately upon graduation from an accredited high school.  Scholarship winners must utilize the total award within eight years of their graduation date, excluding active military duty.  The scholarship may be used to attend a school selected by the student providing it is state accredited and above the high school level.

Here are the recipients of North Dakota’s American Legion Baseball Scholarship as Player of the Year:

NameTownYear
Mark Trout, Sherwood   1999
Erik J. Knutson, Hatton2000
Joshua Allmaras, Grafton2001
Benjamin Sherer, Bismarck2002
Reid Arnold, Fargo2003
John Kingsbury, Grafton2004
Bryce KleinSarles2005
Bradley Wilkinson, Lakota2006
Brock Enderson, Wahpeton2007
Andrew Zetocha, Oakes2008
Beau Sinner, Casselton2009
Jordan Gefroh, Fargo2010
Brady Horner, Fargo2011
Gareth Hanson, Sheldon-Enderlin2012
Brett Schreiner, Washburn2013
Nathan Leintz, Hazen2014
Trevor Leingang, Mandan2015
Ethan Zetocha, Oakes2016
Andrew Feist, Bismarck2017
Ty Leingang, Mandan2018
2019

Gareth Hanson Selected First $5,000 Diamond Sports Scholarship Recipient

Chosen as North Dakota’s 2012 Player of the Year, Gareth Hanson’s scholarship application was considered among all Department Players of the Year for an additional scholarship sponsored by Diamond Sports, the official baseball for American Legion national tournaments.

Eight players selected by a scholarship selection committee at The American Legion’s World Series received $2,000 scholarships as Regional Player of the Year.  The ninth player selected as the most outstanding member of the All-Academic Team was Gareth Hanson of Enderlin.  He was the first recipient of a $5,000 scholarship as Captain of the All-Academic Team. He was declared 2012 Captain of All Academic American Legion Baseball Team

Gareth was honored in the presence of his family during the 2013 national convention in Houston, TX.  His presentation to the general assembly was spot on and he represented himself, his community and the state of North Dakota very well. 

Playing three years on the Sheldon-Enderlin Legion team, sponsored by Percy Carter Post No. 221 of Sheldon, Gareth was the Most Improved Player and Captain of the 2012 team.  He is a graduate of Enderlin Area High School.,

We want to acknowledge that Gatorade previously sponsored for 25 years an annual $10,000 scholarship package consisting of $1,000 scholarships for eight Regional Players of the Year and a $2,000 scholarship for the Player of the Year.  This sponsorship was dropped when Pepsi bought out Gatorade.

National Legion Baseball Tournaments Held in North Dakota

The high levels of play and event management have brought numerous upper-level Legion baseball tournaments to

North Dakota. In mid-August 1931, North Dakota was host for the first time to the state champions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the two Dakotas in the regional tournament held at Park River.

Bismarck hosted the western sectional in 1936. Two years later, Post 6 at Grand Forks, was host to back-to-back tourneys, the 1938 regional, then the western sectional. Following WW II, Post 3 at Dickinson entertained the 1950 regional and repeated in 1957.

Post 1 held two regionals, in 1952 and 1954, and the 1955 Sectional C to tune up for hosting the 1956 World Series in the capital city. Then Bismarck Legionnaires hosted three consecutive tourneys, the 1958, 1959 and 1960 regional playoffs, readying for its second national finals, in 1962. Bismarck held one more regional, in 1966.

State title teams met once at Minot, in 1961, to vie for the regional crown. Mandan, in 1962 and 1969, and Jamestown, in 1977 and 1993, each hosted two regionals for this area.

Post 37 at Williston entertained three regionals, in 1968, 1971 and 1990. The 1979 Region 6 at Fargo provided good working experience in preparing for its first Legion World Series in 1983. Post 2 repeated by conducting the 1987 regional preceding the second World Series held at Fargo in 1992.

When Post 2’s ’92 bid was accepted, the national Americanism commission named three rotating sites for the tournament years 1991 through 1996. They were Boyertown, PA, 1991 and 1994; Fargo, ND, 1992 and 1995, and Roseburg, OR, 1993 and 1996.

From 1926 (except 1927) through 1945, there were various formats for the sectional tournament. From 1946 through 1959, the four sectionals were classified as Sectional A, B, C and D. In those years, North Dakota was located in Region 9 of Sectional C. The sectional round of competition, followed by a four-team national championship tourney, was eliminated after the 1959 season. Beginning in 1960, the new format called for the eight regional victors to compete for the national title in the Legion’s annual World Series. Since 1960, North Dakota has been playing in Region 6, also known as the Central Plains Region.

After professional baseball almost struck out in popularity as the “national pastime” because of 1919 World Series players falling to temptation, a North Dakota Legionnaire, a leader of youth, stepped up and presented strong arguments for regaining support for the game by involving the American Legion (then titled) junior baseball program.

Clarence L. Jensen, who was the superintendent of schools in Kensal, succeeded Jack Williams as department athletic officer after the 1928 baseball season was concluded. These two positions provided a solid base from which to observe and analyze youths’ basic instinct to compete with honor.

“No political scandal ever rocked the nation any more than did baseball’s Black Sox scandal of 1919, when players were discovered to have thrown games for gambling interests,” wrote Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in the October 1975 American Legion Magazine “Grown men cursed and children wept over the villainy of their former idols.”

Federal Judge Kenneshaw Mountain Landis, a dictatorial administrator, was appointed baseball’s first commissioner in 1920. His first action to restore the game’s then-waning image of integrity was to ban eight Chicago White Sox players from organized baseball for life. Jensen felt a kinship with Landis and, on March 8, 1933, sent a four-page, single-spaced letter to Landis.

Jensen said he didn’t want to burden Landis “with a Jong discourse of what I think is wrong with baseball, but it is my desire to do what I may to bring baseball back to where it was 15 years ago, especially in the more rural communities …

Baseball must have some definite building program. At present there is no effort being made by any organization but The

American Legion to build up the greatest game of all.”

Jensen believed that organized baseball had to reach out in small communities and do missionary work to increase interest in baseball. He said, “Fifteen years ago every little town (in North Dakota at least) had its ball team. Each team had one or two hired players. Baseball was largely semiprofessional. Great rivalry existed between towns. Practically all that is gone now …

“I really believe that this drift from baseball is one of the reasons for the decrease in attendance in the leagues. The non-baseball playing generation is now coming into being … The great number of colleges and high schools who have dropped the game is proof of this … Why should they be interested in playing baseball when their entire athletic life has been devoted to other sports? … If we are to keep up the attendance in the leagues we must create the fans when they are young. This is not being done today and league attendance will show this in the years to come.”

From his association with the junior baseball program, Jensen told Landis that many potentially good ball players had been involved but there was little opportunity or incentive for them to continue because there were few new ball fields on which they could realize their baseball dreams. Jensen proposed that professional baseball organize in each community a group of semi-amateur leagues with each team composed of six or seven ex-Legion players, with the remainder of the rosters coming from local players.

His suggestion also had two games scheduled each week in ballparks provided free of charge as part of city’s recreation activities. Players and managers would get small salaries as added incentive. Transportation, under his plan, could be donated or paid out of game profits. Jensen believed that “the boys in this ex-Legion league would have something definite to play for: the possibility of going up to a higher league,” which would be watched by Big League scouts. And he suggested that his plan would increase the number of baseball fans because more boys would he playing, which would bring out more parents. “The best baseball fan is the Dad who has a boy on the club,” he said.

Seeing beyond the stinging sensation of the Black Sox incident, Jensen, who himself was inducted into the North Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968 and the state Legion Hall of Fame in 1987, said baseball needed a tonic, like his proposal for leagues of ex-Legion ball players, to help revive and rebuild public support for the game.

George Rulon’s Leadership in Baseball Widely Acclaimed

Little did Geoge W. Rulon daydream when he was minimally paid as the public address announcer for the old Fargo-Moorhead Twins of the Northern League that his lifetime devotion to youth someday would net him a national directorship and also a unique position among baseball’s great heroes.

A native of Jamestown, ND, Rulon moved to Fargo with his family when he was in grade school. In his early teens, he played American Legion baseball with Fargo teams, and 25 years later became the national director of that pioneer youth baseball program. He retired another 25 years later. Among those attending his farewell banquet in Indianapolis were representatives of the National League, American League, American Association and Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Each one presented him with a lifetime pass — a unique honor: George Rulon is the only person outside of professional baseball to be given such recognition.

Then-National Commander Dale Renaud announced during a retirement brunch at the ’86 Legion World Series at Rapid City, SD, that The American Legion Player of the Year Award would be named to honor Rulon.

His tireless work in promoting American Legion baseball endeared him to countless thousands of youth baseball supporters in North Dakota and across the country. They felt a deep loss when he died Jan. 20, 1989, at age 67 during a winter trip to Florida.

Following his death, caused by heart attack, Rulon’s widow and two daughters established a memorial scholarship to students preparing for a baseball coaching career. Rulon admired those in the coaching profession and called them unsung heroes.

A love of sports came easy to George. He coordinated American Legion baseball on the national level over a quarter century. As the national director, he had contact with numerous prominent people in major league circles. That association helped many former Legion ballplayers advance to the big leagues. At the time of his death, about two million boys had enjoyed the thrill of playing Legion baseball.

Rulon interrupted his college education to enlist in the Army in 1943. He served in three European campaigns and was wounded twice. He earned the Purple Heart with Cluster, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Presidential Unit citation.

After discharge with the rank of first lieutenant, he returned to North Dakota State University, receiving a bachelor of arts and science degree in 1946. He was a recipient of the university’s Alumni Achievement Award in 1982.

Rulon loved to get as close as possible to baseball without actually participating.

He worked as a sports reporter at The Fargo Forum. From 1948 into 1954, he cranked up F-M Twins fans from inside the announcer’s cubicle at old Barnett Field. His pay was a buck a game. The pay was even less when he was the athletic officer for Fargo’s Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2.

Rulon’s American Legion career, which also included vocational rehabilitation, covered more than 40 years at the state and national levels. On July 1, 1946, he was named director of membership expansion and stabilization for the North Dakota American Legion, officed at state headquarters in Fargo. In February 1947, he was appointed department service officer and served over a decade in that position. In 1958, his leadership abilities gained him the position of director of membership and post activities at national headquarters in Indianapolis. Utilizing Rulon’s interest and expertise, national headquarters named him director of American Legion Baseball in 1961, a position he held more than 25 years until retiring in December 1986.

Truly, his Legion baseball work was a labor of love that spilled over to other nationwide baseball activities. In 1978, he served on the task force that helped establish the baseball program for the National Sports Festival, a pre-Olympic training program. He coordinated travel for six festivals and, in 1982, served as the national governing body coordinator for baseball at the sports festival held in Indianapolis.

He served on the board of directors of the US Baseball Federation, the National Council of Youth Sports Directors, the American Baseball Coaches Association, the Intercollegiate Baseball Writers Association and was on the baseball games committee of the US Olympic Committee.

Rulon was credited with being a key figure in getting baseball included in the Olympic Games. He was honored for being the travel coordinator and business manager of the first US baseball team in the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles.

Following that achievement, he was named the deputy baseball commissioner for the 1987 Pan-American Games in Indianapolis. It was with particular pride that Rulon supervised the Legion World Series held the first time in Fargo in 1983. At that tournament, he told the story behind his faithful “lucky old shoes,” a pair of elk skins discolored by grass stains, moisture and dirt. He joked that, with those shoes on, there had been only two rainouts over his long career. His record covered some 240 regional and World Series tournaments.

His every-day broad smile spread ear to ear is not hard to remember. It was there in full force when he was inducted into the North Dakota American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. Among other honorees that year was Roger Maris.

N.D. American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame

The North Dakota American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 1976 to recognize individuals who have contributed to the advancement of The American Legion baseball program in the state. The honor includes those who have participated in Legion baseball and have gone on to excel in the field of baseball or other endeavors. One or more have been inducted every year since 1976, except 1994. The induction of John P. (Jack) Williams, posthumously, of Fargo as the first member of the Hall of Fame was a highlight of the 1976 department convention at Bismarck.

Williams was adjutant of the North Dakota American Legion from 1919 to 1967, was a founder of the national Legion baseball program and was department athletic officer for the initial 1928 Legion baseball season in North Dakota.

He died in 1967. Pictured below holding the Hall of Fame plaque picturing Williams as the first inductee are, left, Cliff Nygard, chairman, department athletic committee, Bismarck, and George W. Rulon, assistant director of the national Americanism commission in charge of Legion baseball, national headquarters, Indianapolis, IN.

Dr. Cook Wins First Four State Legion Golf Titles

North Dakota’s first post-war American Legion golf tournament was held in conjunction with the 1948 department convention at Devils Lake. Conducted continuously since then during the annual department convention, Dr. Paul Cook of Valley City won the first four state Legion golf championships. He and Vernon Mason, also of Valley City who was runner-up in the ’48 tourney, represented North Dakota in The American Legion’s national amateur golf tournament played in mid-October that year during the Legion’s national convention at Miami, FL.

Begun as a 27-hole medal play tournament, it was changed several years later to 18-hole medal competition. In 1974, the 18-hole format was revised to declare two champions, one by actual score, known as the Scratch Champion, and the other decided by handicap using the Calloway Scoring System, termed the Handicap Champion. No person is eligible to win both titles in the same tournament. In 1987, the McLeHenney Fair Handicap System was substituted for the formerly used Calloway System of handicap scoring. Appropriate awards have been provided to the champions over the years.

Legion State Golf Champions

NameTownYear
Dr. Paul CookValley City1948
Dr. Paul CookValley City1949
Dr. Paul CookValley City1950
Dr. Paul CookValley City1951
James WeeFargo1952
Dr. Peter VandenoeverMinot1953
Jim SchroederGrand Forks1954
P. R. JaynesBismarck1955
Bob MartinsonFargo1956
Gordon WestlieMinot1957
Del BairdCooperstown1958
Norm WahlBismarck1959
P. R. JaynesBismarck1960
Don SlaytonFargo1961
Leonard HeringtonMinot AFB1962
Roger McKinnonBismarck1963
Blaise JohnsonJamestown1964
Roger McKinnonBismarck1965
Sgt. Mel Miller, USMCGrand Forks1966
Don NewbergerBottineau1967
Blaise JohnsonJamestown1968
Jim GrayStanley1969
James WeeFargo1970
Jim GrayStanley1971
Bob ZiroesBismarck1972
Dennis OlafsonCooperstown1973
Keith SandersFargo1974
Lloyd SawyerMinot1975
Kenneth TriggsMandan1976
Dennis OlafsonCooperstown1977
Ralph BrovoldNew England1978
Irvin “Bud” NollFargo1979
H.F. “Sparky” GierkeWatford City1980
Robert W. SmithFargo1981
Jim GrayStanley1982
Roger FryeNew Town1983
Co-Champs
Robert W. Smith
Daryl Pederson

Fargo
Williston
1984
H.F. “Sparky” GierkeWatford City1985
Dan LynchWilliston1986
Co-Champs
H.F. “Sparky” Gierke
Arnold Gilbertson
Daniel Rudnick
Watford City
Hillsboro
Drayton
1987
Daryl PedersonWilliston1988
Daryl PedersonWilliston1989
Kelly DakkenDrayton1990
H.F. “Sparky” GierkeWatford City1991
Gene CarewFargo1992
Daryl PedersonWilliston1993
Co-Champs
Daniel Rudnick
Daryl Pederson

Drayton
Williston
1994
H.F. “Sparky” GierkeWatford City1995
H.F. “Sparky” GierkeWatford City1996
Fabian ShoultsPark River1997
Rained Out1998
Dan LynchWilliston1999
Tony ProughMinot2000
H.F. “Sparky” GierkeWatford City2001

Handicap Champs

(Calloway Scoring System)

NameTownYear
Irvin “Bud” NollFargo1974
Chester ThompsonWoodworth1975
George RulonIndianapolis, IN1976
Co-Champs
Reid Stromberg
Don Coe
Elmo R. Olson
Michael Carroll

Grafton
Grand Forks
Finley
Minot
1977
Neal SmithFargo1978
Wes CummingsRoseglen1979
Herbert BautzAmidon1980
Co-Champs
Ed Herman
Daniel Rudnick

Belcourt
Drayton
1981
Jene HasbyNew Town1982
Algeo NorbergValley City1983
Chester LockremRiverdale1984
Roland JohnsonHannaford1985
Brad BekkedahlWilliston1986

(McLeHenney Fair Handicap System)

NameTownYear
David LiuskaWing1987
Roland JohnsonHannaford1988
Daniel RudnickDrayton1989
Thomas P. NoonanFargo1990
Jim SeptonRhame1991
Erling RolfsonNew Rockford1992
Jim OlsonMinot1993
Brad BekkedahlBismarck1994

4-Person Scramble Championship Teams

TeamYear
Roman Fettig, Donna Fettig, Myron Sortland and Dirk Olson, all of Crosby                                                                               2002
Dave Hillleren, Gordon Hilleren, Ken Hasby and Jerome Jarski, all of New  Town     2003
Fabian Shoults, Elsie Shoults, Diane Schmitz and Leon Schmitz, all of Park River         2004
Donna Fettig, Roman Fettig, Neil Lindsay and Dirk Olson, all of Crosby2005     
 Tony Prough, Jim Clifford, Mike Nilson, all of Minot, and Nate Tangedal, Williston2006
The Peterson Family, all Post 5 members at Beach: Chuck Peterson, Glendive,  MT; Matt Peterson, Brooklyn Park, MN; Kelly Peterson, San Diego, CA, and Earl Peterson, Bozeman, MT2007
H.F. “Sparky” Gierke, Watford City; Curt Twete and Glen Phillips, both of McVille2008
2009–Earl Peterson, Bozeman, MT; Bruce Holtan and Steve Blazek, both of Fargo, and Corey Burgum, Mandan2009     
Bruce Holtan, Fargo; Earl Peterson, Bozeman, MT; Corey Burgum, Mandan and Frank Matusik, Chicago, IL2010
Bruce Holtan, Steve Blazek and Tony Duval, all of Fargo, and Corey Burgum, Mandan2011       
Bruce Holtan, Steve Blazek and Tony Duval, all of Fargo, and Corey Burgum, Mandan2012
Bruce Holtan, Steve Blazek, Tony Duvall, all of Fargo, and Tim Johnson, Moorhead, MN2013
Bill Lipetzky and James Johnson, both of   Kensal.  This winning team played  two members short, who did not show to compete2014
No competition, insufficient registrants.2015
No competition2016
No competition2017
No competition2018—

Legion Basketball Program Had Good Participation After WW II

World War II GIs returning to their homes following their tour of duty were quickly recruited to join The American Legion in their home communities. Some of them joined while on active duty, awaiting discharge. Many of these returning veterans had been involved in Legion baseball before their military service, so they were familiar with the North Dakota American Legion’s athletic program.

At the state convention at Bismarck in 1946, a resolution was passed authorizing the organization of a Legion basketball program. Earl Rundle of New England was named state chairman for the 1946-4 7 season. With much enthusiasm from the spirited young GIs, leagues were formed in all 10 districts and a state tournament was planned with the winner from each district advancing to the state meet. At its zenith, the program involved more than 1,000 players.

Rolette Legion Hosts Bonspiel

Dethman-Armstrong Post 194 of The American Legion hosted the First Annual North Dakota State American Legion Bonspiel at the Rolette Curling Club Jan. 27-28, 1968. Rolette Legionnaires continued their sponsorship of the bonspiel into the 1970s.

Rules for the league stated a post could sponsor more than one team, but each team was required to have a Legion member as manager but the coach was not required to be a Legionnaire. The first state tournament for American Legion basketball was scheduled at Jamestown, ND. The 1947 championship was won by the host team, Jamestown.

Valley City honed in on Minot to take top honors with a 41-36 victory the next year. The defending championship squad, Jamestown, was defeated in the first round of play. Neither Valley City nor runner-up Minot’s team was able to attend the national tournament that year, so North Dakota was not represented in 1948 national-level competition.

Effective for the 1948-49 season, the basketball program was reorganized to allow non-Legionnaires to take part in the program. With this rule change, the pool of players increased significantly.

Casselton sponsored the championship team that year as a representative of the First district. Athletic Committee Chairman James E. McKenna of Jamestown reported that the new change in eligibility for players produced many more teams in competition.

In the 1949-50 season, only one district had a district tournament with fewer than six teams. The other nine districts had from six to fourteen teams for a grand total of 87 competing for the right to take part in the state tournament. Casselton repeated as slate champs for the ’50 title.

The 1950-51 season was challenging weather-wise, McKenna’s records show. One blizzard after another kept roads completely blocked in many areas of the state. Grand Forks defeated Beach in the finals at the state tournament to win the ’51 championship.

According to available records, Casselton’s twice state champions represented North Dakota at these national level tourneys: at Beaver Falls, PA, March 30-April 2, 1949, with victories over the Georgia and Alabama entries before losing in the quarter finals to the Kansas team, and at McPherson, KS, March 29-April 1, 1950, winning its opener over the Idaho quintet before being eliminated.

All state basketball tournaments were held at Jamestown except in 1950, when it was held at Casselton. After five years of spirited competition at post, dis1rict and state levels, age apparently slowed the guys down as well as many had entered college or had accepted positions of employment which removed them from participation, so basketball was discontinued as an American Legion program. In many areas, independent teams sprang up and filled the niche for those who still had a desire to play basketball.

State Legion Basketball Champs

TownYear
Jamestown1947
Valley City1948
Casselton1949
Casselton1950
Grand Forks1951

Bismarck Legionnaires Sweep Events at Initial ’49 State Bowling Tourney

Bowling joined the sports slate for North Dakota Legionnaires when the department athletic committee announced rules for the first annual state tournament, which was held in 1949 at Jamestown on the last weekend of March and the first weekend of April.

The initial tourney consisted of competition in five-man team, doubles, singles, and all-events categories on a scratch basis.

To attract a wider base of statewide Legion bowlers, the department athletic committee switched it to a handicap tournament in 1950. Ten years later, the team event was changed from five to four-man teams.

Effective for 1969, the tournament was split into East and West divisions. This change reduced the travel distance for many Legion bowlers and resulted in increased participation. Each tourney pays a prize list. A six-game roll-off is held later, pitting the titlists of each corresponding event in the division tourneys to determine winners of the state championship trophy awards. A nominal amount is apportioned from the entry fees paid into the East and West division tournaments to provide expense money for the winners in appearing at the roll-off site.

The two-division competition was further expanded in 1988 into a regional four-site concept. The regional plan of holding tourneys in the NE, SE, NW and SW sectors of the state has been followed to date. The entry fee apportionment plan was continued in effect for the six-game roll-off among the regional titlists. The central location of New Rockford’s Wonder Lanes has been the roll-off site since 1988, with Past Department Vice-Commander Jim Johnson ably serving as tournament manager.

The four-site plan for holding regional tournaments in the NE, SE, NW and SW sectors of the state, followed by a six-game roll-off among the regional titlists, was continued in 1995 and for nearly a decade in determining state Legion handicap bowling championships.

With one exception, Wonder Lanes at New Rockford has accommodated the roll-offs for the regional winners competing in two three-game blocks for the four-man team, doubles, singles and all-events state championship trophy awards. That exception, due to a conflict, was for the 1996 roll-off, which was held at Club Carrington at Carrington.

The Department Athletic Committee announced a change in the 1995 rules to allow American Legion Auxiliary members to participate in tournament play. In the 1996 tourney, the first women to bowl in the state roll-off were Sue Nygaard of Wildrose and Sandy Drevecky of Adams.

Beginning in 2004, the tournament was changed to two regional–east and west–locations. The athletic committee hoped it would make a difference in the declining participation.

Due to great difficulty in finding a bowling site in the western part of the state that can host the tournament, northeastern and southeastern locations were chosen for the 2011 regional tourneys.

Since 2012, the tournament has been shifted to a single tourney site at centrally-located Wonder Lanes in New Rockford. Bowlers with the highest three-game scores, including handicap, are declared the state champions in the team, doubles and singles events, and the person who registers the highest nine-game total pin-count in those three series becomes the all-events champ. This format negated the need for a roll-off under the previous plan for multiple regional tournaments.  

In 2015, after 66 consecutive years of American Legion bowling competition, the state Legion bowling tournament was terminated.

Annual state Legion bowling champions in the various categories are listed in the following columns.

5-man Team – Scratch

TeamScoreYear
Bismarck Legionnaires2,8371949

5-man Team – Handicap

Team NameTownScoreYear
Legion Post 14Jamestown2,8401950
Legion Team #2 Valley City2,7851951
Green LightJamestown2,8821952
Covered WagonBismarck2,8141953
LegionnairesBismarck2,9951954
Welk’s LegionBismarck2,8311955
Legion Post #26Minot2,8691956
Unknown1957
Legion Team #2Mandan2,9451958
Brass RailJamestown3,0901959

4-man Team – Handicap

Team NameTownScoreYear
American LegionPark River2,3071960
Towner Legion Team # 1Towner2,5711961
Larimore Legion Team #2Larimore2,4651962
Crook LanesRugby2,4271963
Crook LanesRugby2,5481964
Bailey’s LegionnairesRugby2,4531965
Riverdale Legion Post #281Riverdale2,4561966
Turtle Lake – MaxwellTurtle Lake – Maxwell2,4061967
Park River Legion Team #4Park River2,5311968

Roll-Off Team Champs – 6 games

Legion Post/Town NameScoreYear
Washburn Legion4,6971969
Lankin Legion4,7311970
Lansford Legion4,7571971
Grand Forks Legion4,7321972
Mandan Legion Team #34,6091973
Bismarck American Legion Retired Servicemen ‘s Team 4,7981974
Bowbells Legion Team #2 4,7051975
Mandan Legion Team #2 4,7951976
Grafton Legion Team #24,5881977
Mandan Legion Team #1 4,8411978
Stanley Legion5,0631979
Cando Legion4,8021980
New Rockford Legion Team #3 4,8251981
urtle Lake Region Team #14,8171982
Flasher Legion Team #24,7401983
Fairmount Legion4,6891984
Tolna Legion4,7001985
Fairmount Legion4, 7011986
New Rockford-Fessenden Legion Team4,5491987
Flasher Team #24,5971988
Stanley Legion Team #24,7131989
Cavalier Legion4,6251990
Flasher Legion4,7731991
Stanley Legion4,7191992
Fairmount Legion5,0221993
Adams Legion5,0781994

Doubles – Scratch

NameTownScoreYear
J. Zahn & D. Schneider
tie
E. Eckroth & O. Elmquist
Bismarck

Dickinson
11281949

Doubles – Handicap

NamesTownScoreYear
E. Lee & B. EricksonValley City12361950
J. Dwyer & E. GaltFargo12131951
J. Bergland & M. Van RayValley City12401952
A. Borner & L. DahlgrenBismarck11651953
1954– J. Zahn & D. SchneiderBismarck11721954
1955– E. Mussy & L. Floth
tie
B. Spidahl & P. Bjugstad
Riverdale

Jamestown
12291955
J. Lei phon & E. SengerDevils Lake12821956
Unknown1957
D. Kepner & B. FreitagHarvey12421958
D. Zimmerman & J. KrugerJamestown12971959
J. Morgan & V. JohnsonGrafton12081960
C. McCollough & F. WeinmannHarvey12801961
A. Watne & B. GolkowskiEnderlin12811962
A. Watne & B. GolkowskiEnderlin13001963
R. Smith & V. UseldingerFargo13181964
D. Moum & J. Bailey, BismarckRugby13431965
R. Bednarz & R. EckrenRugby13111966
H. Baumgartner & J. SchneiderBismarck12281967
O. Stiles & D. PhillipsFairmount13421968

Roll-Off Doubles Champs – 6 games

NamesTownScoreYear
M. Larson & V. PetersonTioga23431969
R. Docktor & S. ReiswigMcClusky23691970
H. Mueller & H. DocktorGackle23351971
O. Stiles & H. WaiteFairmount24431972
L. Peterson & R. AndersonMcVille23471973
H. Odegard & G. KlimekJamestown25061974
M. Leidholm & A. PedersonRiverdale23381975
L. Miller & O. DellCarrington23471976
R. Thoreson & D. NelsonNorthwood
Larimore
23681977
Radke & L. HegerUnderwood24371978
D. Davis & C. BartzParshall24081979
L. Peterson & W. StrombergHope23701980
G. Teubner & O. HandyCando23441981
A. Moe & L. WashburnNew Town22991982
R. Cady & D. GietzenMinot23911983
W. Lucht & B. SchmittNapoleon22511984
L. Taylor & D. BardenCenter23531985
M. Myers & R. WeberValley City22951986
G. Zarak & J. CutlerBelfield22751987
A. Kraft-D & DeichertFlasher23801988
C. Rossow & J. ZinsFlasher25011989
E. Torpen & J. StoldorfBowbells22571990
E. Goodbird & B. BellNew Town24541991
H. Utecht & B. LockwoodValley City23521992
D. Hook & R. JohnsonHannaford 26221993
B. Bell & K. PriceNew Town25861994

Singles – Scratch

NameTownScoreYear
J. ZahnBismarck6031949

Singles – Handicap

NameTownScoreYear
N. SoulisJamestown6711950
G. HeidtMandan.6171951
E. PetersonJamestown6411952
J. Grinstiner
tie   
A. Kredler   
Bismarck

Mandan
6221953
C. HalvorsonNorthwood6381954
R. AxtmanDevils Lake6521955
M. Van RayValley City6671956
Unknown1957
G. SorensonBismarck6401958
D. ZimmermanJamestown6691959
T. AllmarasNew Rockford6721960
J. JohnsonNew Rockford6631961
H. DahlMaddock6851962
Fr. KalenbergRugby7161963
L. OrserBismarck6791964
V. HalvorsonPark River6531965
W. PoykkoGackle6741966
D. StenbergMaddock6661967
I. RittenbackMcClusky6891968

Roll-Off Singles Champs – 6 games

NameTownScoreYear
W. PykkoGackle12981969
H. ReiterBeach11241970
I. StrandeLarimore11871971
B. KeohaBeach12651972
A. PedersonRiverdale11751973
R. TkachMcClusky12031974
H. EwertDrake11441975
E. Frederick
tie
T. Ciak,
Ellendale

Larimore
12841976
C. WeltzParshall12011977
F. GoodmanFinley11621978
S. ReiswigMcClusky12021979
J. LudwigNew Rockford11681980
J. EnstadMcVille11771981
R. AndersonMcVille12581982
S. CebulaWimbledon12171983
V. KromLangdon11241984
V. GoumeauBelcourt11761985
F. LeonhardBismarck11811986
H. WeningerNew Town11201987
H. KrauseGackle11511988
A. StaglNew England11621989
T. KvislenFinley11681990
H. JohnsonParshall12141991
L. OdneyFinley12011992
D. SamsonCavalier12411993
T. JohnsonHope12481994

All Events – Scratch

NameTownScoreYear
J. ZahnBismarck17661949

All Events – Handicap

NameTownScoreYear
N. SoulisJamestown19421950
Unknown1951
L. DoernerBismarck19161952
H. IsaakBismarck17551953
D. SchneiderBismarck17971954
B. SpidahlJamestown18861955
L. PersonsValley City18941956
Unknown1957
G. SorensonBismarck18631958
D. ZimmermanJamestown18461959
G. BurnsGrafton18301960
F. Fronk, Jr.Harvey17261961
B. GolkowskiEnderlin19011962
J. EntringerBismarck17601963
N. SoulisJamestown18741964
J. BaileyRugby17491965
W. ShelleyCando19081966
H. BaumgartnerBismarck18731967
M. MitzelFargo18121968

Roll-Off All-Events Champs – 6 games

NameTownScoreYear
V. PetersonTioga12361969
C. BertschHarvey11361970
R. HauschulzRock Lake12111971
H. EwertDrake12031972
E. AndersonMinot13301973
B. JandBeach12241974
A. KramerLarimore11641975
V. HalvorsonPark River11901976
N. NielsenBowbells11841977
D. AberleMandan12491978
G. MillerParshall12791979
J. PetersonLarimore11981980
J. EnstadMcVille11771981
T. SauberStanley11861982
W. WhiteMinot12161983
T. SauberStanley12101984
J. BurgadNapoleon12581985
V. SmeldenHillsboro11961986
A. SafratowichBelfield11761987
D. KramerElgin11211988
C. RossowFlasher12701989
C. RossowFlasher11631990
D. FreundCando12481991
B. BellMandaree11941992
L. LauerMcClusky12841993
D. ReedEllendale12761994

Bowling Tourney Held at 1960 Williston Convention

In conjunction with the 1960 department convention at Williston, a six-game singles handicap bowling tournament was scheduled. Among the 33 entries, Bob Freitag of Harvey was victor with an actual of 1,134 pins plus handicap of 174 for the 1,308 championship.

Archery Tournaments Held at State Legion Conventions in Early ’60s

The first American Legion Convention Archery tournament in 1960 and the last meet for Legion bowmen in 1965 were both held at Williston. Robert Torgerson was the high Legion archer at the ’60 meet, and Loren Fender won the traveling trophy in 1965. Both resided at Williston. Roy Hulm, Jr., of Bismarck captured the title twice, in 1961 when the convention was held at Fargo and again during the ’63 convention at Bismarck.

Roland Storud, Jr., of Minot won the 1962 championship during the Legion convention meet that year in the Magic City. There was no tourney in 1964.

Law and Order: Our Nation’s Front-line Defense

Law and order are central points in the Preamble to The American Legion Constitution, and the North Dakota department has continually sought to preserve the rights of peaceful citizens and to reduce criminal activities, beginning at the hometown level. National Commander John E. Davis of North Dakota set an agenda in late 1966 for state and local Legion organizations to emphasize every citizen’s obligation to stem a spreading breakdown of respect for law and order. He called for strengthening the appreciation of and respect for law and order for duly constituted law enforcement agencies whom he described as “America’s front-line defenders in the battle against anarchy here at home.”

All Legion posts were asked to help rekindle the flame of responsible citizenship by being role models in recognizing and strengthening positive public attitudes toward law enforcement officers. Positive answers were needed to counter the violent and sometimes lawless expressions and actions by irresponsible and dissident elements in our society.

Rioting and flag burning in the summer of 1967 and spring of 1968 evidenced shameful social and national degradation.

Looting, malicious destruction, injuries and deaths almost became daily news fare. Numerous college campuses were rocked by burning and bombs set off by militants wanting confrontation with the establishment represented by police called in to maintain law and order.

In a May 1967 letter to department law and order committees, Commander Davis gave maximum flexibility and discretion to the manner in which departments and posts chose to implement their law and order programs. The North Dakota department maintained law and order committees into 1973, when the program went into the national security portfolio, where it continues today.

Beginning with the 1976 winter conference and continuing for two years more, the North Dakota Legion presented a certificate of commendation to the State Highway Patrol Officer of the Year. The 1975 award went to Rodger Vold of Bottineau; the 1976 certificate went to Delno Sand of Grand Forks, and the 1977 winner was Richard Bjornson of Williston.

The North Dakota department presented its first two posthumous law enforcement commendations at the 1984 winter conference in Mandan. The declarations of support went posthumously to US Marshal Kenneth E. Muir of Fargo and to Deputy US Marshal Robert S. Cheshire of Bismarck. The two officers lost their lives in the line of duty in a shootout Feb. 13, 1983, at Medina, ND. The commendations were presented by Department Commander H. F. “Sparky” Gierke, then of Bismarck, to the widows: Lois Muir and Lynn Cheshire.

Another posthumous law enforcement commendation was presented at the 1994 winter conference at Dickinson to Robert and Darcie Pascal of Williston, the parents of Benson County Deputy Sheriff Valence Pascal, who was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 27, 1993. The presentation was made by Department Commander Don Herrly of Hebron.

Individually, by post and by state officials, the North Dakota Legion has encouraged and supported the display of the Flag of the United States as a symbol of pride and respect. This “showing of the colors” has been a sign of solidarity for generations, and especially since the late 1960s when police, fire and other law enforcement officers proudly began wearing US Flag shoulder patches and lapel pins.

President Richard Nixon referred to this form of demonstration “as an indication of respect for the flag itself and as a reminder that our flag symbolizes the American freedoms which peace officers of our country have dedicated their lives and their energies to preserve.”

North Dakota American Legion Ray Atol Law Enforcement Officer of the Year

In the fall of 1997, the Department Executive Committee voted to name the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award in honor of Past Department Commander Ray Atol, who died in September of that year. Atol had served on the Williston Police Force where he rose to the position of chief of police, a position he held for 27 years.

Award nominees must be a living, active, full-time law enforcement officer affiliated with a law enforcement agency in North Dakota. A posthumous award is allowable only if the nominee’s death occurred within the timeframe for which the award is being presented. American Legion membership is not required.

The Department Executive Committee makes its selection of the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year from the information on the nomination form and supporting documentary attachments submitted by participating posts. The winner is presented a plaque at the department convention in June. That nomination is submitted to national American Legion channels and is considered for national-level Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.

North Dakota winners of this award since 1997 are:

NamePosition/PlaceYear
Kenneth OwensSergeant, Williston Police Dept.1997
Ronald RankinPatrolman, Watford City Police Dept.1999
Kenneth G. HalvorsonMountrail County Sheriff, Stanley2000
Michael J. FergusonSergeant, Grand Forks Police Dept.2001
Derik ZimmelMaster Police Officer, Grand Forks Police Dept.2006
Stewart StenbergCaptain, Dickinson Police Dept.2007
Travis StefonowiczTraining Specialist, Fargo Police Dept.2008
Stacy DawkinsChild Safety Officer, West Fargo Police Dept2010
Kelly JankeNelson County Sheriff, Michigan2011
Rick FukaCorporal, Grand Forks Police Dept.2012
Jennifer GowanOfficer, Grand Forks Police Dept.2013
Mark NelsonChief of Police, Grand Forks Police Dept.2014
Ashley JohnsonStaff Sergeant, Minot Air Force Base2015
Brent Kimbell Master Sergeant,
Flight Chief for Grand Forks AFB
2016
Matthew KonieckiTechnical Sergeant, Cavalier Air Force Station2018
2019

Firefighter of the Year

The Department Executive Committee established the Firefighter of the Year award in the fall of 1997.

The nominee must be a living, active, full-time firefighter affiliated with a fire department in North Dakota. A posthumous award is allowable only if the nominee’s death occurred within the timeframe in which the award is being presented. American Legion membership is not required. The DEC selects the Firefighter of the Year from the information stated on the nomination form and supporting documentary attachments submitted timely by participating posts.

The winner is presented a plaque at the State Firemen’s Association Convention in June. That nomination is submitted to national American Legion channels and is considered for national-level Firefighter of the Year award.

The North Dakota winners of this award since 1997 are listed below:

NamePosition & DepartmentYear
Harold HolienOver 50 Years of Service, Cando Fire Dept.1997
Gary BradenChief, Beach Volunteer Fire Dept.1999
TSgt Richard A. Lien, JrAssistant Fire Chief, Grand Forks AFB2000
David J. RaburnVolunteer Firefighter, Burlington Fire Dept2002
Lon ZellmerChief, Aneta Fire Dept.2005
Glen LueckInstructor, Lidgerwood Fire Dept.2006
Ed StickaAssistant Chief, Dickinson Fire Dept.2007
Harold LarsonChief, Arnegard Fire Dept.2009
Rory JorgensonVolunteer Captain, West Fargo Fire Dept.2010
Larry CallahanAssistant Fire Chief, Dickinson Fire Dept.2011
T/Sgt Byron G. BallGrand Forks AFB Fire Dept.2012
MSgt Angus AdolphoAssistant Chief of Standards, Grand Forks AFB Fire Dept.2013
Joshua A. ThompsonDriver/Operator, Grand Forks AFB Fire Dept.2014
Michael WillprechtFireman, Forman Rural Fire District2015
Curtis FreemanFireman, Dickinson Volunteer Fire Dept.2016
TSgt Stanley LynnEmergency Services Flight, Grand Forks AFB Fire Dept.2017
?????????2018
Matthew CowdenDriver/Operator, Grand Forks AFB Fire Dept.2019

Dedication Day Salutes Freedom’s Heroes

As construction of the World War II Monument was nearing completion, excitement grew increasingly nationwide and inspired many World War II veterans to make plans for attending the dedication of the memorial.

The Department Executive Committee approved the sponsorship of three delegates to represent the North Dakota American Legion at dedication events and invited interested World War II veterans to make application. Ralph Bladow of Hankinson, Walter Flemmer of Turtle Lake and James Karas of Pembina were selected as delegates from among six applicants, and Myron Bjelverud of Galesburg was chosen as an alternate.

Earlier, each Legion department was authorized to select a WWII Legionnaire to attend the dedication as a call-in by the national organization. Harold Bruschwein of Wahpeton was named that representative. An Army veteran who was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, Bruschwein subsequently served in the Battle for Guadalcanal.

North Dakota’s congressional delegation also announced plans to welcome North Dakota World War II vets to Washington for the dedication. Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy jointly hosted a reception honoring approximately 75 home-state WWII vets and their escorts on the opening afternoon of the three-day celebration.

At least 150,000 veterans and families of what former NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation” gathered on the National Mall May 29 to witness the dedication of the World War II Memorial.

“What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war,” national chairman and former senator Bob Dole said.  “Rather it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys that inspires Americans of every generation to lay down their lives for people they’ll never meet.”  A long-awaited tribute, American Legion National Commander John Brieden declared, “Our GIs gave everything they had and asked for nothing in return.”

The American Legion family sponsored a hospitality tent at the dedication. The Legion also honored another important legacy of America’s World War II veterans: their children. Hundreds had strolled around the Tidal Basin on May 28 in a candlelight walk for the Children’s Miracle Network, a national organization and Legion partner that raises money for children’s hospitals. Similar events occurred in communities across this country to raise money for local CMN hospitals while honoring hometown World War II veterans.

Proudly sponsored by the North Dakota American Legion, the State Band has the distinction of participating in dedicatory events of all three major memorials in 22 years, honoring members of the United States military who served in those armed conflicts. Preceding the band’s appearance at the World War II Veterans Memorial dedication were the dedications of the Korean War Veterans Memorial on July 27, 1995, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Nov. 13, 1982, all at Washington, DC. Each trip required four days to enable the musicians to perform at various scheduled activities.

Field of Stars
Atlantic Pavillion

The Greatest Generation Returns to Their Memorial; WDAY Honor Flights

During the summer of 2006 a wave of patriotism was sweeping America. On the crest of that wave was a desire to send World War II veterans to visit their monument in Washington, DC.

Tracy Briggs, former news anchor at WDAY TV and talk show host on WDAY AM, saw this wave and was convinced she should meet with local veteran groups and send their World War II veterans to view their Memorial. She had watched a television show about the Honor Flight program in North Carolina.

The first meeting was in the basement of the Cass County Courthouse Annex in November 2006. In attendance were Tracy Briggs and Carol Anhorn of WDAY; Terry Richardson, commander of United Patriot Bodies; Keith Kerbaugh of Fargo American Legion Post #2; Jim Brent and Mike Vandrovic of Cass County Veterans Services.

The purpose of this meeting was to decide whether to move forward on this project. The recommendation to proceed passed unanimously and a meeting in January was scheduled to take the next step and to seek applications. This fledgling committee agreed that this was a wave that they should ride, and ride they did. The veterans would travel totally free and the escorts would be charged $750.

At the January meeting  the biggest question was not if enough money could be raised. It was, are there enough World War II veterans alive and able to make the trip? The group developed the questionnaire and the criteria needed to travel. The group met a few weeks later and the number of applications received was overwhelming.

Now the questions became how do we take this many veterans to Washington, DC, and how can we raise that much money? If the same size plane was used that was scheduled for the May trip, it would take about six trips. If we used a larger plane, like a 747, could we afford it? Applications were advertised to be open until May. Nobody knew how many more would come in, but the committee decided not to change any of the deadlines.

The first charter on May 3-5 of 2007 carried 103 veterans from all four Services, 60 escorts and 15 staff. The trip included a tour to the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, other War Memorials, the Smithsonian Institute and a Capitol Hill reception.

Upon returning the question remained: What do we do with the other 700 veterans who have applied to attend? A more stringent screening process was put in place, but most of the vets still were in good enough shape to make the trip. It was very difficult to tell a vet that he or she was not physically or medically able to participate. Consequently, two more trips were scheduled for September and November of 2007 and Boeing 747’s that seat 430 passengers would be used. At that time a 747 had never landed at Fargo’s Hector International Airport.

Trips two and three were overwhelmingly successful and still there were veterans wanting to attend. So a fourth charter was planned for May of 2008. In the end 800 veterans went on the trips with 390 escorts, all supported by hundreds of volunteers.  There were still veterans on the list when the committee terminated the project.   Bismarck and Grand Forks were starting to organize Honor Flights, and the remaining vets were referred to these two cities or put on the national database.

The sum of $742,000 was raised in money and $65,000 in kind donations through personal and corporate contributions and dozens of fundraisers. Fundraisers included a telethon, Adopt A Vet program, school fundraisers and a car raffle. Josh Duhamel and Jerry Van Dorn, North Dakota natives and Hollywood celebrities, lent their star power.

All of the trips included a visit to the World War II Memorial as well as to the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Arlington  National Cemetery, Washington Monument, Iwo Jima Memorial and a banquet. A highlight during one visit to the World War II Memorial was the presence of Senator Bob Dole and General Colin Powell.

The banquets were very special. Great care was taken to honor the sacrifices that veterans made during World War II through the ceremonies, speeches and music. Banquet speakers included Sam Donaldson and Senator Daniel Inowe.

Each veteran was treated with honor and dignity. Everyone understood the sacrifices made by the living and the dead. It was recognized that the real heroes were those who did not come home. Each vet received various souvenirs. They included pictures of the trip, a book of Personal Memories of the World War II Years and favors like water and snacks.

The highlight of each trip was the welcome home greeting and celebration at the Fargo Airport. None of the vets were welcomed when they returned home after World War II. This was special and many of them were overcome with emotion as they walked with honor through a line of sign- holding, cheering and clapping admirers while the band played patriotic songs.

The final core committee consisted of Tracy Briggs, and Carol Anhorn of WDAY; Terry Richardson, commander of United Patriot Bodies; Keith Kerbaugh and Virgil Estenson of the Fargo American Legion Post #2; Ken Bertrand of Clay County Veterans Services; Jim Brent of Cass County Veterans Services; Jan Jorgensen of the AMVETS; Dale Ronning of the VFW; Greg Seurer of the DAV, Lance Akers of the Fargo Jaycees; Tod Ganje of Carlson Wagonlit Travel; Dave Rice of Tri-State Veterans; Shawn Ferguson of Senator Kent Conrad’s office; and Karen Engelter of Senator Byron Dorgan’s office.

The Committee, along with the local Veteran’s groups, received many expressions of appreciation from the community and the World War II vets and their families. Briggs also received many awards including the “Fargo Forum’s Person of the Year!” In the end it was said, “This was a job well done!”

Roughrider Honor Flight Takes 517 WWII Vets to DC

Photo courtesy of LPT Images
Photo courtesy of LPT Images

In the fall of 2008, a group of Bismarck people gathered around a kitchen table to learn about Honor Flight and discuss the possibility of taking a group of World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the WWII Memorial. Fargo and Grand Forks Honor Flight organizations had already taken several groups, but it was important to included WWII vets from the western part of the state.

The group agreed to take one trip, which would include up to 100 veterans, along with medical staff, helpers, ne3ws media and committee members. They weren’t sure they could generate 100 applicants but agreed to take everyone who applied. The projected departure debate was the following April if they could raise he estimated $135,000 needed for a chartered airplane, hotel rooms, food, buses, trams at Arlington National Cemetery and other expenses. The veterans were to pay for nothing. The group filed with the Secretary of State as a non-profit organization called Roughrider Honor Flight to honor the character of the WWII vets who were tough like Teddy Roosevelt. The group opened a bank account, joined the National Honor Flight program, generated forms, wrote letters and press releases and did anything necessary to make the trip possible. There was no turning back.

The committee enlisted help from a long list of volunteers. Each veteran had the option of taking a family member or friend along as an escort. Some grandfathers brought a granddaughter. Family members who lived in the DC area met with the veterans for the tours and the banquet.

Needed most were money and applicants, and both came more easily than the committee imagined. Lucky to have flourishing oil and energy companies, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, service clubs and a population of grateful Americans at its disposal, the committee ended its fifth and final trip by raising more than 1 million dollars, providing what 517 men who served the country in WWII called “the trip of a lifetime.” Donations came from across the region, some as small as an anonymous five-dollar bill. The committee held golf tournaments and pancake breakfasts and worked tirelessly sending out mailings and contacting potential sponsors. The WWII vets and their families were always in attendance to support those efforts.

Critical to success and ability to take applications from medically challenged elderly veterans was a medical crew. Virginia Krauschaar, a National Guard nurse and Veterans Administration nurse, volunteered to lead the medical team and accompany each trip. She reviewed all applications and made recommendations for any special medical needs of the travelers. Important to the comfort of the vets was the availability of more than 70 wheelchairs from hospitals and nursing homes for each of the five trips. They were tagged, loaded and unloaded at every stop. Upon return to Bismarck they were counted, fixed and returned to the generous institutions that had loaned them to Roughrider Honor Flight, which paid for any chairs that were broken or uncounted for. Most veterans were reluctant to use a wheelchair, but when they grew tired from the amount of necessary walking to the memorials they would accept a ride from the helpers who were pushing empty chairs.

Volunteer photographer Layn Mudder accompanied all five trips and made memories available to the veterans through printed photos as well as on the Roughrider Honor Flight website. One of the most appreciated memories for each veteran was a 6 x 18-inch group photo taken at the WWII Memorial. A visitor to any of the participating veterans would most likely encounter that photo framed and displayed close to his or her easy chair.

Stanley Wright, a Legionnaire and former legislator from Stanley, brought his slide trombone on the first trip and played it when the group was delayed on the tarmac in Washington. He also performed “The Star Spangled Banner and at the end of the banquet he played “Taps,” leaving nary a dry eye in the room.

On the second trip, Adrian Dokken from Towner produced a harmonica, which he played on the bus and in the plane. At the banquet he provided three verses of “America the Beautiful without missing a note.

Each trip was a mere 20 hours long, departing on Friday morning and returning home Saturday evening. When deplaning in Bismarck and entering the terminal, the veterans were welcomed home by a patriotic big-band along with hundreds of cheering family members, friends and people from the community. That meant a lot to the veterans because most had never had a welcome home from the war. Frank Reisenauer, who served in the Philippines, said that after the war ended he hitchhiked home to Belfield from Fargo in a snowstorm and arrived in the dark of night. At 5 a.m. his mother woke him up to do chores—as if he had never been gone.

During one trip, the group was stopped upon entering Arlington National Cemetery by an interpreter wondering whether any of the veterans had helped to liberate Italy during WWII. Several veterans stepped forward and were kissed and hugged, thanked in Italian by a group consisting of people young and old. They spoke in their language about how the Americans had given them their freedom and related to the veterans how much that meant to them. School children reached out to touch the elderly American veterans and thanked them for their service, many with tears in their eyes. At the WWII Memorial they were openly thanked by other visitors, many from foreign countries.

The fifth Honor Flight plane was loaded in May 2011 with 126 WWII vets, 57 escorts, five media members, five medical personnel and 23 helpers. Participants included a few Montanans and every seat was occupied.

(Information submitted by Tara Holt. Roughrider Honor Flight committee members were: Holt, Myron Lepp, Douglas Prchal, Keven Kramer, Clare Carlson, Elizabeth Bouley, Jon Long, Tony Welder, Alan Butts, Sarah Mudder, Virginia Krauschaar and Jim Avard.)