Leadership And Service

Department Adjutants

Vern Useldinger

The Department of ND mourns the loss of Past Department Adjutant and Honorary Past Department Commander Vern Useldinger. Vern passed away on Monday, June, 24, 2019. Vern was dedicated to serving veterans and was known as “Mr. American Legion”. He began his 43 year career on the North Dakota American Legion State Headquarters staff, serving the latter 24 years as Department Adjutant prior to his retirement in 1991. In appreciation for his devoted service to the North Dakota American Legion, Vern was elected Honorary Past Department Commander at the 1981 Department Convention in Bismarck, ND. He received the North Dakota’s Department Commander Award in 1991 and the Public Relations Award in 1993. Vern served two years (1976-1978) as President of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council. Vern was a 71 consecutive year Go-Getter. The Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 in Fargo awarded Vern an Honorary Gold Life Membership. Vern was also recognized and well respected in the National American Legion circles for his length of service, his meticulous attention for detail and his knowledge of all the facets of the American Legion activities. Vern was a man to go to for the answers, whatever the question may be.  Vern enlisted in the Navy, entering active duty after graduation. He served on an aircraft carrier at the Battle of Okinawa, in the invasion of Borneo, and in Japanese waters when WWII ended. Called back to duty in 1950 during the Korean War, he served on an aviation supply ship operating along Korean coastal areas in 1951. Throughout Vern and Barb’s 62 years of happy marriage, they cherished their time with their three children Brenda, Karen, Tom and grandchildren. Vern will be missed dearly by all those who knew him over the years and by The American Legion Department of ND.

David Schmidt


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Jim Deremo
Acting Adjutant 2002-2005

Kim Anderson 2005-2007
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Mitch Olson 2007-2011
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David Johnson 2011-2017
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Ron Matthews 2017 to present (2020)


National American Legion Commander Thomas P. Cadmus visited North Dakota January 31-February 3, 2005. Cadmus, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, was elected National Commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion on September 2, 2004, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the 86th National Convention of the nation’s largest veterans organization.

Cadmus, who died in 2016, was an Army veteran where he served as an Armored Reconnaissance Specialist from 1965 to 1967. He left the Army as a Specialist 5th (E-5). He joined The American Legion in 1967 and served in key leadership positions at the post, district, department and national level. Among his national level appointments were: chairman of the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, vice-chairman of the National Security Council and a member of the Policy Coordination and Action Group, the Veterans Planning and Coordinating Committee and the Commanders’ Advisory committee. Additionally he was a member of the Elks, the Moose, Eagles, AMVETS and the 24th Infantry Division Association.

He retired from the Ford Motor Company where he worked on a variety of automotive projects during his 38-year career there. Commander Cadmus was a strong advocate for America’s veterans and their families as well as our active duty personnel and their families. His Legion service as chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission gave him a background to fully understand the intricacies of the VA system. He knew where the problems were and what the solutions to them are. 

Commander Cadmus visited Legion posts in Bismarck, Mott, Streeter, Turtle Lake, Harwood and Fargo during a whistle stop tour of the Department. Accompanying him were Department Commander Willis Pritchard, Department Auxiliary President Tammy Ryberg and National Executive Committeeman Curt Twete and acting Department Adjutant, Jim Deremo. 

Mott Legion member and endorsed National Vice Commander candidate Seb Roll, left, and Mott Legion Post Commander Duane Lutz, visit with the National Commander of the American Legion, Tom Cadmus during the whistle stop tour that started in Mott.
Commander Cadmus gets a close up look as he sits in a new Black Hawk Helicopter at the Army Aviation Unit in Bismarck
Commander Cadmus was able to thank Governor Hoeven for everything he is doing for our veterans including proposing a bonus for them
National Commander Cadmus, Department Commander Pritchard and Auxiliary President Ryberg place a wreath at the state veterans cemetery
National Commander Cadmus touring the veterans memorial in Dawson
National Commander Cadmus signed up a new member, Jessica into the Larimore Post during his visit to Harwood

American Legion Public Relations and Communications

Early correspondence dated Oct. 22, 1919, between Department Adjutant Jack Williams and Department Commander C. L. “Dad” Dawson indicates that getting The American Legion newspaper started was not without frustration. A.C. Seeley, a member of the Bismarck American legion post and who was associated with the Craftsman Printing Co., approached Commander Dawson about entering into an agreement whereby The American Legion would not be financially responsible for publication costs.

The Legion would endorse the paper as the official publication for the state American Legion and, in return, would receive a royalty of 25 cents per subscription ($1.50 for Legion members and $2 for non-members, per year) sold. The publisher would agree to publish news from each post, as received, and thus help to promote the organization.

The agreement was entered into but soon the officials, particularly Commander Dawson and Adjutant Williams, received scathing letters of objection for not letting the other newspapers in the state submit bids if they wished to have a try at this new venture.

The issue was resolved with the various newspapers but soon it was observed that the content of the publication was not what they had anticipated. Again, the commander and adjutant were called upon to face the music. In their correspondence with Seeley, they made it crystal clear that they expected news from posts and reports from national headquarters about veterans’ programs and benefits to be timely printed in the forthcoming editions. The organizers of this great organization recognized that communication was a very important aspect in the promotion and ultimate acceptance of the philosophies being projected by World War I veterans, just fresh out of service, who were determined to be heard.

Early reports from Washington, DC, revealed that Congress, from the very beginning, needed a lot of cultivation and persuasion to make them listen to the requests from this new organization. The veterans were determined to get more than a resolution of thanks from Congress for their service to their country.

The Legionaire, as the paper was originally titled, was the main source of communication with members in the posts and the general public as well. In order to acquaint the community with the development of the Legion post being organized locally, a brief history of the post, including its aims and goals, was published in The Legionaire. Advertising, bearing messages of support for the veterans from local businesses, was sold to provide the needed revenue to sustain the publication.

Early editors of this publication and other staff writers continued to editorialize and carry the message of American Legion members … “This is America … and we are proud of it and proud to be back home after serving our country overseas to help rid the world of tyranny.”

Much concern was raised in the early issues over the un-American philosophies being projected by organized groups like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). These groups opposed The American Legion and continued to spread false information about the organization. Editors and writers left no doubt that they would not stand for such “tom foolery” and spoke out, “calling a spade a spade.”

The first four issues – December 1919; Jan. 15, 1920; Feb. 1, 1920, and March 1, 1920 – of The Legionaire were published at Bismarck and printed by the Craftsman Printing Co. in that city. Announcement was made in the March 1 issue that future issues of The Legionaire would be published at its Fargo office, located with department headquarters at 315 Broadway in the Ulsaker Printing Co. building. The staff listed in the April 1920 issue included: A. C. Seeley, managing editor; J. R. Matthews, advertising manager; F. M. Butler, circulation, all of Bismarck and members of Lloyd Spetz Post 1 there, then headquartered at Fargo when the publication site was transferred; E. H. Tostevin, editor, Mandan; R. E. Flynn, business manager, Fargo; H. T. Murphy, censor, Bismarck, and Parker L’Moure, Washington, DC, representative.

Tostevin served as editor through the April 1920 issue. L’Moure, who was referred to as a former North Dakota boy when his first story was published, continued as the Washington special correspondent, submitting stories for seven issues ending with the August 1920 edition. The staff was trimmed to three for the October-November and December 1920 issues, with Seeley becoming publisher, Flynn assuming the editorship, and Matthews continuing as advertising manager.

Effective for the March 1921 issue, the publication was reorganized with Flynn as editor, who continued in that capacity in producing the next eight issues ending in December 1921.

Newspaperman Richard M. Still became editor commencing with the January 1922 issue, with business address at 17 – 8th St. N., Fargo. H. F. Rusch of Fargo was the editor when the final August 1923 issue was published. Delegates to the mid-August 1923 department convention at Wahpeton had lengthy debate about continuation of The Legionaire. While there was general agreement that a need existed for a news publication, the issue was tabled when consensus could not be reached on a financial plan. The Legionaire played a helpful role in the early organization and development of The American Legion in North Dakota by providing communications and public relations on the activities and objectives of the organization while upwards to 200 statewide posts were being established and membership was climbing to the 10,000 range.

By this time The American Legion Weekly, which began publishing in December 1919, got well established in reporting news on Legion legislative objectives in Congress and national-level American Legion news to Legionnaires throughout the nation. The weekly publication was replaced by The American Legion Magazine which has been published on a monthly frequency from July 1926 to the writing of this history in 1994.

In addition to department headquarters and posts establishing good working relationships with newspapers, department radio and outdoor publicity committees were appointed in the early years to enhance the dissemination of information on The American Legion and its programs and activities to the public.

Noting that outdoor advertising firms didn’t have contracts for many of their large billboards during the slowest months of winter, American Legion representatives obtained the cooperation of billboard advertising companies to install posters on their idle billboards. In the late fall of 1930, this program was launched when numerous posters were ordered by individual posts throughout the state for $1 each. This fee covered the cost of the poster, which the advertising company hung free of charge. This was a wonderful way for the young Legion organization to convey its message to the public and to help attract members that year as well as in succeeding years.

In the fall of 1931, when drought conditions stressed human, animal and plant life indescribably in northwestern North Dakota counties, a talk was presented over radio stations that helped inspire citizen response to the American Legion Drought Relief program for clothing donations. Over 30 tons of garments and footwear were collected for distribution by Legion posts and Auxiliary units to warm the bodies of needy families in the drought-stricken area during the 1931-32 winter.

When organizing the 1944-45 Legion year, department officials combined the department outdoor publicity committee and the department radio committee into one committee, renamed the department of public relations committee. This committee continues to function currently and is charged with the responsibility of image building for The American Legion in North Dakota.

Seeing that there was a need for a newspaper to communicate information direct to individual members statewide, department officers approved the publication of the North Dakota Legion Bulletin commencing with the September 1941 issue. Subsequent issues would depend upon finances and other factors. Between the initial issue and July 1947, 18 issues were published. The newspaper was placed on a regular quarterly frequency beginning with the September 1947 issue and for the December, March and June issues following in that order were published for all continuing years to the Legion’s 75th anniversary year.

The publisher and editorial responsibilities were assigned to the department adjutant. By authority of the Department Executive Committee, the newspaper was renamed North Dakota Legion News effective for the December 1978 issue.

There was one special issue published – in January 1950 – to alert Legionnaires and to gain their support in helping the American Legion defeat the proposals in the Hoover Commission Report aimed at dismembering the Veterans Administration.

The December 1958 issue featured a supplement of 12 pages in conjunction with the Legion’s 40th anniversary.

Kicking off the March 1968 issue, emphasis continued throughout 1968 and 1969 in honoring our World War I founding members with various types of recognition at local post banquets or special programs. The December 1976 issue featured excellent stories about projects and activities sponsored by local posts in conjunction with community Bicentennial celebrations.

Speakers Bureau Merged into Department Public Relations Committee

For over three decades the department speakers bureau assisted posts in obtaining speakers for patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day or special events that might include the dedication of a building, a memorial or a special celebration in the community. A representative of any post desiring that service would contact the bureau committeeman serving the area of the requesting post. Upon obtaining the pertinent details, the committeeman would arrange a speaker for the occasion.

Even though the speakers bureau was merged into the department public relations committee in the summer of 1990, the service of arranging speakers for requesting posts continues. In the realignment of the department public relations committee, one member from each district is appointed to the committee to not only provide speaker assistance to posts but also to help implement public relations initiatives among the posts in the district.

State Legion Press Association Awards Luncheon Prime Conference Feature

The initial meeting resulting in the formation of a North Dakota Association Legion Press Association (NDALPA) was held Feb. 16, 1974. The meeting in Mandan was at the request of National American Legion Press Association President Robert “Bob” Grabenbauer of Cambridge, MN. Grabenbauer presided for the 10 N.D. Legionnaires attending, including Assistant Department Adjutant Harry Moore of Fargo and most of the department public relations committee. After much discussion, the PR committee was instructed to form a state press association.

The ad hoc committee met in Fargo on June 18, 1974, with Morton Johnson of Mandan sitting as the first president by appointment. Leo Swenson of Bismarck was appointed secretary-treasurer. Swenson then nominated Lloyd Haugen of Minot for president because Johnson had been selected seventh district commander subsequent to the committee meeting in February.

Haugen was elected the first president of the state Legion press association and served into 1976, when Morris Wachendorf of Riverdale was elected. Swenson continued as secretary-treasurer, but had to resign due to being assigned to the Denver regional office of the US Labor Department. Henry Fortin of Grand Forks became the group’s secretary-treasurer.

The Constitution and By-laws for this association were adopted at the group’s official organizational meeting Feb. 15, 1975, in Bismarck. Dues were set at $5 a year and the annual election was set to be held at the annual department convention.

Robert Short of Langdon succeeded Fortin as secretary-treasurer in 1977. He held the post to 1978, when it had been decided that Assistant Adjutant Moore should assume the duties in order to centralize and focus the administration of the group. Moore served in that capacity until retiring in 1988, when the post was assumed by then-Assistant Adjutant David Schmidt, who later became department adjutant.

The idea of a Press Association Award was initiated by Ed Doherty of New Rockford and Leo Swens9n of Bismarck at the 1979 department convention. The purpose of the award is to honor news media or public relations personnel for assistance rendered to American Legion programs and activities. Rules governing such an award were formulated at a special meeting on March 29, 1980, at the Jamestown VFW Club. The awards program finally got organized in 1983. Harry Moore of Fargo and William “Bill” Shemorry of Williston were named for the first awards that were presented at the Winter Conference Public Relations luncheon in 1984 at Mandan.

The Public Relations Awards Luncheon has remained a prime feature of the Saturday program during the annual Winter Conference, and the association has been fortunate to have some outstanding speakers for the event over the years. Speakers have included former Jamestown Sun Editor and senatorial aide Bill Wright, former North Dakota Attorney General Bob Wefald and, on a separate occasion, his wife, Susan, a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

Nomination forms for the Press Association award have been developed and refined over the years since 1980. Nominations are now open to a wide spectrum of North Dakotans, the main requirements being they must be citizens of the state and have performed above and beyond or outside their chosen normal field of endeavor. Nominations must be made through either a post of the North Dakota American Legion or a unit of the Auxiliary.

Press Association award postmark deadline for submission of nomination is June 1. During the department convention in late June, the Press Association selects the winner from nominations submitted.  The Press Association plaque award is presented to the winner at the next winter conference, usually scheduled in late January or early February.   

North Dakota American Legion Press Association Award Honorees

Harry MooreFargo1984
William “Bill” ShemorryWilliston1984
Ralph T. ShultsHettinger1985
Ed DohertyNew Rockford1986
Robert W. MoranWilliston1987
Aileen A. DoyleBowman1988
Paul R. LangeDevils Lake1989
Ralph ErickstadBismarck1990
Marcus McDonaldFargo1991
Carl FlagstadMinot1992
Vernon UseldingerFargo1993
No Award 1994
Lynn Schroeder,Editor & PublisherCavalier ChronicleCavalier  1995
KFYR RadioBismarck 1996
Cathy DanielsKXPO RadioGrafton1998
Katherine Craigofreelance writerBeach1998
Kenton Buchholz, PublisherTri-County NewsGackle1999
The Grand Forks HeraldGrand Forks 1999
Jane Brandt, PublisherHebron HeraldHebron2000 
KZZJ Radio Rugby 2001
Allan BurkeOwner/EditorEmmons County RecordLinton2002
Terry Devine, Reporter/Columnist
The Fargo Forum
Fargo 2002
Duane Schatz,
Grant County News&Carson PressElgin2003
Deb Torkelson, EditorThe Leader NewsWashburn2004
Tom Monilaw, Managing EditorTraill County TribuneMayville2005
Ervin and Donnavee Schneider,Co-Editors and OwnersEido/ConnectMott2006
KFGO RadioFargo2007 
Ed MilliganFargoFargo2007 
Tracy Briggs&General Manager Mark PratherWDAY RadioFargo2009
Colleen AndersonResults UnlimitedMinot2010
Stu Merry, EditorMcLean County IndependentGarrison2011
Eloise Ogden, Regional EditorMinot Daily NewsMinot2012
KFYR 550 AM RadioBismarck2013
The Journal of CrosbyCrosby2014
Ken Harty, PresidentThe Daily NewsWahpeton2015
Neil Nelson,EditorHillsboro BannerHillsboro2016
New Town NewsNew Town 2017
Leah & Alan Burke, Owners and PublishersEmmons County RecordLinton2018
Allan Tinker EditorMcLean County Journal and McClusky GazetteTurtle Lake 2019

Department Commander’s Award

This award is presented, with the approval of the Department Executive Committee, to an individual or group that has rendered outstanding service to The American Legion. The Department Commander’s Award committee, which is composed of the incumbent department commander, the immediate past department commander and the next preceding past department commander who is chairman of the committee – recommends the name of the next recipient to the Department Executive Committee. Honorees are pictured below:

Earl RedlinEllendale1995
Alex MacDonaldFargo1996
Mayor Pat OwensGrand Forks1997
Reverend Jerry SalvesonFargo1998
MGEN Keith BjerkeNorthwood1999
David SchmidtFargo2000
Al RoteringAmidon2001
Vern FetchBismarck2002
Don WeibleWilton2003
Rodney ByronMountain2004
Harvey PetersonBeach2005
Albert TumaLarimore2006
John SchaferFlasher2007
James KarasPembina2008
Dean OverbyWahpeton2009
John HoevenBismarck2011
Lonnie WangenFargo2012
Marlys MorgensternBismarck2013
Terry RichardsonFargo2014
Jim DeremoFargo2015
Jake RaileWest Fargo2016
ElRay FerchoStreeter2017
Richard ReuerMinot2018

Distinguished Service Award

This award is designed to pay the highest Department of North Dakota tribute to an experienced Legionnaire who has consistently exhibited continuing leadership and excellence in Legion programs and administration.

Active living post member with 25 or more years as a member of The American Legion is eligible to be nominated for this award. A posthumous award is allowable only if the nominee’s death occurred within the previous year. The selection must be made by a majority of those members present at a regular post meeting. Current Department Legion officers are excluded from consideration for this award. 

The Department Executive Committee makes its selection of the winner of the Distinguished Service award in North Dakota only on the information contained in the nomination form and supporting documentary attachments submitted by the December 31 deadline from the participating posts.

An engraved plaque and a $250 stipend to attend the department convention is presented to the winner. Here are the North Dakota honorees of the Distinguished Service award since 2011:

Doug WarneckeHarwood2011
Joe BoschLinton2012
Fred W. SchindlerBelcourt2013
ElRay FerchoStreeter2014
Suzanne KimeGrand Forks2015
Robert WefaldBismarck2015
Calvin LundbergDickinson2016
George PetermannDickinson2017
Dave RiceHarwood2018
Eugene RobinsonDickinson2019

Spirited Contest Sparks Annual Membership Drive

Dr. J. L. DevineWestern1947
Earl RundleWestern1948
Archie H. McGrayCentral 1949
Dr. A. D. OttingerEastern1950
Truman C. WoldWestern1951
Paul L. BartholomewCentral1952
L. E. DuffyEastern1953
Charles E. SehlieveCentral1954
Ed BrownWestern1955
George F. GriffinCentral 1956
Melvin ChristiansonCentral1957
Carrol TorgersonEastern1958
Otto A. “Pete” HelmCentral1959
Lester H. PaulsonEastern1960
Herb MitzEastern1961
C. J. “Chris” OlsonCentral1962
Paul R. LangeCentral1963
Frank J. KosandaEastern1964
James M. MorrisCentral1965
George M. DahlenCentral1966
Tom WilloughbyWestern1967
William TomchukWestern1968
Gerald A. TaylorCentral1969
Richard E. IversonCentral1970
Treumann J. LykkenEastern1971
Morris HalvorsonCentral1972
Boyd H. ClemensCentral1973
Norman H. HansonCentral1974
Duane S. HansonWestern1975
Joseph J. LukachWestern1976
Leonard HoffWestern1977
Fred MauWestern1978
Art F. DigbyWestern1979
Virgil DingaWestern1980
Milton W. KaneEastern1981
Denis HanseyWestern1982
Earl H. RedlinEastern1983
Lars HildreEastern1984
Aaron “Moody” DalkeCentral1985
Marlo TveterEastern1986
William O. HaugEastern1987
James A. HortonEastern1988
Thomas R. MoeEastern1989
Sven MichelsEastern1990
Suzanne KimeEastern1991
Merton SvalesonEastern1992
Glenn SchlenvogtEastern1993
B. J.BrazilEastern1994

Post Officers Conference Began in 1925, Renamed Winter Conference in 1974

Beginning in December 1925, the first of five annual American Legion post officers conferences were held at Fargo. Kenmare was the site for the 1931 meet, and Jamestown followed as host for the ’32 event.

In 1933, the format for face-to-face dialogue between state and local post officers and Legion members on the organization’s programs and activities was switched to district meetings. This method of direct contact with post representatives – involving shorter travel distances for them – continued from 1934, both in the spring and in the fall, through 1939. Instead of holding spring district meetings in 1940, a spring conference for post officers was held at the Veterans Hospital in Fargo. The Department Executive Committee decided it was timely to hold what in reality was a school for service officers. The goal was to familiarize the officers of the various posts with the procedure for hospitalizing disabled veterans and comrades who were in need of medical attention. Over 250 post representatives attended.

Fall district meetings were held in 1940 and 1941. National defense district meetings were conducted in the spring of 1942, followed by district meetings in the fall. Files indicate that no district meetings were held from 1943 until the war ended, then resuming in the fall of 1945 and continuing, both in the spring and fall, since then.

The Post Officers Conference was revived in 1944 at Fargo, devoting a significant portion of the program to train post officers to assist WW II veterans in handling their affairs with the Veterans Administration as they return home. Fargo continued as the host for this annual conference through 1958, then again in 1963 when the program accommodated a two-hour national commander’s regional membership conference on Sunday afternoon. Altogether, Fargo has held 22 conferences.

The conference was moved to Devils Lake in 1959, returning there in 1965. Valley City held one, in 1964. Jamestown was host 10 more times, in 1960,”1966, 1969, 1972, 1976, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1992.

Mandan has had 12 conferences: 1961, 1967, 1970, 1974 (renamed Winter Conference that year), 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1993.

There have been seven winter meets at Dickinson: 1962, 1968, 1971, 1975, 1979, 1991 and 1994.

And Williston was host for three, in 1973, 1977 and 1981.

SONS OF THE AMERICAN LEGION Detachment Chaplain Alan Hiltner and Auxiliary President Carrie Heinz read the scripture readings at the memorial service on Sunday. (2009)
2009 Winter Conference
ADJUTANT OLSON is presented a plaque by ND Silver Senator and 2nd Voce Chairman National Silver Hair Congress Dallas Knudson in appreciation for his patriotic performance for the National Silver Haired Congress Convention held in Washington, DC, 14-16 February

North Dakota Ranks High in Legion Membership Performance

North Dakota has won over 140 major American Legion membership awards in national competition since they were inaugurated, through the 1994 membership year.

For over three decades, a permanent possession plaque has been issued to the department winning each of the various trophies, with the name of the department engraved on the trophy retained at national headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. A summary of the membership awards won by North Dakota follows.

The Big Ten Citation was presented annually to those 10 top departments pledging the highest percentage of nationally assigned membership quota during the national telegraphic roll call held at the annual fall commanders and adjutants conference at national headquarters, as redeemed by Dec. 31.

North Dakota won this citation for firstplace-in-the-nation honors 25 times: 1949 through 1952 and 1955 through 1975. In different years, seven more citations were won for placing from second to eighth place.

Effective for 1976, the citation criteria was revised to issue this award in categories of departments. North Dakota won the citation for first place in its category six times, for the years of 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1986, plus second-place citations in 1979 and 1980. It was renamed the Big Twelve Citation in 1987, with North Dakota winning it once in 1991, and second place thrice from 1987 through 1989.

North Dakota won the Henry L. Stevens, Jr., Trophy, for confirming the highest percentage of nationally assigned membership quota pledged on the national telegraphic roll call, 28 times, from 1949 through 1952 and for the 24 consecutive year period of 1955-78, after which the award was discontinued.

The General Henri Gouraud Trophy, which is awarded annually to the department first to exceed its nationally assigned membership quota, has been won 31 times by North Dakota: first in 1935, then from 1948 through 1952 and from 1954 (tie that year with Louisiana) through 1974 (tie with South Dakota in 1962). When the departments were placed in group categories in 1975, North Dakota won in its category for 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1987.

Alvin M. Owsley Trophy was copped by North Dakota six times, in 1949, 1950, 1956, 1960, 1961 and 1962 for having the highest percentage of membership on Dec. 1 for the ensuing year as compared with the average membership for the immediately preceding 10 years. Discontinued.

Gen. John J. Pershing Honor Award was swept into the North Dakota trophy case three times, in 1958, 1961 and 1963.

It is awarded annually to the department having the greatest percentage of posts receiving the Honor Ribbon for exceeding their previous year’s membership by Dec. 31.

John G. Emery Trophy, awarded annually to the department having the highest percentage of membership on Jan. 31 as compared with average membership for the four preceding years, has been claimed eight times: 1935, 1947 through 1950, 1958 and 1960. Discontinued.

Henry D. Lindsley Trophy was won three times, in 1935 and 1960 because North Dakota attained the highest percentage of membership over its previous year’s enrollment by March 1, and in 1973 when the determining date was changed to March 31.

Hanford MacNider Trophy was achieved by North Dakota in seven years, in 1935, 1950, 1960, 1963, 1964, 1967 for attaining the highest percentage of membership over its preceding year ‘s enrollment, and again in 1987 in its group when departments were categorized. Discontinued.

John R. Quinn Trophy was another addition for North Dakota in 1935 for recording the highest percentage of membership on June 15 as compared with the average membership for the preceding four years. Discontinued.

O. L. Bodenhamer Trophy, won by North Dakota in 1954 and 1974, is awarded annually to that department which leads the national convention parade. It is based upon the previous four-year average membership as compared with the current year ‘s enrollment on May 1 at national headquarters.

North Dakota led the parade at the 1954 national convention in Washington, DC, and at the 1974 national convention in Miami Beach, FL. Probably the most prestigious award of them all is the Franklin D’Olier Trophy, which North Dakota won 23 times for leading all Legion departments in the enrollment of potential eligible. See separate story below.

In analyzing these honors, it is particularly noted that North Dakota Legionnaires have frequently won the awards for early membership enrollment. Each Flickertail Legionnaire can feel proud of his or her contribution in furnishing the many membership awards displayed in the North Dakota American Legion trophy case.

Permanent D’Olier Plaque Awarded to North Dakota

In 1976, North Dakota won the Franklin D’Olier Trophy Award for the last time. The state Legion concluded the 1976 membership year with 35,518 members, which translated into a 65.59% enrollment of potential eligible into the organization – by far the best in the overall American Legion.

Consistently enrolling an annual department membership of more than half of all eligible in the state, North Dakota was the only department to win this award from 1959 through 1976 with impressive percentages ranging from over 50% to 65%. North Dakota had also won this award from 1953 through 1957, totaling 23 years.

Since there was little competition for this award, obviously because of North Dakota’s invincibility, the national executive committee, upon recommendation from the national membership and post activities committee, retired the D’Olier Trophy by action taken at its May 4-5, 1977, meeting.

The NEC further stipulated that this trophy be permanently displayed in the Emil A. Blackmore Museum at the Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, IN, that congratulations be issued to the Department of North Dakota for its outstanding performance and that a permanent plaque indicating the achievement be presented to the department.

Go-Getters Backbone of Legion’s Annual Membership Campaign

From its kick off year total of 185 for the 1948 Legion year, the North Dakota American Legion Go Getters Club membership climbed to its all-time high of 747 members in 1982, topping by just one the 746 set during the all-time high membership year of 1975.

Since the high mark was reached, subsequent club totals have slowly faded to 571 in 1994, despite infusions of new members each year from a low of 46 to as many as 89. Over the many years since its inception, the club has been responsible for thousands of memberships furnishing, each year, the strong backbone of the department membership program.

Richard “Dick” Furness of Mott, a veteran of service in both WW I and WW II, was headlined in the September 1947 North Dakota Legion Bulletin as the “Initial Go-Getter Clubber,” when he was the first reported to department headquarters shortly after the contest was announced. Records show he ended the year with a total of 112.

And Dick’s membership recruiting did not just begin in 1948: he was winning membership contests back in the earlier years of the Legion when as post adjutant, then at Mandan, he won a wristwatch for enrolling 97 members in the month of June 1928 and also won a trip to the department convention held, that year, in Grand Forks.

Also prominent among those first-year Go-Getters was R. F. “Barnacle Bill” Harris of Williston, who ended the year with a 290 total and was to go on to sign up as many as 453 in one year ( 1954) as a one-man recruiting drive in western North Dakota.

Other “early bird” Go-Getters that first year included Harold P. Thrane, Kindred; Henry Kennedy, Grand Forks, G. W. “Gus” Ly beck, Valley City; Art Pepple, Fessenden; Floyd E. Erickson and Emil Shirek, both Michigan; R. J. Fairchild and Spencer Boise, both Bismarck; O. M. Johnson, Leo Otto and Frank L. Coffman, all of Devils Lake; Ira Knox, Ray; Clarence Jensen, Edinburg; Hugo M. Auer, Mott, and Don J. Robideau, LaMoure.

Although there were many standouts among Go-Getters in the early years, who enrolled a minimum of 25 members a year for their posts, there are probably three others, in addition to Furness and Harris, who merit special mention at this point. They are longtime Post 2 Club Manager Addison “Eddie” Yeager and Past Department Adjutant Vernon Useldinger, both of Fargo, and Jim Johnson, longtime post adjutant and club manager at New Rockford.

Johnson and Useldinger are currently the only two surviving continuous Go-Getters since the 1949 year, and Yeager, who joined the club in 1953, maintained an average above the century mark for over four decades as of 1994.

Of course, “Barnacle Bill” had by far the highest production average during the 22 consecutive years of his membership as a Go-Getter from 1948 through 1969, with 214 per year when failing health led to his death. Furness was the leader in continuous years of membership as a Go-Getter with 40 years as of his death in 1987, as the sole member from the initial 1948 year to ’87. He had averaged 58 per year over the entire period involved.

Johnson and Useldinger, in their 46 years continuous runs, compiled records of an average of 39 and 68 a year, respectively, and showed no sign of slowing down.

Yeager, with 42 consecutive years in 1994, had a 102 per year average, with a total production of 4,341 members.

Legionnaires with lengthy membership in the Go-Getters Club include: Peter Schwab, Jamestown, 40 continuous in 1990; John West, Sr., Fargo, Emil H. Sam, Medina, and Clifford Day, Oakes, all with 35 continuous years in 1990. The 1991 record shows Magus “Mac” C. Aasen of Mott as the lone 40-year member and John J. O’Connor of Fargo and Julius Gaab of Richardton, each with 35 years.

In 1992, Past Department Commander Carrol Torgerson of Cooperstown, Eddie Yeager, Fargo, and Jim Veralrud, Park River, hit the 40-year mark. Past Department Commanders John Schafer, Flasher, and Gus Draeb, Hebron, plus George Chyle of Pisek, made 35. In 1993, Vern Useldinger, Fargo, and Jim Johnson, New Rockford, were listed at 45 continuous years each. That year George “Bud” Dahlen, Edmore, C. O. “Oz” Sveum, Enderlin, Joe Parmer, Fargo, and Ralph Brovold, New England, all entered the 40-year club.

In 1994, Past Department Commander Bill Sweeney of Fargo, Dan Lessard, Grafton, and Denis Hansey, Scranton, reached the 35-year mark.

And along with this consideration of those whose industry and, in many cases, longevity, have placed them in such a position, a word of appreciation must also be given to those many membership recruiters of posts which do not have sufficient veterans available to allow multiple entries on the Go-Getter list. Their hard work is equally important and responsible for the success of the Legion’s annual statewide membership campaign.

In recent years, rules were modified for Legionnaire eligibility in the Go-Getters Club. One point for a renewal and two points for a reinstated or new member are earned now by the recruiter. To qualify, the Go-Getter in a post of 500 or more members needs a minimum of 30 points; in a post of 100 to 499 members, 25 points are needed, and in posts under 100 members, at least 20 points are required to be accumulated within the enrollment period.

Editor Hails ND’s Incredible American Legion

“Distances are great and people are few, but every other veteran is a Legionnaire.” So read a sub-headline in the September 1957 issue of The American Legion Magazine. Editor Robert B. Pitkin titled his praiseful piece about approaching annual membership drives, “North Dakota’s Incredible American Legion … Here’s How They Do It”

Observing that North Dakota is ” … a vast, thinly populated state, (it) is the colossus of membership in the Legion. Just about half of all the war veterans in the state – whose population is roughly that of Newark, NJ – are Legionnaires. Nationally, this is the best record in attracting eligible vets; so there is a general conviction that North Dakota knows something worth learning …”

Pitkin attributed much of this achievement to the longtime Adjutant Jack Williams (1919-to his death in 1967), who pulled on his nose in an interview and observed that the state’s secret to success was trying “to run an efficient operation, I guess.”

Pitkin wrote: “Jack doesn’t guess. He knows. Active Legion programs, a general dedication of the membership to Legion ideals and a high-class leadership interested in the good of the Legion are the chief ‘secrets’ North Dakota has.”

In that 1957 story, Pitkin said North Dakota’s membership campaign “is all over before Christmas. It starts in September and is wrapped up in three months. This clears the decks for action on positive Legion programs – which get undivided attention from January on and help maintain the reputation that makes the next year’s membership drive easier.”

Membership is a principal job of the district commanders who serve under appointment by the department commander. Membership goals become points of rivalry between district commanders, who next must assist and inspire posts in carrying out basic Legion programs.

Pitkin noted that in North Dakota, “Legion leadership is not infiltrated and stagnated by glory-seekers more interested in titles than in duties. Committees are small and exactly as numerous as necessary, and each appointment carries with it a burden of responsibility. There aren’t any honorary appointments. So there is only one way for an ambitious individual to use a Legion office for his own prestige, and that is to do a whale of a job for the Legion.”

The magazine editor applauded the zeal and tireless pace of North Dakota Legion leaders in mustering and marshaling support for local and statewide food and financial-aid efforts in the drought and depression years. Blood drives, scholarships and funding for public facilities were among other public-spirited endeavors cited as local morale builders that reflected on Legion memberships.

Pitkin said the membership “secrets” went beyond well-organized membership drives. He said they involved “a statewide saturation of the best in common-sense Legionism which gives the organization the public esteem and attractiveness that make member-getting easy, and which circumvent the familiar organizational evils that make member-getting hard.”

                North Dakota and National Legion Membership

North DakotaNational
7,7131927 719,852
7,38219431, 172,499
27,0901954 2,797,640
29,45019682,623, 112
33, 15919722,715,259

Two North Dakotans Win Seagrams Cars

Thanks to Seagrams Posts of The American Legion sponsoring drawings for many years after WW II for new Ford automobiles, two North Dakota Legionnaires have been lucky winners.

Bernard Steele of Pingree, a member of Post #103 at Kensal, was our state’s first winner, drawn at the 1949 national Legion convention in Philadelphia. Aaron “Moody” Dalke of Bismarck, a longtime active Legionnaire in his local Post #1 and the state organization, was drawn as a winner at the ’78 national convention at New Orleans.

Dalke’s name was drawn by then National Legion Auxiliary President Mrs. Alvin “Vi” Moltzen of New Salem during concluding activities at the drum and bugle corps competition.

American Legion College Offers Leadership Training

The American Legion College began at the 1944 National Convention with Resolution No. 138 and was created to help educate and integrate veterans in joining the Legion after World War II. The first two Legion College sessions convened at National Headquarters in Indianapolis in July and December 1946, and covered a variety of topics, including Legion service work, youth programs, child welfare, Legion legislation, veterans preference, community service programs and Legion public relations and speech.

Additional sessions from 1947 to 1949 trained hundreds of future leaders. A session in December 1950 was cancelled because enrollment requirements weren’t met, but with the influx of Korean War veterans, two more sessions were conducted in 1954. By 1955, several departments were already offering their own Legion colleges. This became the preferred method for training future leaders due to budgetary considerations and the ability to offer Legion education to more Legionnaires through their departments.

The national-level Legion College was reinstituted based on recommendations from the 1997 21st Century Ad Hoc Committee report. The first Legion College since 1954 convened in November 1999, with 34 Legionnaires participating. Legion College continues to be an annual event that educates students in leadership, management and communication. It features a week of training centering on The American Legion’s core values while encouraging the development of new ideas.

At the 2008 American Legion National Convention at Phoenix, AZ, Keith Kerbaugh, a past commander of Post 2 in Fargo, was elected 2008-2009 president of the National American Legion College Alumni Association (NALCAA). He had served as 2007-2008 vice-president.

These North Dakota Legionnaires are graduates of the American Legion College since 2006:

Keith W. KerbaughFargo2006
Russel W. StablerHunter2006
David G. RiceHarwood2006
Brad L. WilsonGarrison2007
Harvey L. PetersonBeach2007
Kent M. McDougallRock Lake2008
2009 Robert L. KrauseGwinner2009
Kevin L. SemmensNew Rockford2009
Kenneth K. WiederholtGwinner2009
Robert E. GreeneGrand Forks2009
Florence M. GlattCarrington2011
David A. JohnsonFargo2012
Glenn L. WahusWatford City2015
2017 Clarence L. CarrollGrand Forks2017
Steven AndersonLangdon2018

Blue Star Markers Honor All Who Served

Blue Star Memorial Markers and Blue Star Highway markers are posted throughout North Dakota in honor of all men and women who served in the armed services.

Nationally, this program began with the planting of 8,000 Dogwood trees by the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs in 1944 as a living memorial to veterans of World War II. In 1945, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and began a Blue Star Highway system that covers thousands of miles across the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii.

A large metal Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker was placed at appropriate locations along the way. The program has expanded to include all men and women who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed services of the United States. Memorial markers and by-way markers were added to the highway markers, to be used at locations such as national cemeteries, parks, veteran’s facilities and gardens.

The Blue Star became an icon in World War II and was seen on flags and banners in homes for sons and daughters away at war, and in churches and businesses.

North Dakota’s 12th Blue Star Memorial Marker was installed in front of the Casselton Veterans Club in the summer of 2013. The Green Thumb Garden Club of rural Cass County held fundraisers to generate about $500, which was supplemented by a donation from the Casselton Vets Club.

Five years earlier, a similar memorial marker was dedicated on the center lawn of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau, near the intersection of Interstate 94 and 45th Street in Fargo. That memorial was sponsored by the Fargo Garden Society, a grant program of the Principal Financial Group and the National Garden Clubs Inc.

Photo by Bob Jansen

Pop Tabs for Ronald McDonald House

By Harvey Peterson

Collecting aluminum pop tabs for recycling to support the Ronald McDonald Houses is said to have been first implemented by VFW Post #295 and Auxiliary in Minnesota in 1987. The program was initiated to assist the Ronald McDonald House in their area. This program has expanded and is now a significant fundraiser at Ronald McDonald House chapters across the country. Support of Ronald McDonald houses became an approved program of the American Legion when the NEC adopted Resolution #29 in 2005.

The purpose of the program is to allow individuals or groups of all ages to help support families with a seriously ill child. The Ronald McDonald Houses provide a place for families to stay while their child is undergoing treatment for serious medical issues.

Department Commander Harvey Peterson proposed the Department of North Dakota establish a pop tab collection program in 2007 and offered to get the program started. At the time he stated that if Kansas City could collect 40 million pop tabs a year, then North Dakota could surely collect one million pop tabs each year. Thus, a program and a goal were established.

Although the whole aluminum can is valuable and can be recycled, the tab is cleaner and smaller, making it easier to collect in large quantities. The pop tabs from aluminum cans are high grade aluminum and can be readily recycled. They do not weigh much–it takes more than 1,200 to equal a pound-so collections need to be large to amount to much. That said, Peterson felt that the Department of North Dakota could easily strive for a total of one million pop tabs collected per year.

All Posts and Auxiliary are encouraged to collect pop tabs and tum them in annually at either the mid-winter conference or the annual convention. The program is also a great way to get kids involved and teaches them about philanthropy, about doing something for someone else and the importance of recycling while raising funds to help children and their families at the same time. Pop tab collection is a way youth can support their peers staying at Ronald McDonald houses nationwide.

Collecting pop tabs is an easy project for schools, clubs, offices or other large groups, as well as individuals and families. Some people have established competitions between elementary classes or clubs to encourage collections. The first years’ collection totaling I 96,8 I 2 pop tabs was delivered to the 2009 Department Convention and subsequently to the Ronald McDonald House in Bismarck. In following years with more people collecting pop tabs, they were delivered to both the mid-winter conferences and the Department Conventions. It took collecting tabs for three years to reach the million pop tabs goal when combining the collections of 409,619 in 2010 and 465,577 in 2011. The goal of one million in a single year was first attained in 2015. The following chart illustrates the success of the program since inception.

2011 Pop Tab Roundup

Harvey Peterson

A total of 465,577 pop tabs were delivered to the Ronald McDonald House in Bismarck after the 2011 Convention in Dickinson.  That brings the three-year total collected by Legionnaires, Auxiliary, schools, family and friends to over 1,071,000. It took 3 years to reach 1 million so we have a good start! A million a year is possible if we want to do it!

This is a Legion Family effort, not just one arm of the “family”.  In fact, there are as many Auxiliary members collecting pop tabs as there are Legion members! Maybe even more! The key is to collect for a good cause and we all can feel good about the effort and the results.

Those turning in this year include Minot, Legion Riders, Unit 100 of Hebron, Post 98 in Langdon, Post 40 and VFW Post 707 of Mandan, Karen Meier of Garrison (63,387 – outstanding!), Unit 65 of Wing, Unit 290 of New Town, Oran Keith, District 2 Auxiliary, Post 26 of Killdeer, Unit 166 of Walcott and Post 71 of Mott. Post 5, with help from the Beach Schools, Golva School, Corner Market in Wibaux and friends again collected over 100,000.

A question often asked is about the collection of pop tabs by other people. The Legion family does not have to collect alone.  Many bars, restaurants, motels and other places of business are only too willing to allow you to place a receptacle on their counter in which to place pop tabs. The little RM houses are attractive but a small, plastic jar with an appropriate label and lid will serve just as well. Schools will cooperate if approached and if you follow up.

Those collecting for you like to know what happened to their pop tabs. Let them know how many are turned in. Tell them we have a goal of a million a year. Give them a target and allow them to feel part of something big and worthwhile

There are a lot of people who save pop tabs.  Anyone can ask friends and neighbors if they have some, if they want to save theirs, etc.  The best service any Post can provide – besides saving the pop tabs themselves – is to gather the pop tabs saved by others in their community. Then deliver them to the Department Convention in June. You will be surprised how many “collectors” are trying to find a way to get their pop tabs  to the Ronald McDonald House.

Legion Members Plan for Future, Establish “LOVE” Charitable Trust

The American Legion, Department of North Dakota, looked ahead in 1978 and saw a future financial need of the department to maintain programs.

For well over half a century, American Legion members had been busy making their communities, state and nation a better place to live. Marvelous programs serving people, especially our youth, had been established, such as American Legion baseball, Boys State, Oratorical contests and others.

Looking ahead, Legionnaires recognized thé probable decline in membership and, as a consequence, a reduction in dollars to carry out these programs.

Thus, during the commandership of Otto A. “Pete” Helm of New Rockford, the groundwork for a trust was laid and the title, “Legion Ongoing Veterans Endowment,” was chosen with the acronym “LOVE.”

Establishing a charitable trust required certification from the Internal Revenue Service and the state of North Dakota. In 1982, the paperwork was completed and our department judge advocate, after reviewing the tax-exempt status granted by the IRS under Section 501 (c) (19), declared the trust eligible to receive charitable gifts.

A three-member board of directors was established with one member from each of the regions in the department. Ex-officio (non-voting) officers also serving on the board included the department commander, adjutant, finance officer and judge advocate- Board members’ terms were set at three years. Upon expiration, the board members were to be nominated by the commander with the concurrence of the Department Executive Committee.

Interest earned from the investments of the trust was dispersed by the board of directors to support Legion and other charitable programs such as Oratorical contest scholarships, North Dakota Boys State, Veterans Administration Hospital Patient Services Fund, North Dakota Veterans Home, North Dakota Militia Foundation (for the state veterans cemetery), the USO Persian Gulf Fund and other worthy activities.

Donations totaling $16,385 was dispersed from the LOVE trust through fiscal year 1994. As of May 31, 1994, the LOVE trust had a balance of $64,378.

Members serving on the board of directors during 1993-94 were William Haug, Grand Forks; Dennis Mock, Bismarck, and Norman Erdman, Ralph, SD.

In 1994, the LOVE trust was expanded with the creation of a 501 (c) nonprofit charitable foundation. The new foundation, which includes The American Legion and The American Legion Auxiliary, serves as the custodian of funds for investment. Proceeds from earned interest provide the basis for charitable gifts to American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary programs.

The foundation is open to charitable gifts from individuals, with tax benefits provided for the gifts within the parameters set forth by the Internal Revenue Service.

Legion Foundation Evolved from Love Trust

The North Dakota American Legion Foundation was established during the 1993-94 Legion year as a 501(c) charitable organization. Non-profit status was authorized by the Internal Revenue Service under the Department of North Dakota non-profit umbrella.

William Haug was named the first president of the foundation in 1994. Later that year he resigned from the board since he was then engaged to administer foundation funds through his brokerage firm. Carleton J. Likness, past department commander 1974-75, was appointed to serve on the board and was elected president of the foundation at that time.

In 2002, Dave Challey was elected president when Likness stepped aside as president and was named chairman of the board, a position he held until he resigned in 2007. He was succeeded by Earl Peterson, who chaired the board for two years. In 2009, Harvey Peterson, past department commander 2007-08, assumed the board’s chairmanship. 

The directors of each region were designated to visit members and solicit funds for the foundation, this effort was also joined by the board chairman. The Rev. Jerry Salveson was engaged for a short time to assist with soliciting funds while he was without a call for the ministry. He resigned once he took a call for the ministry again. 

The foundation board functions independently from the Department Executive Committee as directed by the rules of the IRS. The appointment of regional directors is subject to the approval of the DEC. The position of chairman of the board is without term limits and can be removed by the executive committee at any time. Board composition also includes the ex-officio voting members and ex-officio members (non-voting) described in the above chart.

The foundation was an outgrowth of the Legion Ongoing Veterans Endowment, more commonly known as the LOVE program. The groundwork for this philanthropic body within the North Dakota American Legion to receive charitable gifts began during the 1978-79 commandership of Otto A. “Pete” Helm to benefit the programs sponsored and conducted by the Department. 

The idea for the LOVE program stemmed from the gift made by the late Jack Williams, who served with distinction and honor as department adjutant for 48 years from 1919 to his death on June 14, 1967. Mr. Williams left a will designating The American Legion of North Dakota to receive the major portion of his estate, to be used for programs specific to rehabilitation of veterans.

In 1982, the LOVE program was converted into the Legion Ongoing Veterans Endowment LOVE Trust allowing it to support charitable activities from donations and income therefrom. It was granted tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(19) by the Internal Revenue Service under Letter Ruling dated September 13, 1982. As such, it is the opinion of the department judge advocate that the trust is an eligible recipient of funds under the North Dakota gaming statutes.

A three-member board of trustees was established, one member from each of the three regions in the Department. Within this group, the chairman, vice-chairman and secretary-treasurer were officers elected annually to manage the LOVE Trust. Ex-officio (non-voting) officers also serving on the board included the department commander, adjutant, finance officer and judge advocate. 

This format continued into 1993 when discussion began to change the LOVE Trust to a foundation. After a study by the board of trustees, it was decided to change to a foundation and more aggressively pursue gifts for the benefit of Legion programs from the members of the organization. 

Members serving on the board of trustees during 1993-94 were William Haug, Grand Forks; Dennis Mock, Bismarck, and Norman Erdman, Ralph, SD, who became regional directors on the board of newly-formed North Dakota American Legion Foundation when it became operational in 1994. On May 31, 1994, the LOVE Trust had a balance of $64,378, which was transferred to the foundation when it replaced the LOVE Trust.

The goal of the trustees of the LOVE Trust followed by the directors of the foundation has been to build a healthy reserve to invest, with the interest earned used to support ongoing programs of The American Legion.

The American Legion Department of North Dakota Legionnaire of the Year

The Department Executive Committee approved the establishment of the Legionnaire of the Year award at its Aug. 13, 2000, meeting at Camp Grafton.

Any active living member in a post is eligible to be nominated. A majority vote of those members present at a regular post meeting will determine that post’s Legionnaire of the Year for the designated calendar year.

The selection is made based on service to The American Legion (75 percent) and service to the community, state and nation (25 percent) during the specified year. A posthumous award is allowable only if the nominee’s death occurred within the period of the award. The DEC makes its selection of the Legionnaire of the Year in North Dakota from the information contained in the nomination forms and supporting documents from the participating posts.

An embroidered cap and a plaque are awarded to the annual state-level honoree. Here are the North Dakota Legionnaires of the Year since 2001:

Mike OlienykBelfield2001
Lloyd AwaltBottineau2002
Donald LoderCooperstown2003
Vincent BarthHebron2004
David RiceFargo2005
Steve FrojenOakes2006
Roger BoeTurtle Lake2007
Orlyen StensgardFargo2008
Robert LechnerFargo2009
Amy Weiser WillsonFargo2010
Albert TumaLarimore2011
Oran KeithSherwood2012
Kirk SmithGrand Forks2013
Christopher “Chris” HansonFargo2014
Tom CoonsDickinson2015
Art WannerDickinson2016
Todd OttoDickinson2017
Stanley Davis, Jr.Dickinson2018
Anna SpiveyLangdon2019

Sculpture honors Korean Veterans and Long-Serving Legionnaire, John Schafer

By ALLAN TINKER, McLean County Journal (Edited for Space)

It was a day of families: the family of John Schafer; the family of artists; the family of veterans; and the family of community support that reached out across the nation and then into Canada by early the next day. Facebook often works its wonders quickly among those who have access. An estimated 150 or more people attended the July 25th art celebration and dedication of the sculpture honoring Korean War Veteran Sergeant John Anton Schafer. The reception was held at the home, studio and courtyard of artist Don Cullum and Diane Cullum, the son-in-law and daughter of John Schafer.

“When Don created the sculpture, much thought and emotion went into each aspect of the work. The artist’s vision was that … “In the mind of the sculpted, Sergeant John Anton Schafer envisions home and loved ones and the view looking north from the Cullum yard is how he envisioned home back in North Dakota. The view from behind, over the shoulder of this soldier represents the view of those protected by the soldiers who fought our nation’s battles in Korea and all of the wars that US soldiers have fought in. The white body of the sculpture represents the soul, spirit and memories that make us who we are. The color on the posts and perimeter of the base is a life of service after the army, service to community and veterans alike.  The purple hearts and star mounted on the perimeter posts represents the sacrifices and valor of the US armed forces soldiers that have fought our battles for us. The sculpted soldier John is standing ready; looking northward toward the known enemy and moving his right arm and hand, shifting the rifle with his left, the soldier is ready for what is to come

This sculpture honors John Schafer and all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This sculpture is dedicated to all who have served during the Korean War. The Soldier’s story was related by daughter Candy,(Candace) M. Schafer, whom served as the main emcee for the program, “Dad is a humble man and does not like to be the center of attention – so we are going to start by recognizing a few other people. 

“John Anton Schafer was born September 23, 1929, the sixth child of Michael J. and Barbara Fix Schafer.  For those of you doing the math, he will be 86 years old in September.  He was raised on the family farm near Flasher, and graduated from Flasher High School in 1948. “If Dad were to talk to you about his military experience this is how it might go.  He would start with the story of how he and his good friend Paul Mahrer drove to Fargo in his 1940 Plymouth – WITHOUT BRAKES – in May of 1948 to go to the recruiting station to enlist in the Army, effective August 1948.  “He would go on to tell you about basic training in Ft. Riley, Kansas and Ft. Lewis, Washington; of being released into the Army Reserve in 1949 and then being called back into active duty when the Korean War broke out in June 1950.  John would explain “About spending Christmas Eve 1950 in Japan.   His first fire fight in Korea was on February 4, 1951; about the many battles and numerous squad patrols he led behind enemy lines to gather info for the cause.  “He would tell you he is a firm believer in the Holy Spirit.  Every day he would say “I will do my best and whatever happens, happens.  It was the only way he could lead his men into battle.  “He would tell you about the three times he was wounded. “John was honorably discharged on August 23, 1953, having fulfilled his full 5 year enlistment.  He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters and the Korean Service Medal. 

“Mom and Dad were both very active in the American Legion and Auxiliary, serving in local and district offices.  Dad served as Department Commander of the American Legion in l976-1977 which was very exciting for all of us  and he continues to be an active and involved Legionnaire.

“Dad has led such a full life – we simply don’t have the time to recall all that he has accomplished and experienced in his life. “Today is not a day to dwell on the hardships of being a soldier – rather it is a day to celebrate with joy the life of a young man who stood on a hill in Korea fighting to preserve freedom for all generations.

“As we dedicate this statue today, in honor of John, and dedicated to the U.S. Armed Forces Korean War Veterans, we are reminded that freedom isn’t free and we must always be grateful to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to preserve that freedom.   Candy concluded, “Don, thank you for sharing your incredible talent and love by creating this magnificent sculpture.  Dad, thank you for your loving example of a life well lived.  To our family and friends, your presence has made this day even more special.”

The sculpture is available to be viewed at the Don and Dianne Cullum studio in Turtle Lake, ND.

North Dakota American Legion Auxiliary Organized in 1921

The Department of North Dakota, American Legion Auxiliary, was organized in 1921, when Mrs. Eugene Fenelon of Devils Lake was elected the first department president. When the Auxiliary’s first department convention was held May 11-12, 1921, at Devils Lake, records of 67 Auxiliary units with a combined membership of almost 4,000 were turned over to its newly-established permanent organization. Legionnaires and posts around the state and the Legion’s department headquarters had stimulated the chartering of these new units. The first newspaper, “The Message,” was printed in September 1929 when Mrs. James (Amelia) Morris of Bismarck was department president.

The initial Girls State was held at Jamestown College in 1947. Mrs. A. U. Anderson of Crosby was department president and Mrs. John Engesather of Brocket, 1945-46 department president, served as its organizer and first director. Mrs. Engesather wrote the Girls State song which is still used today. Patricia West, Mandan, was elected the first governor. Sessions were held in Jamestown until 1950 when Girls State was moved to the campus of the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, where annual sessions have continued over the next four plus decades.

The much loved poppy has been a part of the Auxiliary program throughout the years. Patricia Higgins, Solen, 1975-76 department president, initiated the making of poppies at the Veterans Home in Lisbon. The veterans at that facility make most of the poppies used by the Auxiliary in North Dakota.

Members who have served as Northwest Division national vice-president are: Mrs. Fenelon, 1924-25; Mrs. Morris, 1931-32; Mrs. Albert G. Porter, LaMoure, 1938-39; Mrs. W. W. Plachte, Wahpeton, 1945-46; Mrs. Edward W. Tobin, Dickinson, 1952-53; Mrs. LeRoy D. Sweeney, Larimore, 1959-60; Ms. Alvin Moltzen, New Salem, 1966-67; Mrs. Wesley Sather, Grafton, 1973-74; Mrs. Leonard Hoff, Richardton, 1980-81; Mrs. Duane Hanson, Reeder, 1986-87; and Mrs. Paul Ingwalson, Crosby, was elected lo that office at the ’94 national convention in Minneapolis.

During her 1985-86 term as department president, Mrs. Albert (Marli) Wicka of Beach established a Girls State Foundation to help finance that program and to ensure that this worthwhile activity for young ladies across the state will be a continuing project.

There are a couple of sayings relating to the role of women in a man’s success. The first is “behind every man who has climbed the ladder of success stands a woman holding the ladder.” The second is “behind every successful man stands an absolutely amazed mother-in-law.” Both of these would seem to have some reality, but it is the first that so accurately describes the role of The American Legion Auxiliary in the life of the North Dakota American Legion.

Certainly, the ladies of the Auxiliary have consistently supported the efforts of the Legion, not only by giving their encouragement to their individual family-member Legionnaires, but also as an organization as well. In addition, the Auxiliary has operated many programs of its own, such as Girls State. The members of the North Dakota American Legion say a hearty and well-deserved Thank You to the North Dakota American Legion Auxiliary!

Two of our slate’s outstanding Auxiliary leaders, after serving a term as department president, continued their service on the national level and achieved the national presidency. Mrs. James (Amelia) Morris of Bismarck served the office of national president during 1938-39, and Mrs. Alvin (Vi) Moltzen of New Salem was the organization’s 1977-78 national president.

Spirit of Service, Not Self

   In the spirit, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is   to   support The American Legion and honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military and their families, both at home and abroad.For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.

What the Auxiliary Does

  • Support and  advocate for veterans, military and their families
  • Foster patriotism and responsible citizenship
  • Award scholarships and promote quality education and literacy
  • Provide educational and leadership opportunities that uphold the ideals of freedom and democracy and encourage good citizenship and patriotism in government
  • Increase our capacity to deliver our mission by providing meaningful volunteer opportunities within our communities

During the fourth quarter century, members who have served as the Auxiliary’s Northwestern Division national vice-president are: Ardel Ingwalson, Crosby, 1994-95; Lyla Semenko, Williston, 2001-02; Tootie Fueller, Rugby, 2008-09, and Judy Twete, McVille, 2015-16.  Beverly Wolff of Beach was the Auxiliary’s national chaplain during 2009-10.

The following ladies have served as Northwest Division national vice-president after Mrs. Paul Ingwalson, Crosby; Lyla Semenko, Williston, 2001-02; Tootie Fueller, Rugby, 2008-09; and Judy Twete, McVille, 2015-16.

Beverly Wolff of Beach was the Auxiliary’s national chaplain during 2009-10

Sons of The American Legion

The Sons of the American Legion (SAL) was authorized formally by the national Legion convention in September 1932 at Portland, OR, after three years of close examination, which followed about a decade of having proposed various names and scattered purposes for the junior Legion organization.

In North Dakota, the Department’s Executive Committee in annual convention at Williston in 1933 recommended temporary charters for SAL squadrons under a department detachment at state headquarters.

The first permanent charter in the state was granted in 1935 to a SAL squadron at Maddock. Soon to join were squadrons in Devils Lake, Williston, Bottineau and Dickinson. A Bismarck unit was chartered in 1936, leading to 1937 being a banner year for squadrons organizing at Carrington, Mayville, Mott, Velva, Minot, Cavalier, Grand Forks and Hatton. In 1938, Grafton, Ashley, Edmore, Oakes and Bowman were added. Then came the war years.

That period almost killed the SAL organization, which, like parent Legion posts, had commitments to “community, state and nation” in North Dakota and nationally. Membership was decimated by SAL-eligible workers going off to defense-plant jobs and also into the armed forces. Finally, returning veterans eligible to join the Legion did not have sons old enough for SAL ranks.

The national Legion made SAL an incidental duty of an assistant to the Americanism director until 1942, when a full-time supervisor was authorized. Past Department Commander Joe E. Rabinovich of Grand Forks took the job, even with its questionable future. But, when he counted the squadrons in 1943, then: were 37,000 members; in 1944, the count grew to 43,000; his 1945 report showed 46,000.

The Sons of The American Legion is overwhelmingly youth oriented. Although each squadron is allowed much flexibility in programs and activities for its age groups, the Sons do not attempt to displace the work of the Boy Scouts or other youth organizations.

Squadrons inherit the same number as their parent Legion post. They have numerous outlets to encourage interest and participation in Americanism and rehabilitation programs. They have visited the sick and elderly, conducted “Say No To Drugs” programs, formed color guards, drill teams and marching units for schools and community functions, taught flag education and etiquette, served as volunteers at Legion post, district and department meetings, competed on rifle  marksmanship teams and so forth. The only class of membership is active. There are no honorary members. Nor are there age restrictions on eligibility.

One of the formalized national programs leads the SAL, by achievement steps, to fulfill the organization’s purpose covering 10 points for character building: Patriotism, Health, Knowledge, Training, Honor, Faith, Helpfulness, Courtesy, Reverence and Comradeship. These ideals are geared to younger members to help prepare them, generally after age 12, for Five Star Awards in knowledge and performance in Patriotism, Citizenship, Discipline, Leadership and Legionism. Awards are available at the Legion National Emblem Sales Division for the successful completion of the two programs.

As happened in numerous locales across the country, North Dakota had a prolonged dry spell of inconsistent SAL activities.

Thus, with the Mountain squadron being chartered in 1982, it has become the current record holder of the most consecutive years of activity. Besides Mountain, there are 10 other SAL squadrons active as of 1994: Maddock, Minot, Williston, Ellendale, Fargo, Finley, Hope, Lankin, Mandan and Manvel.

The North Dakota SAL Detachment had its first official annual convention June 15, 1991, at Williston and elected Dwight C. H. Kautzmann of Mandan as its commander. Other detachment officers elected were Frank Wippler, vice-commander, Lankin, and Lee Ruzicka, chaplain, Lankin. Officers appointed were David M. Schmidt, adjutant, Fargo; Mike Hodny, historian, Lankin, and Greg Semenko, sergeant-alarms, Williston, all one-year terms. Elected for two-year terms were Don Kautzmann, national executive committeeman, Mandan, and Dwayne Indridason, alternate NECman, Mountain. All these officers repeated for 1992-93.

Delegates to the ’93 detachment convention chose Frank Wippler as their 1993-94 commander and Mike Hodny, vice-commander; Jerry Hodny, Lankin, was appointed historian, and all other elective and appointive officers were renamed except Dwight Kautzmann was elected to succeed his son, Don, for a two-year term as NECman. Only four months into his term, Wippler passed away unexpectedly Oct. 11, 1993. Detachment Vice-Commander Mike Hodny became detachment commander and completed the unexpired term.

Preceding the first annual convention, SAL squadron members met in March 1990 in the Maddock Legion post home to organize the N.D. SAL Detachment (state level). Delegates, from five of the seven then active squadrons, to this formational meeting reviewed and approved the proposed constitution and by-laws and established a combined state and national annual dues structure of $7 per member effective for 1992 SAL dues.

Also agreed upon was an officer structure calling for the election of a commander, vice-commander and chaplain of the annual convention, with the commander appointing the adjutant, historian and sergeant-at-arms for the ensuing year. It was also determined that a national executive committeeman and his alternate would be elected for two-year terms in the odd-numbered years. The delegates selected an interim slate of officers.

Past Detachment Commanders 1991-1994

North Dakota Forty and Eight Started in 1922

The Forty and Eight has been called many things. They include “the honor society of The American Legion” and “the hell-raisers of The American Legion.” Perhaps the most fitting description is that the members of the 40 et 8 are the workhorses of The American Legion. In North Dakota, members of the 40 et 8 comprise only about three per cent of the Legion membership. That small percentage of Legion members generally is the backbone of our American Legion.

There are departments where being a member of the 40 et 8 is one of the prerequisites for being elected department commander of the Legion. This is not true in North Dakota, but there would be very few, if any, department commanders who were not 40 et 8 members. The North Dakota American Legion says Thank You to the members of the Forty and Eight for your dedicated service to God and Country and to The American Legion!

One member rose to head the national 40 et 8. He was John P. “Chick” Conmy of Fargo, who led the organization as 1928-29 chef de chemin de fer. Earlier, he served the state 40 et 8 as 1923-24 grand chef de gare.

Williams Organized Grand Voiture

Jack Williams of Fargo, who was initiated into Voiture Locale #145 at Indianapolis, IN, Jan. 22, 1922, was appointed grand organizer by Chef de Chemin de Fer Edmond Eivers to organize 40 et 8 voitures in North Dakota. In the next six months, he established 27 voitures locaux in 27 counties. Subsequently, he was elected a grand chef de gare passe in respect for that service.

Joe Rabinovich of Grand Forks was elected the first grand chef de gare to head this new society in North Dakota during the group’s initial grand promenade at Devils Lake June 22, 1922.

The Forty and Eight’s name was taken from French boxcars, which had a capacity of 40 men or eight horses, used to transport American expeditionary forces in WW I.

The group’s officers are patterned after the titles of French railroad officials. Although its original intention was to serve as a “playground” for Legionnaires, the society quickly found itself in more serious pursuits, like child welfare and Americanism activities, financing equipment for publishing research papers on Hansen’s disease and giving scholarships for nurses training.

In 1954, the nurses’ training program was made a separate national activity from its parent child welfare program to help alleviate a national shortage of nurses. By 1994, local 40 et 8 voitures over the nation had funded training for approximately 20,000 nurse graduates at a cost in excess of $19 million.

North Dakota members who have served voiture national as sous chef de chemin de fer (vice-commander) are William Schantz, 1932-33, and Harry Rosenthal, 1937-38, both of Bismarck; Frank Cheatham, 1942-43, Grand Forks; Arthur E. Ulness, 1950-51, and John J. Preboske, 1958-59, both of Fargo; Russell Crawford, 1967-68, Grand Forks; Robert R. Stone, 1972-73, Fargo; William Doherty, 1979-80, Dunn Center; Burton G. Maxwell, 1981-82, and Robert G. Long, 1987-88, both of Fargo.

Other North Dakota members serving in national 40 et 8 offices include Edward Kraus, Fargo, who was 1934-35 drapeau (keeper of the flag); Arthur E. Ulness of Fargo in 1949-50 and Dr. O. H. Hoffman of Hannaford in 1959-60 held the garde de la porte (sergeant-at-arms) position; and Rev. Fr. Lambert V. Studzinski of Minto in 1956-57 and Rev. Jerry Salveson of Kindred in 1974-75 served as aumonier (chaplain).

North Dakota American Legion Riders

Photos from the 2015 Legion Ride, which raised over $5,000.

The North Dakota American Legion Riders became part of the Legion family in 2006 spearheaded by two Larrys: Larry Vetter, Post 97, and Larry Bahr, Post 20. The two founding American Legion Riders Chapters became known as District 2, Post 97, Larimore, and District 10, Post 20, Wahpeton. They were soon followed by Post 42, Bottineau (now inactive), and Post 26 in Minot. Recently we have seen chapters in Post 98, Langdon, Post 3, Dickinson, Post 77, Pembina, and Post 66, New England.

During the 2017 Department Convention in Minot the Riders adopted and approved rules, procedures and guidelines that were approved by the Department Executive Committee and chapters.

During the 2018 Department Convention in Fargo, we adopted and approved a North Dakota American Legion Riders Scholarship for dependents of North Dakota veterans.  The North Dakota American Legion Foundation is the caretaker of the investments. The Riders control and dispense the scholarships.

Vetter was the first State Riders director until he was elected Department Commander for 2010-2011. Gerald Puetz was asked to take the position and was appointed to serve a three-year term by then American Legion Department Commander Karen Meier, 2017-2018. For several years the Riders took part and raised money either by fundraisers or Pony Express and donated about $80,000 to the National American Legion Riders Legacy Fund.

History of the Riders

In Garden City, Michigan, in 1993, Chuck “Tramp” Dare and Bill “Polka” Kaledas, commander of American Legion Post 396, shared an idea to start a motorcycle enthusiasts association within the organization. The two longtime riders wanted an environment where Legion family members could come together to share a common love for motorcycles. Dare and Kaledas wrote a letter to Michigan Department Adjutant Hubert Hess, sharing their idea. Hess liked the concept and wanted to pursue it. Later, he gave Kaledas and Dare instructions for managing the program at the post level. He also explained how they could be approved to use the American Legion emblem, and how to gain membership’s support and recognition. At a regular meeting, Post 396 members passed a resolution for a new program to be known as the “American Legion Riders.”

Joined by 19 other founding members from their post, Dare and Kaledas were flooded with requests for information about their organization. They agreed to establish a central source for the Riders to ensure that chapters formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires and Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion members joining to ride as Legion family.

Legion Riders today

Currently, over 110,000 American Legion Riders meet in over 2,000 chapters in every domestic department and in at least three foreign countries. True to the Legion’s grassroots tradition, each chapter manages its programs at the post level, where the best ideas are born. The Riders are part of many projects and events, including:

  • Rolling Thunder, the annual POW/MIA rally in Washington on Memorial Day weekend.
  • Annual regional rides such as Operation Wounded Warrior, sponsored by Riders in Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California and other Western states.
  • Local charity events in support of The American Legion and local communities.
  • Raising money for VA hospitals, women and children centers, children and youth centers, schools and other facilities.
  • Sponsoring or participating in motorcycle runs to benefit numerous charities.
  • Local memorial ceremonies and community parades.
  • The American Legion Legacy Run, an annual cross-country fundraising ride from National Headquarters in Indianapolis to the national convention city.
  • Riding to honor fallen military men and women, and to protect the sanctity of their funerals from those who would dishonor their memory.
  • Escorting military units to departure airfields and airports for combat tours overseas, and welcoming them home upon their return.

Article submitted by Gerald Puetz, NDALR

Many members of the North Dakota American Legion come from the North Dakota National Guard. They have held positions from Post Commander to National Vice-Commander and offices in between. We are indebted to them for their service to The American Legion, their state and country.

North Dakota Army National Guard

The Citizen-Soldiers: An Abbreviated History of the North Dakota National Guard

Peter W. Conlin, Major, Command Historian, North Dakota National Guard Museum and Archives

(The following article is an abbreviated history of the North Dakota National Guard and is written specifically for the Bluebook.  The majority of content is edited from the book “Citizens as Soldiers: A History of the North Dakota National Guard”, 1986 by Jerry Cooper.  This book was chosen for its completeness of research and accurate depiction of events.  Additional information on the Philippine Insurrection came from the unpublished article “For Liberation and Democracy: The North Dakota National Guard in the Philippine Insurrection” by this author.  Information on the Gulf War was retrieved from the October 1990 – February 1991 issues of The Nodak Guardsman, a publication of the North Dakota Army National Guard  Material on the Balkan Actions was provided by the 129th PAD.  No credit is being taken by this author for original research or text writing, and none should be inferred.)


The history of the North Dakota National Guard is not much different from the history of the United States military in general.  It is marked by lack of funds, poor equipment, build-ups and drawdowns, and skepticism by the public.  Yet what makes the North Dakota National Guard different from other military units is its remarkable ability to view adversity as a challenge to overcome, and distinguish itself when duty calls.

Since North Dakota became a state in 1889, its National Guard has consistently carved its name in the monuments of U.S. military history.  Even today, the North Dakota National Guard challenges itself by training in areas of the world which still suffer from military, political, or cultural conflicts.  

This article presents an abbreviated history of the North Dakota National Guard.  It is taken directly from the book “Citizens As Soldiers: A History of the North Dakota National Guard” by Jerry Cooper.  

Origins of the North Dakota National Guard

The North Dakota National Guard originated in the Dakota Territorial Militia of the 1860s, which in turn was a descendent of the colonial militia.  After 1783, and until the end of the nineteenth century, state governments provided most of the troops used to fight the nation’s wars.  

America’s military history is a history of two armies, the Regular Army and the citizen-soldier army raised for war.  Until World War I, a vast majority of the citizen-soldiers came to national military service through the state militia system as volunteers.

Regular Army posts existed in the soon-to-be Dakota Territory as early as the 1850s.  Congress created the Dakota Territory in March of 1861, but due to the needs of the Civil War, the regular troops were removed from the Missouri River posts.  Territorial Governor William Jayne issued a proclamation in December 1861 calling for two companies of volunteer cavalry.  He managed to raise one company by January 1862 and on 29 April 1862, they were federally recognized as Company A, First Dakota Cavalry to serve for three years.  Company B was formed a year later.  The companies would serve with the Sibley-Sully campaigns of 1862-63, but would never be asked to leave the Territory to help with the Civil War.

In 1867, Governor A.J. Faulk would invigorate the Dakota militia by requesting arms, ammunition, and accouterments for one thousand men — mostly cavalry – from the Secretary of War.  By the end of 1867, 538 officers and men were organized in eight companies located in the southeastern part of the Territory.  Nearly $38,000 dollars was allocated to the Territory to begin the militia, but there was no plan for sustaining the militia once the federal money was exhausted.  J.L. Kelly, the appointed adjutant general had asked the governor for a small sum of money to rent an armory to store surplus military gear.  This was due to the fact that little of the twenty-nine tons of arms, uniforms, and accouterments could be found, most being “lost or destroyed for want of some suitable place to store them.”

During the 1870s, the Dakota Territory lay dormant.  The mismanagement of arms and uniforms kept the War Department from supporting further growth in the militia.  In addition, the low population density made it difficult to raise an adequate militia, and the regular army eliminated the Indian threat during the campaigns following the Little Big Horn battle in 1876.  But Governor William Howard would continue to fight for a larger militia for the Dakota Territory.

By 1885, the Dakota National Guard totaled one thousand officers and men organized in a brigade of two infantry regiments and an artillery battery.  “The Great Dakota Boom” from 1878 to 1890 largely influenced this growth.  Railroad construction, rapid immigration into the Territory, and a maturing agricultural economy created the recruiting base for a strong militia.  In 1889, the Dakota Territory was split into North and South Dakota.  North Dakota’s military code authorized one infantry regiment of ten companies, expandable to twelve.

However, by 1890 the North Dakota National Guard began to suffer from a sever lack of funds.  The “Great Dakota Boom” went bust.  Wheat prices plummeted.  Too much land speculation.  Soon the Dakotas were left underpopulated and short of tax revenues.

During the 1890s, there was little money for mustering, much less for training.  From 1894 to 1898, the North Dakota National Guard conducted no summer training camps.  This made it very difficult for both recruiting and for preparation for any necessary actions by the Guard.  This lack of funds would haunt the North Dakota National Guard right up to the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry, 1898-1899

In 1898, events in Cuba and open hostilities toward Spain would send North Dakotans to the Philippines.  The events started in 1895, when Cuban rebels launched a major revolt against Spain.  The United State government attempted to negotiate a peace agreement and even offered to purchase Cuba.  The Spanish resented US interference and flatly rejected the offer.

President McKinley was concerned about US interests and sent the USS Maine to Cuba.  But on February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor.  The reason for the explosion remains unknown, but at the time most Americans felt it was a Spanish mine. On March 25, 1898, the Navy Board of Inquiry reported that the explosion was caused by an external source, probably a mine — though no one was blamed for placing the mine On April 19, 1898, Congress passed a joint resolution demanding that Cuba be set free.  President McKinley sent the US Navy to blockade Cuban ports. 

Spain reciprocated by declaring war on the United States on April 23rd.  The Spanish-American War had begun.

Even before Congress passed mobilization legislation, North Dakota’s Governor Frank Briggs began receiving requests from various individuals for commissions so that they may begin recruiting regiments.  Governor Briggs exercised caution and fully intended from the beginning to follow President McKinley’s instructions to use the National Guard to fill the required quota of volunteers.

Originally, the War Department gave the North Dakota National Guard a quota of five troops of cavalry.  North Dakota only had one mounted unit in Dunseith.  State officials found themselves upset and confused, since North Dakota has nine companies of infantry in its 1st National Guard Regiment. 

To preserve the North Dakota political and military identity, Brigadier General Elliot S. Miller of North Dakota and others requested a change to the quota.

The War Department conceded and changed the quota to two battalions of infantry, or eight companies.  The nine infantry units, along with Troop A from Dunseith, and the light artillery battalion (Battery A) from Lisbon volunteered, though the commander of the Langdon unit (Company E) later withdrew leaving eight infantry companies.  One unit not included in the original nine was the Grand Forks unit (Company F), which had been disbanded by the state a year earlier for inefficiency.  The eight remaining infantry companies were chosen to become the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Companies of the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry

Company A,  Bismarck                       Company  G, Valley City

Company B,  Fargo                             Company H, Jamestown

Company C, Grafton          Company I,  Wahpeton      

Company D, Devils Lake  Company K, Dickinson

Lieutenant Colonel William C. Treumann was selected to be the regimental commander for the 1st North Dakota Volunteers, with Major Frank White as 1st Battalion commander and Major Harry C. Flint as 2nd Battalion commander.  Flint resigned four days later due to health reasons, and Captain John Fraine of Company C (Grafton) was promoted and took his place.

The War Department designated Fargo as the concentration point for mobilization and created Camp Briggs.  Due to lack of funds, the North Dakota National Guard had not attended a summer camp since 1894, and their equipment was in poor service.  Shortages were corrected with nonregulation items.  Commanders were given five days, 26 April to 1 May, to recruit their units to strength.  It took only six hours for the Grafton unit to meet its strength requirements.  Just over 450 men would begin their journey to the Philippines.

The 1st North Dakota arrived at Manila Bay 31 July, but ended up spending another five days on board, since the army could not decide where to put them.  On 5 August, they went ashore on the small Manila Bay peninsula of Cavite, south of Manila

On 12 August, the 1st North Dakota received orders to take twenty-four hour shifts in the trench lines surrounding the city of Manila.  They were assigned to General Arthur MacArthur’s 1st Brigade.  A firefight and assault occurred on 13 August in which the 1st North Dakota played a modest role.   It lasted one hour and resulted in the surrender of Manila.  Major Frank White called it “rather disappointing.”  The battle over the Philippines had ended just 13 days after the 1st North Dakota Volunteers arrived at Manila.

The 1st North Dakota was now involved in occupation duty.   They endured intense drill, homesickness, seasickness, bad food, and make-shift equipment.  Many soldiers were ready to go home.  But Major General Elwell Otis rejected requests from units asking that they be released since they had fulfilled the obligation of their enlistment contracts.  General Otis was uneasy over the continued Insurgent conflicts with the American troops and wished to keep all his forces until replacements arrived.  In a letter to his wife, Major White complains “It is a waste of time here with nothing to do that adds a particle to one’s advancement.”  His men deeply disliked occupation duty.

Occupation duties strained the regiment.  Increase in sick calls and relaxed attitudes began to take its toll.  Majors White and Fraine began strict inspections for cleanliness and reinforced discipline among the troops.  As a result, the sick calls decreased, but discipline would still be a weakness throughout the winter months.

Since the Spanish surrender in August, the Filipinos, lead by Emilio Aguinaldo, pushed for independence.  This was the independence they fought the Spanish for and now asked the US government for this recognition.  The US had decided that the Filipinos were not ready for selfrule.  The Philippine freedom fighters began to once again grow restless of their occupiers.

From February to April, skirmishes took place amongst the trenches as shots were exchanged between the Insurgents and the American troops.  Although fighting became more intense and aggressive with each encounter, General Otis was hesitant about launching a grand campaign.  

In March 1899, Major General Henry Lawton took over the 1st Division. 

The 1st North Dakota was transferred to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, VIII Corps now under the command of General Charles King.  Not content with General Otis’ caution, King encouraged those with Krag-Jorgensen rifles to snipe at the insurgents.  He also sent out armed reconnaissance.  King’s assertiveness and proactive attitude would propel the 1st North Dakota into action.

General King planned an action near an advance outpost on a ridge (called King’s Bluff) occupied by the 1st North Dakota.  Major Frank White led a detachment on an attack against an Insurgent outpost just one mile beyond the regiment’s lookout.  Approximately 200 insurgents held the position.  King ordered White to take two companies, outflank the enemy outpost, surround it, and capture the Insurgents.

Companies A (Bismarck) and D (Devil’s Lake) moved up to Kings Bluff on 31 March.  The companies began to march to a ravine, after which things began to go wrong.  King and White misjudged the direction of the ravines course, which turned just in front of the Insurgent outpost.  White initially went beyond the point where he was to make his advance toward the Insurgents, and quickly retraced his step until he reached a better advance point.  However, a large clump of brush still lay between him and the Insurgent post.  White maneuvered the companies into position on the enemy’s right flank.

At daybreak, King’s snipers fired, alerting Insurgent sentries who began firing at White.  Company A had clear ground and charged.  Company D was confronted with a gully with heavy brush and steep rock sides.  Company D crossed in single file and reformed, only to find themselves only two hundred yards from the Insurgent camp and trenches, which were expected to be far in the rear as King assumed.  Company A’s charge had cleared the Insurgent outposts.  Company D fired on the Insurgent camp and routed them from their trenches.  The Insurgents, however, disappeared into the heavy jungle.

King was upset about the failed operation and was quick to criticize Lieutenant Colonel Treumann because one company arrived ten minutes late.  White submitted a report explaining the problems of unknown terrain and inaccurate assumptions.  The matter was quickly ended.

General Lawton was known for his restlessness.  To put his tireless energy to good use, General Otis put him in command of a special expedition to the town of Santa Cruz, located to the east-southeast of Laguna de Bay.  This was the first American advance into the Philippine countryside.  Lawton’s orders were to capture Santa Cruz and an Insurgent army “rumored” there and to distribute copies of McKinley’s proclamation (citing that the Philippines now belong to the United States) to the Filipinos.  

Lawton began to organize his forces and included Major John Fraine’s 2nd Battalion of the 1st North Dakota.  Lawton delegated tactical command to General King.  Having learned his lesson on unknown terrain, King organized a special four-company battalion of sharpshooters to serve as scouts.  Lieutenant W. J. Gruschius of Company K (Dickinson) led the 2nd Company sharpshooters made up of forty men from the 1st North Dakota.

The expedition left on 8 April, using the waterways, since the Insurgents held the overland routes.  They arrived on the 9th.  The American advance began at 5:45 P.M.  The darkness halted the advance and the troops slept on the firing line.  The advance began again at 7:00 A.M. with little resistance.  Lawton found the city empty.  The Insurgents fled the trenches and went into the countryside, as was frequently the case.  On 11 April, Major Fraine’s battalion began searching for steam launches hidden by Insurgents. 

Fraine’s force found and captured four steam launches and two cascoes.  The 1st North Dakota infantry managed to capture the Insurgent Navy.

On 12 April, Lawton ordered Major Fraine to proceed to a small village called Paete to look for a suitable place where the expeditionary force could re-embark on the lake boats.  The road to Paete ran through rough country, with thick underbrush and steep hills.  It was suspected that an Insurgent band was in or near Paete.  The battalion moved out with a five-man point guard two hundred yards forward and twenty sharpshooters one hundred yards behind.  Due to the rough terrain, Fraine initially did not put out flank guards, but soon sent five scouts from Company C (Grafton) up the steep hill to his right, since it looked suspicious.    They came across a trench three hundred yards in front of the column.  Fraine ordered Lieutenant Tharalson of Company C to take the sharpshooters and outflank the trench.  At that time, “a very heavy fire” commenced from the hillside and trees.  After about one hour of fighting, the column advanced and arrived at Paete with no further resistance.

This fight was the single most costly combat incident for the 1st North Dakota Volunteers during their Philippine service.  Of the five scouts sent up the hill by Fraine, four were killed in action.  Private Thomas Sletteland, the only man not hit, defended the three dead and one wounded comrade while the Insurgents repeatedly attacked their breastwork to obtain the arms of the killed soldiers, only to be driven back by Private Sletteland.  He then carried the wounded soldier to safety (he died later that day) and returned for the deceased.  Four others were killed and two wounded during the fight.  General Lawton later recommended Private Sletteland for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he received.  Private Sletteland was the first of the 1st North Dakota receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Eight others would be honored in later fights.

Lawton did not have enough men to occupy Santa Cruz permanently.  A cautious General Otis called Lawton’s expedition back, fearing they might be cut off.  Otis also wanted Lawton’s force back for a pending operation by MacArthur.

Only two days after the return of the 2nd Battalion, the entire 1st North Dakota was assigned to another expedition under General Lawton.  The expedition was to serve as a flank guard for MacArthur’s 2nd Division during its offensive up the Manila-Dagupan railroad, leading northward from Manila.  The expedition was to link up with the 2nd Division at the town of San Miguel de Mayumo.

Lawton’s expedition left on 22 April.  His first objective was to join the 2nd Oregon in the town of Norzagarya, twenty-five miles from Manila.  The 1st North Dakota led the advance.  They encountered enemy outposts after marching just six miles.  Lieutenant Colonel Treumann deployed Major White’s 1st Battalion as skirmishers.  They met little resistance as the Insurgents ran off.  However, another mile down the road, they met a larger force.  The 1st Battalion formed a firing line and routed the Insurgents into the dense jungle.  

The next day, Lawton would discover the inaccuracies of the Spanish maps.  It took the 1st North Dakota ten and a half hours to cover four and a half miles.  The next day, they were able to move only a mile and a half.  The roads marked on the maps were mere trails or did not exist.  They did not meet the 2nd Oregon until 26 April.  What made the trip more difficult for the 1st North Dakota was that Lawton had the previous day’s advance guard become the next day’s rear guard, a supposed lighter duty.  However, due to the difficult terrain, the North Dakotans acted as rear guard for four days, pushing carts and wagons and often replacing the animals as labor when they died of heat or exhaustion.  From colonel down to private, everyone arduously labored every piece to its next destination.

Throughout the next several days as Lawton’s expedition moved toward San Miguel, they would run into the occasional skirmish, but as always, the Insurgents would quickly run off.  Terrain turned out to be the most formidable enemy.  With the lack of good roads, General Otis was concerned about command and control.  Rivers, swamps, heat, and sickness bogged down the 2nd Division.  Lawton was ordered to halt at the town of Baliuag, since Otis heard rumors of a Insurgent (“phantom”) army moving on Lawton’s right flank.  Although Lawton requested to move onward to San Miguel, noting the lack of  “effective resistance.”  Lawton was to remain at Baliuag until 15 May.

While at Baliuag, Lawton organized a detachment of scouts — twenty-five specially qualified men — to serve as his eyes and ears in the uncharted regions east of a nearby swamp.  He gave the command to William H. Young, a civilian from Connecticut who went to the Philippines for adventure.  Young attached himself to Lawton’s force when they moved out in April and usually ate with one of the North Dakota companies.  Young was appointed Chief of Scouts and was told to select reliable enlisted men for the detachment.  Sixteen of the twenty-five scouts were from the 1st North Dakota.  The scouts searched the countryside for food and weapons caches, burning most of what they found.

On 12 May, Lawton sent Young and his scouts to reconnoiter the area in and around the towns of San Ildefonso and San Miguel.  At 5:00 A.M., Young discovered Insurgent trenches and induced the Insurgents to fire, estimating four hundred Insurgents.  The fire fight lasted all day, when the Insurgents were routed out of town.  This action of twenty-five men against four hundred advanced Lawton’s brigade five miles.  Only one scout was lost in the fight, Private Truelock of Company C (Grafton), 1st North Dakota.

On 13 May, Young’s men — reduced to eighteen — moved on to San Miguel for reconnaissance.  Young and three men from the 1st North Dakota approached an enemy trench line defending a bridge over the Calumpit River leading to San Miguel.  The enemy of about three hundred men opened fire.  The scouts charged the line as the Insurgents fled to San Miguel.  Young was mortally wounded in this fight and died a day later. 

Lawton recommended eleven scouts for the Congressional Medal of Honor (six were from the 1st North Dakota of which three received it).  This action moved Lawton another five miles.  General Otis gave Lawton permission to advance his force to San Miguel, and move on to San Isidro, the capital and headquarters for the Insurgent leader Aguinaldo.

On 16 May, about three miles south of San Isidro, the scouts came across a swift-flowing stream about forty feet wide, with steep banks, spanned only by a wooden bridge.  The Insurgents were entrenched on the other side and began shooting at the scouts and had set the bridge on fire.  Realizing the importance of saving the bridge, the scouts set up a firing line on the bank.  Lieutenant Thornton (the new scout commander) and two enlisted ran across the burning bridge.  One of them, Corporal Thomas of Company K (Dickinson) fell through the badly burned bridge, but managed to swim to the other side to continue the fight.  Thornton and the two soldiers fired into the flanks of the Insurgents while the others shot at them at point blank.  The scouts then waded across and drove off the insurgents.  They put out the fire and held the position until Lawton arrived.  Thornton recommended the twenty-two scouts for the Congressional Medal of Honor (five North Dakotans actually received the medal).

Despite the successes of the scouts, the expedition ended a failure.  MacArthur’s 2nd Division was unable to meet Lawton at San Miguel due to the poor terrain, and General Otis would not allow Lawton to pursue Aguinaldo after left his capital of San Isidro.  The force was never defeated, just easily routed and dispersed.

The 1st North Dakota returned to Manila in good shape.  Colonel Treumann reported that the 1st North Dakota had more present for duty than when it left on the 21st of April.  The division surgeon noted that the 1st North Dakota Volunteers had less sickness of any kind in proportion than any command.

General Otis decided to use the volunteers one last time before sending them home.  He organized another special expedition to trap an army of insurgents in the Morong Peninsula region.  The 1st North Dakota once again was on the move in its entirety.  Treumann called together the veterans of Young’s scouts and sent them in advance of his column.  The scouts reported Insurgents fleeing into the jungle during the move to the peninsula.  The expedition moved in unopposed with only meager resistance from snipers.  This would end another failed expedition. 

Lawton reported that bad roads and excessive heat hampered the mission.  He also noted the tendency of Insurgents to pose as “amigos,” as the American called them.  Insurgents would change their uniforms to a white suit, hide their weapons, and wave white flags.  The increase of this tactic moved the war from conventional to guerrilla tactics.

General Otis decided to occupy the town of Morong and the 1st North Dakota was lucky enough to draw this assignment.  Lieutenant Colonel Treumann did not fear an attack but still set up outposts and scouting parties.

On 9 June, the scouts — led by Private John  Killian of Company H (Jamestown) — attacked an Insurgent outpost.  When “Dad” Killian was severely wounded, the other scouts put him on a makeshift stretcher and quickly headed back to Morong.  The natives closely followed, forcing the scouts to stop several times to drive them back.  At one point, the stretcher fell apart dumping Killian to the ground.  The scouts fended off the Insurgents while they fashioned a new stretcher.  One scout ran ahead to get help and met Major White whom sent a corpsman.  By the time the corpsman reached Killian, he was dead.

The occupation began to wear on the 1st North Dakota, as their morale and health deteriorated. .  The town of Morong became known to the soldiers as “more wrong.”  MacArthur reported that “The severe, unremitting, and almost unexampled strain, have told upon the whole organizations to such an extent that they are now completely worn out and broken in health.”  In a 1 July letter to General Miller, the State Adjutant General, Colonel Treumann mentioned his growing sick list, “mostly of stomach and bowel troubles.” “Most of us are near skeletons and have lost from 15 to 40 pounds.”  Morale began to suffer and take its toll on everyone.

Relief came on 6 July with the arrival of two battalions.  The 1st North Dakota left Morong the next day.  Adding insult to injury, General Otis later abandoned the Morong Peninsula, leaving it once again in Insurgent hands.

By July, the 1st North Dakota was ready to go home.  They had not seen North Dakota in over a year and homesickness gave way to desperation.  They spent their remaining time eating, sleeping, reading, writing, and buying local goods.

On 28 July, they boarded the SS Grant and headed for San Francisco.  The Grant left on 31 July, spending several days in Japan and arrived at Oakland Bay on 29 August 1899.  A parade was held for them and several North Dakota political figures were present.  The 1st North Dakota was then mustered out in San Francisco and boarded the train back to North Dakota.

The Mexican Border Incident, 1916

Prior to 1916, National Guardsman had only a moral obligation to serve if a national call-up was required.  But the National Defense Act of 1916 changed this, guaranteeing the Guard permanent service as a reserve for the army as well as substantial appropriations.  

Two weeks after the passing of this act, a call-up was enacted by President Taft.  Turmoil in Mexico came as a consequence of the overthrow of Dictator Porfirio Diaz earlier in the decade.  Since 1911, conflicts grew and began to cross the US/Mexican border.  For five years, Regular army troops guarded the boundary line to keep the civil war in Mexico.  Relations between the US and Mexico slowly deteriorated.  The climax of growing conflict came in early March 1916 when guerrilla leader Francisco “Pancho” Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, shooting up the town and killing several Americans.

President Wilson ordered Major General Frederick Funston to organize a force to pursue Villa’s band into Mexico.  General Funston found it difficult to support this mission with only his regular army, he recommended to the President that he call-up fifty thousand National Guardsman to reinforce his regulars along the border.  Only Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona were called at first, but as the situation worsened, President Wilson federalized the entire National Guard and sent them to the border.

North Dakota, as were all states, was caught by surprise, since there was no prior indication that any call-up was to take place.  Most of the senior officers were out of town.  Colonel John Fraine began the mobilization by writing the call-up order and conducted it until Thomas Tharalson, the Adjutant General was able to return from Minneapolis.  Companies were ordered to be drilling and recruiting

After a week at their respective home stations, the companies rendezvoused at Fort Lincoln, the designated point by the War Department.  While at Fort Lincoln, the troops enjoyed the “hurry up and wait” routine, as well as measles.  The companies assembled on 25 June for inspection and were fully mustered by 3 July and at the disposal of the federal government. 

With all administrative matter resolved and the measles under control, the 1st Regiment left Fort Lincoln for the border on 22 July 1916.  It took four days for North Dakota’s regiment of twelve companies, machine gun company, band, and medical detachment to travel to the border.  No one knew exactly where they were going and what they would do when they got there. The 1st Regiment arrived at Mercedes, Texas, just seventy miles west of Brownsville.  It was an undeveloped camp used by locals as a garbage dump.  The first detail was to clean the camp and dig a drainage system, since the soil turned to gumbo when it rained.

While regular soldiers patrolled the borders, Guardsman began an intensive six-month training program.  They went through vigorous drills, marches, problems, exercises, and inspections.  The regiment worked on every aspect of military field service, including scouting, advance and rear guard, and the construction, attack, and defense of trenches.

During their stay in Texas, the 1st Regiment endured grueling training, but saw no action.  The regiment’s third battalion did spend three weeks on border patrol, but found it as monotonous as drilling.  Many complained and wanted to go back home, since they found their purpose meaningless, and many were concerned for their jobs and families back home.  At last on 23 January 1917, the 1st North Dakota Infantry left Texas headed for Fort Snelling, Minnesota to be mustered-out.

World War I, 1917-1919

In January 1917, shortly after the return of the 1st North Dakota Regiment, the Germans resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, which by March, had sunk several American merchant ships.  On 28 February, the Militia Bureau notified the state adjutants general.  President Wilson ordered a partial mobilization in late March to protect utilities, bridges, and war-related facilities from German sabotage.  On 26 March, the 2nd Battalion, 1st North Dakota assembled at home stations.  They had been home from Texas only forty days.

The call-up was quite dismal.  The Mexican Border experience left distrust in the hearts of those who served in the 1st North Dakota.  Company F was only able to muster three officers and nine enlisted men.  In order to be eligible for federal service, the soldier must voluntarily sign a federal oath, different from the state oath.  If they didn’t sign the oath – they were not accepted into service.  The National Defense Act of 1916 required all new enlistees and re-enlistments to take both oaths.  But many of those serving in the North Dakota Guard at the time had entered the Guard prior to the act and wouldn’t be required to take the oath until their next enlistment, unless done so voluntarily.

The War Department moved slowly in implementing is mobilization and training programs.  The Selective Service act of 18 May 1917 allowed for draftees, but they could not be called into service until federal and state governments established local draft boards.  The first draft did not take place until July 1917.  The 1st Infantry, North Dakota National Guard was slated to report for training on 1 August at a yet unbuilt camp in the Southern Department.

Approximately 3,700 North Dakota men went to war as National Guardsman, with the 2,051 from the 1st Regiment, and the remainder from the newly organized 2nd Regiment.  

The North Dakota regiments would be assigned to the 13th National Guard Division, and two weeks later reassigned to the 20th Division and would train in Palo Alto, California.  Until then, the soldiers endured months of training at home waiting for training camps to be built.

On 19 September, the North Dakota regiments were ordered to report to Camp Greene as part of the 34th Division, in North Carolina, yet another change in orders.  However, a change in the War Departments plans for western front warfare changed the manpower needs.  Fewer infantry and more artillery, cavalry, and logistical troops were needed.  The National Guard divisions would once again be reorganized.

The North Dakota regiments were now assigned to the 41st National Guard Division.  The 2nd Regiment was broken up, to the delight of the 1st Regiment, over existing bitterness involving recruit stealing.  Many of the officers in the 2nd Regiment were Spanish-American vets and were made to lead engineer, transportation, supply, and other companies – a hard pill to swallow for combat-experienced infantry officers.

All units under the American Expeditionary Force (under command of General Pershing) were given new numbers.  National Guard units were assigned numbers from 101-300.  It eliminated state names, which became another source of resentment of Guardsman.  Four infantry regiments comprised the 41st Division, with the 1st North Dakota now renamed the 164th Infantry Regiment.  The reorganization caused some problems, since now the 164 fell below manpower requirements.  This was fortunate for five of the companies of the 2nd North Dakota Regiment, who were absorbed by the needs of the 164th.

The War Department changes reduced training time as well as did the need to get troops quickly into the theater.  The 164 spent only nine days on the rifle range.  They were moved to Long Island to embark and the 164 was the last regiment to leave on 16 November 1917.  The 164 was part of the first divisions to go to France.

After a brief stop in England, the 164th Regiment was moved to France in five separate detachments.  They were bound for the 41st Division camp at La Courtine.  On this “cold, miserable trip” the soldiers were crammed in small cars, eating nothing but hardtack and canned meat.  Some of the men took their frustrations out on innocent Frenchmen, stealing stoves, chocolate, and wine.  Colonel Fraine ensured reimbursement.

The 164 took quarters in a stone barracks once occupied by Russian troops, and covered with about three inches of human filth all over the floor.

The AEF planned extensive training for all divisions.  The 41st Division would not go through this training, due to AEF miscalculations on the need for replacements.  The 41st Divisions would end up providing replacements for other divisions.  The privates in the 164th Regiment were immediately transferred to the First Division.

The breakup of the 164th Regiment was “a demoralizing blow to everyone,” Boyd Cormany recalled.  The volunteer spirit died hard in the face of the brutal, anonymous Western Front.  Guardsman focused their anger on the Regular Army rather than the enemy.

The 41st Division, now devoid of privates, was redesignated I Corps and operated as a replacement center, training camp, and specialty school until 26 December 1918, when it reconstituted as the 41st Division.  

The 164th Regiment lost 278 men in the war.  One hundred seventy-six died in battle, 62 died of wounds, and the remainder succumbed to disease.  Nearly 650 men suffered battle wounds.  Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert C. Grafton, a member of the North Dakota National Guard since territorial days, died in France on 5 February 1919 “from an operation for gall stone and adhesions,” according to Frank White.

The 164th Infantry’s return home in 1919 ended a significant period in the North Dakota National Guard’s history.  World War I closed the active military career of the last man to have served in the territorial National Guard, Colonel John Fraine.  His contributions came later in his career, due to his ability to help the North Dakota National Guard adapt to the quick changes taking place in the National Guard as a whole.  It is respectfully unfortunate that Colonel Fraine’s career ended on a disappointing low note such as the fragmentation of the 164th.  However, his mark on the North Dakota National Guard still lives on, and is reflected today with the headquarters of the North Dakota National Guard located at Fraine Barracks.

World War II, 1941-1945

On 11 December 1940, Adjutant General Heber Edwards of the North Dakota National Guard received word that the 164th Infantry Regiment would enter federal service on 27 January 1941, although later moved to 10 February.  Deteriorating relations with Japan and the ongoing war in Europe convinced President Roosevelt to call-up the National Guard.

The 164th was scheduled to go to Louisiana and train at Camp Claiborne.  When they arrived, the camp was more a name than a place.  The camp was a skeleton wish for a training site.  No latrines were completed.  Roads were narrow pathways between wooden frames to be used for tents.  The camp was lagging behind schedule like everything else.

The 164th began its training as one of the four infantry regiments of the 34th Infantry Division.  It consisted of units from North Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The training at Camp Claiborne continued into the summer.  In August, the 164th was part of an extensive training exercise under combat conditions.  Over 350,000 troops were divided into two teams and would fight against each other for a month or more.  To prepare, the 34th (including the 164th) had gone on a surprise training exercise and performed rehearsal drills.

The 188th Field Artillery Regiment joined the 164th on active duty, putting 3,222 North Dakota Guardsman in federal service.  They were sent to Fort Warren in Wyoming.  Although Fort Warren was a much nicer place to be than Fort Claiborne, the locals were quite frosty toward the soldiers, and the Guardsman never forgot that dogs and soldiers were not welcome in some parts of Cheyenne, near Fort Warren.

Camp Claiborne was finally nearing completion when on 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  With nine months of training behind them, the boys of the 164th knew they were going to see combat.

The next day, the 164th would be detached from the 34th Division and sent to San Francisco.  The regiment quartered at “Cow Palace,” a livestock exhibition pavilion.  Fear of espionage and sabotage caused the 164th to be spread throughout the western coast on patrol duties.

On 18 March, the 164th boarded the converted luxury liner President Coolidge.  The vessel would take the 164th to Melborne, Australia and board small ships on their way to New Caledonia.  The purpose was to protect naval supply lines and prevent the island from Japanese invasion.

The 164th assumed various duties such as guarding the airfield, positioning against Japanese attack, unloading cargo vessels, and of course training exercises.

The 164th would become part of the Americal Division and would be involved in the Guadalcanal campaign and Henderson Field.  The 164th landed at Guadalcanal on 13 October 1942.  There was a stalemate.  The Japanese could not dislodge the Marines, and the Marines lack sufficient strength to mount an offensive.

The Japanese mounted a bombing campaign on Henderson Field to rid the enemy air capability.  The Americans advanced to gain insight on Japanese positions.  The 164th became the first unit of the United States Army to take offensive action against the enemy in World War II.  During a Japanese infantry attack, the 164th took the heaviest blow, but manage to fend off the attack.

During hours of darkness, Corporal William Clark of Grand Forks, and two companions crawled out from the line to retrieve two damaged and abandoned machines guns under heavy fire.  They managed to assemble a serviceable machine gun from their parts in time to help repulse a large enemy thrust.  He later received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary gallantry in action.

The battle at Henderson Field was a costly one to the Japanese, with an estimated seventeen hundred dead – a testimony to the 164th Infantry’s proficiency with their weapons.  The 164th suffered only twenty-six killed and fifty-two wounded.  The Marines, who seldom recognize army soldiers as anything but “boy scouts,” called the men of the 164th “soldiers” and they meant it.

The 164th continued with other battles and patrols through February 1943.  The Japanese began a sneak evacuation of Guadalcanal, signaling the end of that campaign.  The Japanese referred to the island as “the island of death.”    Success came none to soon, as the 164th as a unit, was no longer combat effective.

The 164th reconstituted and moved on to Bouganville, part of the Solomon Islands.  They would continue to serve with distinction there through November 1944.  In late January 1945, they would arrive at Leyte, Philippine Islands.

The Japanese had left well armed troops in the northwest corner of Leyte.  The 164th spend five weeks “mopping up” (in MacArthur’s words) inflicting heavy casualties.  They would not, however participate in the final victory, for they would be moved to another area and put in reserve.  They would continue with other battles through the remainder of the war.

The 188th Artillery Regiment was no different from the 164th.  They arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington on 15 December 1941.  They conducted training duties there.

In February 1943, artillery regiments were restructured.  The 188th Artillery Regiment became the 188th Field Artillery Group, the 1st battalion became the 188th Field Artillery Battalion, and the 2nd battalion became the 957 Battalion.

In mid-April 1943, the 188th Group left for desert training in the Mojave desert in California.  They remained there through mid-August.  They moved to Camp Gruber near Muskogee, Oklahoma, where they would prepare for overseas movement.  Once prepared they moved out to New York City where on 5 December 1943, they sailed for Great Britain.  From then till June 1944, they spent most of their time training.

On 11 June, the 188th and 957th were headed for Utah beach.  The battalions served throughout the war as VII Corps artillery and worked with nearly every division.  They rarely operated under the 188th Group.

The 188th would be immediately attached to the 82nd Airborne and the 957th to the 9th Infantry Division.  The battalions would continue supporting the offensives throughout the remainder of the war, meeting once at the famous Remagen bridgehead in March 1945.

The battalions deserve recognition for their continuous support in the European combat zone.  They fired a total of 162,000 rounds at the enemy and all met their combat assignments with skill.

The Korean War and the Berlin Airlift

In July 1950, President Truman wished to contain communism and was afraid of a continued spill-over in Asia and Europe.  The Army initiated a partial call to arms, and ordered a limited National Guard mobilization for September.

The 231st Engineer Battalion was North Dakota’s first unit called.  They had a month to prepare and transfer to active duty.  The 164th Infantry and 188th Artillery received their call next.  All three spent their active duty in the continental United States as training units, although many North Dakotans were transferred to other units.

The Air National Guard was the last North Dakota unit activated.  War first touched the Air National Guard when the Air Force requisitioned eight of its F-52 fighters, but it did not call the 178th Squadron into service until April 1951.  After a month of duty at Hector Field in Fargo, the squadron moved to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.  They stayed at Moody until mid-October 1951, and was moved to George Air Force Base in California.  Once there, the pilots were selected individually to serve in Korea, and other bases in the U.S. and Europe.

Over twenty-six hundred North Dakota Guardsman served during the Korean War.  Approximately 800 went overseas, and sixteen died in combat.

In the fall of 1961, President Kennedy directed a partial National Guard and Army Reserve mobilization as part of his response to the Berlin Crisis.  Soviet threats to turn control of Berlin over to the East Germans, followed by construction of the Berlin Wall heightened Soviet-American tensions.

First alerted in late August, North Dakota Guardsman were slated for active duty in October.  The 818th Engineer Company of Bottineau went active on 1 October and was stationed at Fort Lewis.  The 164th Engineer Battalion and accompanying separate companies served at Fort Riley, Kansas.  They returned home in August 1962 after ten months on active duty. 

Major General Heber L. Edwards died two months after the return of the troops, on 18 October 1962.  He had served continuously since his enlistment in 1915, and as adjutant general for the last twenty-five years, the longest tenure in the Guard’s history.  Under his supervision, the service had more than doubled in size, acquired new armories and the Hector field complex, modernized Camp Grafton, and gained independence as an engineer organization.  Although not a perfect man, his achievements far outweighed his liabilities; and when Heber Edwards died, another significant chapter in North Dakota National Guard history ended.

The Gulf War, 1990-1991

Another crisis ensued in August 1990.  Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and claimed it as part of Iraq.  On 22 August 1990, President Bush orders federal mobilization of 200,000 National Guard and Army Reserve units to support a coalition for Operation Desert Shield.  The first objective would be to prevent further advances by Iraqi troops.  The second objective would fall under Operation Desert Storm, when the Iraqis would be removed from Kuwait and forced to fall back to Iraq.

Adjutant General Macdonald received alert notifications on 24 August 1990.  The 136th Quartermaster Battalion, the 131st,133rd, and 134th Quartermaster Detachments, and the 132nd Quartermaster Company were alerted immediately.  They provided water services such as supply, distribution, and purification.  The 191st Military Police company was put on alert 26 November 1990, and the 818th Medical Battalion on alert 17 November.  The 191st would provide support for security and POW processing.  The 818th would provide command and control for medical companies assigned to it.

Operation Desert Storm began on 16 January 1991, and the major offensive ended 100 hours later.  The North Dakota Guardsman remained while the drawdown of troops took place.

Operation Joint Guardian, 1996-2000

The 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

On Thanksgiving night 1996, the 18 members of the 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of the North Dakota and South Dakota National Guard received notification that they were to be deployed to Bosnia.

The first NATO forces entered Bosnia in 1995 to restore peace to what was formerly part of Yugoslavia.  Ethnic conflicts among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims had erupted into the worst fighting in Europe since World War II.  The Dayton Peace Accord called for a republic to be established with all three ethnic groups represented.   The agreement further directed that refugees would be allowed to return to their previously owned property and that suspected war criminals would be arrested and held accountable if convicted.

After NATO’s Implementation Force (IFOR) restored order and repatriation efforts began, service support units were mobilized.  The second phase of peacekeeping could now begin under the direction of the Stabilization force (SFOR).  At this time the 129th MPAD became a part of the SFOR.  Their mission in Bosnia primarily was to support “The Talon,”  a weekly publication with articles and photos and provide video/audio support to Armed Forces Radio and Television publicizing SFOR’s peacekeeping efforts.

In the fall of 1996, eight members of the 116th Public Affairs Detachment were stationed in Bismarck, ND.  The 129th is headquartered in Rapid City, SD, with 10 members.  The two units merged, becoming the 1-129th.  After mobilization, the new unit, simply designated the 129th MPAD, assembled at Camp Rapid, Rapid City, SD, on January 4, 1997 under the command of Capt. Steve Krebs.  The unit arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, via “direct deployment” on January 12th.  After orientation, the unit was bussed “into the box.”  The unit was divided into four teams: a headquarters element in Tuzla with four journalists, two journalists in Slabonski Brod (across the border in Croatia), three journalists at Camp Colt, and four journalists at Camp Bedrock.  They replaced the 100th MPAD, Texas Army National Guard.

Soldiers produced public information from these bases at the rate of two articles from each print journalist and one video broadcast each week until being relieved on August 7th, 1997.  The units redeployed to their home stations on August 221997.

HSC Detachment & Company B, 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion

The continuation of ethnic conflict in the Balkans caused by the breakup of the Republic of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s drew NATO forces into the small State of Kosovo in 1999.  Located in the southernmost part of Yugoslavia and adjacent to Albania, Kosovo has an ethnic Albanian majority with a Serbian minority.  Ethnic tension between the two groups brought on a crackdown by Serbian authority which claimed the Kosovo Province.  In the spring of 1999, NATO peacekeepers moved into the area setting up bases of operation.  Their primary mission is to help Albanian and Serbian refugees return to their homes and restore stability.

Based in Wahpeton, ND, the Company B, 142 Engineer Combat Battalion received the mobilization alert in October of 1999.  On January 8, 2000, 149 of the company’s soldiers left Fargo, ND for Fort Benning, GA and eventually deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.  They joined seven of their members already deployed as an advance party.  The unit’s equipment was railed to Norfolk, VA and then to Greece.  From their, soldiers drove and hauled the equipment to their base.

Company B’s mission in Kosovo was to enhance living conditions at Camp Bondsteel by constructing wooden barracks with plumbing and electricity and to construct roads and bridges in the area.  Other humanitarian projects involved rebuilding war-damaged buildings.  Company B returned to the United States in August  2000.