This is how it all began
THIS IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
American Legion Born March 1919 at Paris Caucus
The history of The American Legion, from its inception at that Paris Caucus of weary, homesick members of the AEF at the Cirque de Paris in 1919 through 75 years of peace and war, has been one of devotion to God and Country. In the mind of these AEF-ers were a number of ideas, uppermost among which were:
1. Creation of a fraternity based upon firm comradeship born of war service and dedicated to a square deal for all veterans, particularly the disabled, their widows and orphans;National security for America, including a universal military training program for the prevention of future world conflicts;
2. Promotion of a 100 per cent Americanism and the combatting of communism, nazism, fascism, socialism and all other foreignisms.
One of the first to propose the organization of World War veterans, dedicated to service to the community, state and nation, was the late Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (son of 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt), then a lieutenant colonel in the First Division.
“Teddy” assisted in planning the Paris Caucus and called to order the subsequent caucus that was held in the United States in St. Louis, MO., May 8 10, 1919. This service won for him the affectionate title, “Father of The American Legion.” The distinction of naming the new organization went to Maurice K. Gordon, then a major in the 36th Division and later a judge in Madisonville, KY. When a controversy developed over the name, it was Gordon who made the successful motion to name the infant group The American Legion.
While lofty principles had been enunciated at the Paris Caucus, it was decided to leave the definition of permanent policies for a later and more representative meeting to be held in the United States. An executive committee of 1 00 members was named to complete organization in the AEF while a subcommittee of Roosevelt 17 returned to the United States to promote interest among those not assigned to overseas service.
Even though The American Legion was formed overseas, it was realized that members of the armed services have no choice as to where they serve- in the United States or overseas.
Accordingly, it was decided that membership in The American Legion should be open to all veterans who had served honorably in the armed forces in World War I. Eligibility requirements for membership have since been revised to admit veterans who served honorably in the armed forces of the United States in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as during Lebanon and Grenada, Panama, Persian Gulf, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom. Membership was later opened up to all military personnel.
A representative democracy in a federal republic” was the plan adopted. Advance committees of two members from each state met in St. Louis on May 6, 1919, to prepare for the general caucus in the same city, May 8,9 and 10. This St. Louis Caucus produced the blueprint of The American Legion, approved the principles set forth at the Paris Caucus, adopted a tentative constitution and created the machinery to provide for permanent organization.
It was at the St. Louis Caucus that the now famous Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion was put into final form. A short preamble had been written at Paris by a subcommittee of three Frank White, former governor of North Dakota, William H. Curtis and Redmond C. Stewart. In St. Louis the now immortal preamble was enhanced by the fertile minds of John C. Greenway of Arizona, Hamilton Fish of New York and George N. Davis of Delaware.
Organization work proceeded rapidly after the St. Louis Caucus. Temporary offices were opened in New York City. On Sept. 16, 1919, the Congress of the United States chartered The American Legion, thus giving official sanction to the Constitution adopted in St. Louis.
Col. Frank White of Valley City, who was appointed to serve on the Committee on Constitution at the Paris Caucus, performed an important role as a member of the Subcommittee of Three in writing the short preamble.
As the first paragraph of the draft constitution was read lo the caucus’ concluding day’s session, the restless shifting in chairs ceased and the words held the soldiers silent:
“We, the members of the Military and Naval service of the United States of America in the great war, desiring to perpetuate the principles of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy for which we have fought, to inculcate the duty and obligation of the citizen to the State; to preserve the history and incidents of our participation in the war; and to cement the ties of comradeship formed in service, to propose to found and establish an association for the furtherance of the foregoing purposes.”
“Few such expressions of extraordinary inspiration have appeared in any language,” wrote Raymond Moley, Jr., author of THE AMERICAN LEGION STORY published in 1966. Moley further wrote, “What success The American Legion has had stems in large measure from the original paragraph drafted at the Paris Caucus. The wording of the final constitution written months later drew upon it and was more inclusive but hardly an improvement over this spare, direct prose.”
Formerly Governor of North Dakoka (1901-1904), White was appointed Treasurer of the United States in 1921 by President Harding. He served in that office until 1928 when he resigned to accept a position in private business.
“Four N.D. AEF-ers Attend Paris Caucus
According to historical files, the following four N.D. WW I soldiers attended and played a part in the founding of The American Legion at the Paris Caucus: COL John H. Fraine, Grafton; Capt. Jacob A. Hofto, Grand Forks; Capt. Harry E. Thomas, Elloendale and Col. Frank White, Valley City.
The charter convention of The American Legion met Nov. 10-12, 1919, in Minneapolis, MN. The rapid pace with which The American Legion was building its organization was evident by the presence of many delegates still in the uniforms of the armed forces.
The Minneapolis convention of 1919 approved the acts of the temporary organization and adopted a permanent structure. The first American Legion national convention parade, which was to set the pace for what has become the utmost in pageantry, color and martial music, was featured on the first anniversary of Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1919. Included in the line of march were the 648 delegates representing the infant organization of 648,000.
A somber note was injected at this first convention with the arrival of news that four Legionnaires of a newly formed post in Centralia, WA while marching in the Armistice Day parade in their home city, were shot down in their home city by members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical group incited by propaganda based on class hatred. Thus did The American Legion receive its first challenge by un American elements, some of which to this day classify the Legion as their greatest enemy.
Franklin D’ Olier of Pennsylvania became the first National Commander, and Lemuel Bolles of Washington, the first national Representatives of five cities-Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., vied to gain the new organization’s permanent national head-quarters. Indianapolis won, and the national headquarters of The American Legion were moved in late 1919 from their temporary location in New York City to the Hoosier Capital.
North Dakota American Legion Organized in 1919
In North Dakota the news of the birth of The American Legion at Paris in mid-March 1919 was enthusiastically received and within a short time an embryonic organization was formed. Matthew W. Murphy, who had WW I service in France, was appointed one of the national committeemen to represent and to organize North Dakota. A Red Cross Captain, Murphy was unable to conduct this work himself, so in early April he selected Julius R. Baker of Fargo to act as temporary chairman and to organize a temporary committee for the purpose of forming The American Legion in North Dakota. With the scheduled May 8-10 St. Louis Caucus only one month away, there was the pressing need to determine North Dakota’s representation at that caucus. Conceivably, it was envisioned that some would serve in a dual capacity of attending the caucus and also serving on the temporary committee.
Two meetings of ex-servicemen from all over the state were held at Fargo, the first in late April with 10 in attendance and the second on May 3rd with 35 statewide vets participating in discussions about forming this new organization in North Dakota, select representation to the forthcoming St. Louis Caucus and the need to choose a temporary committee.
A sizeable group was urged to attend the St. Louis Caucus, based on two delegates per congressional district (the state had three at that time) plus more at large. The following nine were selected and attended the St. Louis Caucus at their personal expense: Julius Baker, Jack Williams, Stern and Arthur Gorman (all of Fargo); Angus Fraser, Robert Treacy and Harold Semling (all of Bismarck); J.M. Hanley of Mandan and Lyall B. Merry of Dickinson. Fraser and Hanley comprised the advance committee.
At the caucus they learned about the objectives of The American Legion to include the need for their leadership in stimulating the development of strong state and local organizations back home. They also engaged in the caucus’ deliberation of many national subjects of vital interest to returned service men and about a dozen of them were referred to upcoming national convention for final approval.
In route home from the caucus and during a rail-connection layover at Chicago, the North Dakota delegation met on May 10, at the LaSalle Hotel and made these decisions: The group unanimously selected Baker to continue as temporary chairman for the temporary committee and Williams to act as temporary secretary until the first department convention, to be held later that year, where officers would be elected to serve the permanent organization.
Fraser, Treacy, Semling, Hanley and Merry would serve as members of the temporary committee as well as Steve Gorman of Fargo and W. Scott of Harvey who had expressed willingness to work on the Legion’s organization team but were unable to attend the St. Louis Caucus, the latter being hospitalized for an operation at that time.
And they also decided that Fraser, Hanley and Treacy would serve as members of the executive committee, to also include ex-officio temporary committee officers Chairman Baker and Secretary Williams.
Shortly after their return from St. Louis, Temporary Chairman Baker and Temporary Secretary Williams opened offices at Baker’s place of business at 419 N.P. Avenue in Fargo. Hannah I. (nicknamed “Hans”) Peterson was hired as secretary for the newly-established state headquarters offices.
The temporary committee then launched intensive organization work to form local American Legion posts throughout the state. On May 21st, returned WW I vets held an enthusiastic meeting, attended by approximately 40, and organized the first American Legion post in North Dakota, naming it Lloyd Spentz Post 1 in honor of the first Bismarck citizen to make the supreme sacrifice in the Great War.
Similar meetings were held at Fargo on May 29th and in other communities in the weeks and months ahead, and steadily local organizing committee inspired returned armed forces discharges to enroll as members in posts of this new veterans organization being chartered throughout the state.
When the temporary committee met at Chicago in route home from St. Louis Caucus, the group decided, but was subsequently changed, to hold the first state convention at Fargo on July 21st in conjunction with the Homecoming Celebration planned for that date to honor returned service personnel at Fargo and North Dakota.
The newly-organized Gilbert C. Grafton Post No. 2 cooperated with the Commercial Club and other Fargo civic organizations in staging a tremendously successful celebration worthy of mention here.
The City of Fargo presented medals to Fargo veterans as a token of appreciation for their services in the Great War. The day comprised a meeting in the Fargo Auditorium, at which Jack Sullivan of Seattle, WA, national vice chairman of The American Legion, was the principal speaker; a parade in which a thousand military returnees took part; a barbecue dinner at Island Park at which some six thousand former service men were fed; an afternoon and evening at the North Dakota State Fair, after which a carnival was featured on the streets of Fargo until daylight the next morning. In the two and one-half months that followed, the membership of Post 2 soared from 40 to 775.
When it became evident that it would be prudent to postpone convening the first department convention until fall to allow for greater statewide representation from posts then in the process of being organized, the executive committee rescheduled the convention for Oct. 16-17 and changed the site to the more centrally-located Bismarck.
Baker Heads Team to Organize Legion in State
Julius R. Baker of Fargo served as temporary chairman and led the team that was responsible for organizing The American Legion in North Da kota. Less than three weeks after his discharge from the Army on March 22, 1 9 19, as a sergeant, following 15 months’ duty in France, he had acBaker cepted the challenge of forming a temporary organizing committee and selecting a representative group of interested statewide veterans to serve as delegates to attend the St. Louis Caucus on May 8 10, 1919, at their personal expense. Baker was a key leader in successfully launching The American Legion in North Dakota.
Bismarck Hosts First Department Convention
Temporary Chairman Julius Baker called the first department convention to order in the morning of Oct. 16, 1919, at the Bismarck City Auditorium.
In making his report to the convention on operations of the temporary committee, he stated that 76 local posts had been organized with a combined membership of 4,406. The roll call disclosed that 42 of those posts, located in all regions of the state, were represented by their delegates at the initial convention.
The tentative rate of dues, considered fair, was set at $2. Forty per cent (80 cents) of that amount was sent to state headquarters for each membership, of which 25 cents was required to be remitted to national headquarters, leaving the state organization only 55 cents per member.
Baker said that expenses were kept as low as possible and that a balance of $1,850 was on hand to be turned over to the permanent organization. He complimented and thanked the temporary committee for their mighty good work!
The convention elected J.M. Hanley of Mandan to act as temporary chairman and to preside over the two-day conclave; Jack Williams of Fargo was chosen to be temporary convention secretary. Committees were appointed, resolutions were considered and acted upon, constitution and bylaws were adopted, and the selection of eight voting delegates, eight alternates and 10 honorary delegates was made to represent the new Flickertail Legion at the first national convention next month at Minneapolis.
North Dakota’s answer to the charge that The American Legion was an organization only for men who wore shoulder straps, was the election of an honorably discharged WW I Army private, C.L Dawson of Beach, as its first department commander. The convention also elected another private–Jack Williams, who had been temporary secretary–as department adjutant.
Other officers elected were: F.R. Landers, department vice-commander, Minot; W.H. Greenleaf, department historian, Grand Forks; L.R. Baird, department finance officer, Dickinson; Cuthbert S. Moore, department chaplain, Lisbon, and William Stern, department sergeantat-arms, Fargo.
Following up on the momentum sparked by the temporary committee, the new 1919-1920 ofTicers accelerated the campaign to establish new posts with remarkable success. By year-end 1920 the North Dakota Legion had chartered 200 posts and enrolled 1 1 ,059 members… firmly establishing this new organization with great vitality in the state.
When considering our state’s sparse population, North Dakota enjoyed the high ranking of 22nd largest department, in terms of membership, at the close of 1920 when nationwide membership reached 843,013 and The American Le gion was firmly entrenched throughout the country.
As The American Legion became operational, the deplorable conditions sufaced as they related to the federal goverment’s cumbersome bureaucracy to care for war-disabled veterans.
At a time when no other office was available in our state, it was fortunate that The American Legion was now in position to help them as well as to unite with tal strength of the national organization in urging Congress to enact legislation to remedy the myriad of problems facing veterans and their families.
By resolution of the 1920 department convention, the department executive committee established a service department at state headquarters and appointed William T. Kroll of Fargo as War Risk and Service Officer to assist veterans in resolving their claims and various problems with the federal goverment.
State headquarters- became the focal point in the development of an effective network for communications, program implementation and administrative procedures between national headquarters and local posts.
Thousands of Legionnaires have provided the huge volunteer workforce and leadership necessary to conduct the organization’s many outstanding programs since the 1919 birth of The American Legion. |
Hanley Presides at First Legion Convention
J.M. Hanley was unanimously selected to serve as temporary chairman and presiding officer for the first convention held at Bismarck. As district judge for the Mandan district, he possessed the skills to perform this important assignment. Before adjourning, the delegates adopted a motion extending their thanks and appreciation to Hanley for the fair and impartial manner in which he handled the convention as temporary chairman. About two years later Hanley was appointed to represent the Department of North Dakota on the 1921 Official Pilgrimage of The American Legion to France. World War I battlegrounds were revisited and graves were decorated at Romagne, the largest American cemetery overseas after the war. Numerous official receptions, sightseeing and other ceremonies were held for the Yanks during the month-long trip that began from New York on August 3rd and ended with their return in early September.
Dawson Leads Legion on nonpolitical Course
Claude Leon Dawson (1888-1971) was best known to Legionnaires and most North Dakotans simply as “Dad Dawson.” He was the department’s first commander. A native of Iowa, the scrappy; bald fellow eschewed early charges that The American Legion was elitist, or simply “another officers’ club,” and he made it his goal to keep the Legion on a nonpolitical course.
Dawson took pride in being discharged as a private first class on Jan. 15, 1919, even though high qualifications had him shifted to flying cadet and balloonist companies four months before getting orders to go home. He had above-average understanding of organization, having received a law degree from the University of North Dakota and then practicing law at Beach until his induction on May 11, 1918, at age 30.
Also prior to his Army service, all in the states, he worked as the North Dakota Senate’s assistant secretary in the 1915 session. Returning from World War I duty to his legal work in Beach, Dawson joined the Legion’s founding members and was elected the first North Dakota commander at the department convention at Bismarck in October 1919 for the Legion year running into August 1920.
In 1920-21, he served as the department’s national executive committeeman. He also sharpened his knowledge about legislators and legislation by serving as chief clerk of the state House of Representatives in the 1921 session.
Among several positions in Washington, D.C., Dawson held appointment in 1923 in the Legal Division of the US Veterans Bureau, the predecessor of the Veterans Administration which subsequently was renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to this, he was a national field representative of The American Legion, traveling a few months stimulating membership and organizational activities.
Dawson resumed private law practice in Washington in 1936 and lived there until dying in his sleep at home at age 82 on April 11, 1971.
Improbable Fairy Tale
“I for one have never seen the whirl and turmoil of Wall Street. I know that my name is not listed in their directory, and I know that Private Jack Williams, my bunkie and our state secretary, the great union card man of Fargo, doesn’t have any of those dudes down there on his calling list.
“Agents of Wall Street and Big Business, Shade of the Great Burke of England! If 1,200,000 men, of whom a large portion of their friends fought, died and bled for democracy, can become the agents of Wall Street and Big Business, then my hope and faith in mankind is forever gone.
“One million, two hundred thousand, the present membership of the Legion; the flower of our land, the brains of America, so corrupted and so seduced so as to become vassals for big business. Can you ladies and gentlemen, you with an atom of grey matter above the ears, believe such an impossible, improbable fairy tale?
“Like other institutions, it was necessary for the Legion to borrow some money. They owe today $250,000. To offset this, they amended the national constitution so as to make the national dues $1.00 instead of 25 cents. I reiterate that if The American Legion had been an offspring of Wall Street, she would not now be a debtor.
“Born on the battle-scared fields of France far away from the shadows of Wall Street, The American Legion has grown by leaps and bounds until today all other organizations now look with green and envious eyes upon it, astonished by its growth and willing to pour upon it their wrath, which only comes from those who vilify simply to gain their own ends.
“You know from the problematical things of this life, that success always means envy from some person. The breath of slander, once breathed, increases voluminously as it grows. We want you gentlemen to carry to your homes, to tell your neighbors that The American Legion typifies everything that is American.
“That it stands for the highest type of Americanism; that no matter what your religion, that no matter what your political affiliations, your son and your neighbor’s son can enter its ranks, and we question not his politics nor his religion. We want you to know that Big Business, or Wall Street, never owned it and they never will.
No Brief For Crooks
“You know and I know that in a great war like the world war and in the haste of organization, the unfitness of a nation or a people unprepared for war, that it would be remarkable beyond all imagination if some incapable and inefficient men did not placed in charge of some departments. It would be repugnant to all the laws of civilization if mistakes were not made.
“While The American Legion, as I said before, holds no briefs for those who were inefficient and incapable, it is but human that such things should happen in a nation whose people loved peace and who were untrained in a military system.
There was probably some inefficiency in the aircraft production, but I am unable to agree with a certain speaker who said the American soldiers were bombed and swept away, for I never heard of retreats on the American front, but I did hear of the Lost Battalion and ‘Go to Hell’ Whittlesey
Regardless of all aircraft production, regardless of those who hooted and derided the government, regardless of the charge that many men were incapable and inefficient, we know and history tells us that the armies of the United States entered the world war and came out victorious. To my mind the other things were simply incidents. Democracy and civilization were saved and other matters are not compared to that, for your homes and your firesides are safe.
“Gentlemen, we want your son and your neighbor’s son. We do not want to make him a better American, but we will help to keep him as good an American as he was when he donned the khaki.”
In 1919, Gov. Lynn J. Frazier extended the following challenge to North Dakota’s returning military veterans as they involved themselves in organizing The American Legion in the state:
“It is your opportunity and your privilege to serve in the great Army of the Common Good, and if you stand at all times by the true American traditions for which our forefathers fought, you will do as much to dethrone industrial autocracy in these United States as you did to dethrone political autocracy abroad.”
“…Furthermore, it is just as much your duty (to be veterans organization member) as it was your duty to give your services to the nation…”
The Meaning of The American Legion Emblem
EVERY part of the American Legion Emblem has a meaning, a rich symbolism that a glance does not reveal.
The Emblem is laid upon the rays of the sun, giver of life, warmth and courage; foe of the cold, of the darkness, of fear, or apprehension.
In turn, each of the Emblem’s many parts signifies a meaning which no American Legionnaire who wears the Emblem should take lightly, and which he should know from the first moment that he puts his Emblem on.
Why does the star signify constancy of purpose? Because the stars are fixed in the heavens, while the planets, the moon and the sun wander. As the stars do not wander, so should The American Legion not wander from its fixed purposes.
Here, in pictures, the meanings of all the symbols of The American Legion Emblem are indicated.
The Emblem is fully copyrighted, patented and protected by federal law and cannot be used without permission of the National Organization.
Brought from far-off Coblez, Germany, where death occurred on April 5, 1919, the remains of Elmer H. Thompson, soldier of the American Expeditionary Force in France and later of the Army of Occupation in Germany, now repose in their last resting place in Riverside Cemetery, Fargo.
It is a far cry from the banks of the Rhine to the banks of the Red River of the North, but the arm of the republic is long and its heart is warm with sympathy for those who gave their best and dearest to its service in the stress and turmoil of war. In response to their desire that their loved boy who died in the service of the government should have his final rest where they could care for his grave, the nation stretched out its mighty arm and brought back to them all that was mortal of him whom they had so cherished.
On August 2, 1920, he was laid to rest with the honors due a soldier, paid him by the comrades of Gilbert C. Grafton post, American Legion.
A large and sympathetic crowd assembled in the cemetery to witness the last tribute of soldiers to a dead comrade. The funeral cortege arrived at the cemetery at about 4 p.m., about 80 members of The American Legion in uniform accompanying the remains. Between the lines formed by them, the coffin was car ried from the hearse to the grave where it was lowered slowly to the place prepared for it.
Before this, the mound of earth at the side of the grave had been covered with beautiful floral emblems and, during the reading of the service, other floral offerings were showered from overhead, as an airplane circled above the place of burial.
Chaplain Dean Kloman read the burial service of the church, the most beautiful and impressive ritual for the dead ever written. Following this the firing squad fired the last salute.
A bugler then advance to the head of the grave and sounded “Taps,” the sweetest of all bugle calls, which was blown each night in army camps as a signal that the hour for sleep has come and that all lights shall be extinguished.
Immediately from a point to the north, came the same sweet but plaintive notes, softened by the distance, and then from still another and yet another side came the strains from yet other buglers, until one Inight easily imagine that he was in the midst of a great army encamped, just re tiring to its rest for the night.
While all this was taking place, an American flag, held at its four corners by as many soldiers, served as an awning over the casket and, at the conclusion of the ceremony, the flag was carefully folded and reverently deposited on the casket lid.
The ceremony ended, the order to march was given and the funeral cortege began its return from the burial ground.
“Soldier rest! Thy warfare o’er.
Sleep the sleep that knows no waking.
Dream of battlefields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.”
(Fargo Daily Courier-News)
Fini la Guerre” The War Is Over!
From the ranks of American Expeditionary Forces in France in WW I came two North Dakotans who were representative of the spirit and dedication of the doughboy founders of The American Legion.
The story about Leo Murphy was completed in 1994. He died May 4, 1995, at age 97, so the verbs are in the present tense for reading clarity.
Floyd E. Henderson was an unanimous choice for inclusion in this history. He set an unparalleled standard for faithful service to both The American Legion and the Veterans of World War I USA, Inc., which latter group organized in the late 1950s.)
“Fini la guerre!”
“Fini la guerre!”
Joyous words. And Leo Murphy of Fargo remembers well how they spread around the recovery ward of a surburban Paris hospi tal on Nov. 11, 1918.
“Finish the war! The war is over!” is the 96year old’s translation as he recounts how word came from a French corpsman to scores of wounded Yanks that World War I ended.
“Fini la guerre!” he repeats. “OH, my God, the war is over. Four years of bitter struggle, you know. The French went crazy, and I didn’t blame them. And the Americans were glad because (HE pauses)… the trenches were terrible, you know. The ditches were dug deep and the water drained in, of course, like any ditch. And just like soup. No place to sleep…” The recollections bring Murphy to telling how it was, as a battle-tested, 20-yearold U.S. Marine, he was in that hospital. Simply put, it was two wounds in his right leg from German machinegun bullets.
With the corpsman’s almost delirious announcement, he thought he would return soon to the U.S., his family and farmland near Mapleton, ND. To be sure, the armistice had been declared and the shooting “over there” had ceased. But Murphy’s time in Europe still was running. He didn’t know it, though, until an entire new uniform was issued and a train ride north out of Paris ended in Coblenz, Germany.
He was put into the Army of Occupation. That tour went from January to late July 1919, when from a troop carrier he waved good-by to Brest, France.
Brest had been his landing point June 8, 1918, after a month-long trip starting from Quantico, VA, aboard a converted passenger ship that steamed down to South America and then up the west coast of Africa to avoid German warships.
Murphy was in the 67th Co., 5th Marine Regiment and soon learned the value of foxholes in his first under-fire engagement in the Chateau-Thierry Sector. He was a sergeant in the history-making battles identified as the Aisne-Marne Offensive (Soissons), the Marbache Sector and the St. Mihiel Offensive. Then there was the advance at Champagne on Oct. 4, 1918.
“I was lying flatter than a rock ( in a foxhole),” he recalls. “The machinegun bullets were thicker than farm flies. We were advancing.”
Murphy pauses. More memories are returning 75-year thoughts: “And I was thinking I was back home in a wheat field… Wheat was just headed out… Then I got two machinegun bullets in my right leg. They severed the cord here, this cord here.” He points to the back side of his leg.
Murphy doesn’t remember if he was lying on his stomach, sideways or on his back. No matter. “You got down as low as you could. I could see the bullets as they went beyond me. They hit about that far (a foot or so) apart. They were spraymg us.”
Neither bullet hit a bone, but his leg jerked upward when the tendon behind the knee was cut. Murphy called for a corpsman. A medic began moving towards him but took a hit in a elbow. “So I hollered again,” he says.
When the firing eased, giving indication the Germans were setting up a counterattack, Murphy was carried back about a mile and a half. Here was the stereotypical buddy-helping-buddy sight: Murphy was in the middle; the corpsman, with one wounded arm, was on one side and another Marine, he with a back wound, was holding the other of Murphy’s arms around his neck.
“1 walked on my good leg,” Murphy recalls. “They got me back to a first-aid station, and they gave me a tetanus shot.” Taken then by a truck about 12 miles to a Red Cross train, he was transported to the hospital near Paris.
The injured leg’s tendon had retracted above and below the knee so several days were needed to pull the ends together by means of weights held by lines through pulleys. Murphy testifies to the success of the medical treatment: He played football in France and Germany, as well as when he got home.
Murphy was attending the U of Minnesota with the intent of going into medicine when WW I started. But he volunteered for the Marines “because everyone else was going. I went, too.” Why did he volunteer?
“It wasn’t patriotism,” he says matter-of-factly. “It was the strange and the new. I was 19, going on 20 then.
Then, with a hint of a wink, he chortles,” At my age now, I can say almost anything. There aren’t many around to dispute it.”
Murphy returned home to Cass County and joined his father and family in a farming operation that gradually replaced 90100 mules with crawler tractors and, at its peak, encompassed 13 1/2 sections of prime land. In 1957, he started parceling acreage among immediate family members in preparation for retirement from farming.
Murphy was an early American Legion member and held membership in Post 2 at Fargo for more than 50 years. He served 1979 and 1987 as N.D. commander of the Veterans of World War I USA, Inc. Again, from 1992 into 1994, he was the last state commander when membership and activities dwindled due to many former comrades dying or nearing 100 years old.
Thousands at Funeral of First Sioux Indian to Enlist in World War I
After 48 hours of almost continuous death chants, tribal dancing and rites, the body of Richard Blue Earth, first Sioux Indian to enlist in the U.S. Army in World War I, was buried in the Indian cemetery at Cannon Ball. He was laid to rest in 1921 near the grave of his buddy, the young Chief Albert Grass, who served with him in Co. A of the 18th Inf., First Division. Blue Earth, who was cited “for meritorious conduct and extraordinary bravery in the face of the enemy,” was killed while on scout duty in the Argonne Woods.
Funeral services were attended by several thousand Indians and hundreds of white people, who formed a procession led by the White Horse Cavaliers, a recently revived honorary society of the Indians. Services were held by Catholics and Protestants alike and by members of the Richard Blue Earth post of The American Legion.
Major A.B. Welch, Mandan, then the only white ever adopted into the Sioux tribe, gave speeches in both English and Sioux on the history and service of Indian soldiers.
Floyd E. Henderson: A Man for All Veterans
No more nor longer-running patriotic and public dedication to a cause could be asked of a person than was voluntarily given by Floyd E. Henderson, who had several localities claim him as one of their own. So universal were his credentials that he was respected unquestionably as “Mr. North Dakota Veteran” and as the state’s “Mr. World War I” well before he died in Fargo in March 1991 at age 97.
Henderson repeatedly turned his energy on full force when matters affecting the status of veterans and their families were discussed; conversely, he made them issues, even when they weren’t on agendas. He carried the torch mainly for his World War I buddies, but that devotion didn’t lighten his verbal barrages when he gave opinions about veterans’ concerns after subsequent wars.
His continuous, tireless lobbying brought him Life Member honors in The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. Posthumous resolutions memorializing Henderson’s distinguished service were adopted in 1991 at conventions of the National Executive Committee and the North Dakota Department of the Legion.
It was not uncommon nor uncomfortable – for Henderson to testify before congressional and state legislative committees, even late in his life. He was at his best in decrying discrimination toward veterans.
Many a members of Congress and the N.D. Legislature received letters from him, imploring support for veterans of all wars to get better recognition and treatment than he and his World War I buddies received: “Thanks. Here’s 60 bucks. Now you can go home.”
If audiences didn’t know before Henderson squinted or pursed his lips, they quickly realized that he spoke from a solid and strong base. After returning in 1919 from Medical Corps duty in France with the North Dakota National Guard unit in the renowned 164th Infantry attached to the American Expeditionary Forces, he resumed what started five years earlier as a life of civic service.
He was not a native of North Dakota but Henderson spent his adult life in the state. His involvement with several teaching and business jobs, then total dedication to bettering the lives of veterans and their families made him legendary statewide. His contacts and friendships went into nearly every veterans organization in existence between 1919 and 1991.
Born Dec. 12, 1893, at Waynetown, IN, he came to North Dakota at age 20 to run a cross-country dray line around Regent, and later between Taylor and Dunn Center. Then, with higher education requirements for teaching certificates much less sophisticated than now, he taught in a country school near Dunn Center 1914-15 before graduating from Valley City Normal School (now State College) in 1916.
An anecdote demonstrating a “sign of the times” relates to Henderson’s attending Valley City Normal. Reasoning that he would look better in a suit at graduation than in the overalls he had been wearing, Henderson laid his idea before downtown clothing store owner Herman Stern. A man known for unheralded charitable deeds, Stern sold Henderson an $18 suit with only a promise of payment when he got a job. The suit wore well and long after the final payment from Henderson’s meager 1916-17 salary as a school teacher and superintendent in Lawton.
The United States entered the war in Europe April 6, 1917. Three months later, Henderson enlisted at Bismarck in the North Dakota National Guard and sailed in December with 12,000 other troops as replacements for battle weary doughboys in France. Henderson said his 16 months of overseas military hospital duty planted the germ to work whatever way possible to improve the treatment of veterans when they got home.
That was a high ideal for those times because benefits like veterans preference for hiring was unheard of in ’19 as well as in North Dakota. So, like countless other returned-home vets, Henderson took day-labor jobs, like $5 to help with harvesting rather than work in a drug store. When an opening hinted at posSible pay increases, he went into banking in Lawton in 1930.
His first taste of elective public service came in 1929 with one term in the state House of Representatives. Running for re-election was out, he said, because the per diem was too small to cover expenses. He returned to Bismarck, however, to work two years in the Bank of North Dakota but resigned in 1932 to be a fuel dealer in Grafton.
He was the Grafton Legion Post 41 commander 1934-35 and served as Grafton’s mayor from 1938 into 1942, the same year he was elected commander of North Dakota American Legion. Suited with ability and dedication, he went full time into administration of veterans affairs and services in 1944 by being the first county veterans service officer in Grand Forks County.
For 14 years, he served as the state Commissioner of Veterans Affairs until 1961, when Gov. William L. Guy appointed him commandant of the N.D. Veterans Home in Lisbon. Then at age 75, he supposedly retired in 1968.
Actually, retirement was a misnomer, for then he began what became 25 years more of enthusiastic work with his old wartime buddies, who had their own national organization, the Veterans of World War I USA, Inc. Henderson’s spirits never diminished even thöugh the head count of buddies had begun a fast slide downward. He served as the group’s national adjutant1970-73 and then as its national commander 1978-79. Previously, in 1954, he was president of the International War Veterans Alliance, a bond of U.S. and Canadian veterans.
Henderson served in 1980 on the national Advisory Committee on Cemeteries and Memorials. That work and his job as department adjutant and quartermaster of the North Dakota Veterans of World War I kept him busy with correspondence and production of a monthly newsletter. He continued to edit the news report to the time of his death at the Fargo VA Restorative Care Unit on March 25, 1991.
Pranksters Had “Car Wash” at Saint Paul Convention
A group of North Dakota Legionnaire – all who Shall remain anonymous, for reasons that will become clear was in celebrating mood at the Legions national convention Sept. 15-1 9; 1924 in St. Pau, MN.
The 10 or 12 good-timers met a man and his wife driving their car across a bridge over the Mississippi River. A suggestion led to a challenge.
The Car was stopped, the couple got out and, within minutes the vehicle was completel disassembled into piecese small enough to be tossed from the bridge into the river below. Understandably, the now car-less couple was dismayed at this exhibition of disrespect for other people’s property.
But the mischievous group assured the pair “not to worry” and then went with them to the Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in St, Paul. The Legionnaires pooled their money and bought the couple a brand new car on the spot.
Marshal Foch Honors N.D. in 1921 Visit
French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, commander-in-chief of the Allied armies in World War I, touched the hearts of North Dakotans during a brief visit by special train in November 1921.
Revered as “the first soldier of the world,” he quickly caught the spirit of the state on his arrival in Bismarck at 11 a.m. Nov. 27 in the private car of W. 1M. Atterbury, vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Atterbury was a former brigadier general in charge of transportation in the American Expeditionary Forces. (The train passed through Fargo on tracks of the former Northern Pacific Railroad but did not stop.)
Foch, a warrior-turned-tourist, on a 16,000-mile trip around the country, was greeted by khaki-clad exservicemen flanking a carpeted walkway. Before he departed two hours later, Foch quietly attended mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, puffed on an Indian peace pipe and was bestowed with an honorary Sioux name to the cheers of 2,000 people crowded into the Bismarck Auditorium. As his train was about to leave the city, Foch displayed the tact of a diplomat by handing a personally written note (in French) praising his hosts, the state and its residents.
In Addition to being named Watakte Wakiya, Sioux dialect meaning “Charging Thunder,” he was made department commander-for-a-day of the North Dakota American Legion. The short-duration title was presented by Commander Philip R. Bangs of Grand Forks. Under the direction of Bismarck’s Lloyd Spetz Post No. l, the day’s festivities attracted many people from out of state, including National Legion Commander Hanford MacNider of Iowa.
MacNider said Foch’s visit to the United States did more to cement the lasting friendship of the allies in the world war than all other diplomatic conferences and interchanges.
Mac Nider told the cheering and flagwaving crowd in the auditorium a story about Marshal Foch and a group of American Legionnaires who visited France. A parade was being held at the time of the burial of the Unknown Soldier. MacNider said there was a tradition that only French soldiers could pass under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The American Legion marchers were just behind the French. An officer spoke to Marshal Foch and said, “It is impossible for the Americans to pass under the arch.” Foch replied simply, “The American soldier never turns back.” MacNider said the Legion party went under the arch, and a century-old French tradition had been broken by Foch.
“Foch Enjoyed “Great Big Potatoes”
Never did Marshal Foch forget the “Great Big Potatoes” served on the Fock Legion Special enroute through North Dakota. Selected by L. K. Owen, superintendent of the Northern Pacific dining car service, the “Murphies,” from two to five pounds each, were so big that an hour and a half was required to back them. The biggest was served to Marshal Foch, whose amazement was evident.
French Boxcar Displayed in Bismarck
Lasting symbols representing gratitude by the French nation for US help in two world wars stand on public display at the Heritage Center on the capital grounds in Bismarck.
Under trees just south of the center is a brightly painted French rail boxcar like those that transported 40 men or eight horses to battlefronts in World War I. Inside the Heritage Center, away from the ravages of sunlight and time, are some of the 471 objects sent along to show French life after WW II.
The gift list was imaginative and amazing. It included pottery, art, a carton of cigarette papers (given to State Penitentiary prisoners), crocheted flowers, children’s toys (given to Anne Carlsen School residents in Jamestown), military objects, cologne, hooks (some were sent to the University of North Dakota), wooden shoes, a card of ribbon for lingerie straps, ladies pink panties …
The boxcar and various gifts arrived in Bismarck in February 1949. Each of the then 48 states and two US territories received one of the “gratitude trains” about the same time, but not all of them were given the honors accorded by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the 40 et 8 arm of The American Legion in North Dakota. Some boxcars rotted and rusted away and well-intended gifts fell victim to vandals or dust piles from lack of proper care.
The State Historical Society was given principal care of the boxcar. Periodically, the 40 et 8 has provided facelifts for the high-profile boxcar, the most recent a restoration job in 1984. The Soo Line Railroad provided rails for the outside display as well as the ties and spikes and four brake shoes to make sure the boxcar doesn’t roll away.
NoDak Veteran Oldest U.S. Soldier in World War I
A tailor by trade, William Gleason had a patchwork of North Dakota addresses in becoming a soldier by choice in 1883 at age 21 and then being recognized at age 54 as the oldest U.S. man to enlist and be accepted for active service in World War I.
The veteran of two wars and for 40 years a member of the National Guard also received the signal honor to repre- Gleason sent North Dakota at the burial service for the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Armistice Day 1921.
Gleason was a member of Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 Fargo 1919-35 and was the post’s first chaplain 1919-20.
His National Guard service began with the Garfield Guards at Bismarck in 1883. Four years later he was transferred to Co. A, 1st Infantry, to Bismarck, and in the next year he joined Co. H, 1st Infantry, Jamestown. There, he served as a private, corporal, sergeant, first sergeant, lieutenant and captain. But he resigned as commanding officer of Co. H in January 1898 to join an expedition to Alaska.
Following the U.S. declaration of war with Spain in 1 898, Gleason returned to North Dakota and strange as it may seem now re-enlisted in Co. H as a pri vate. He was mustered into federal service in May 1 898 and served in the Philippine Insurrection and Spanish-American War until being discharged in September 1 899. However, life in military uniform continued to attract Gleason, so he re-enlisted the next month again in Co. H at Jamestown; he served there until being discharged July 23, 1906, as a sergeant.
Gleason’s itch for more military action was answered with the U.S. declaration of war with Germany. On June 30, 1917, he enlisted in Co. D, 2nd North Dakota Infantry, at Devils Lake. The regiment was organized under the direction of Col. Frank White of Valley City. But, before the regiment sailed, Gleason was transferred to Co. L of the famed 164th Infantry, with which he served on France’s Western Front with men far less than half his age. He was in France from Dec. 1 5, 19 1 7, to Feb. 26, 1919, when he was returned home for honorable discharge for the last time, on March 13, 1919, at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
Mandan Veterans Groups Bury Sergeant Flannagan, Last of Custer Scouts
Indian fighter, veteran of the Civil War and ardent patriot, Sgt. James Flannagan, died on April 21, 1921, at Mandan, ND. The last surviving scout of Gen. Custer’s massacred Seventh Cavalry was laid to rest two days later in an impressive funeral ceremony. Sgt. Flannagan, 84, was truly a “character,” a beloved character. The esteem in which he was held is best attested by the fact that The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts at Mandan received permission to honor his memory by conducting a military funeral for the man, the citizen with obsessed hatred for anything un-American. Veterans of five wars participated in the ceremonies. A faltering but proud trio of Grand Army survivors carried the same colors which the old sergeant for many years had borne as a color guard. Stalwart young veterans of the World War sent funeral Flannagan volleys over the patriot’s grave. Sgt. Flan nag an was a native of Greenfield, Mass. In the mid-1850 ‘s he joined the mad rush to the gold fields of California. He drifted back to Ohio and joined the 1 1th Regiment of Ohio Cavalry, serving through the Civil War. Later he enlisted in the Seventh Cavalry at Fort Lincoln. At the time of the Custer expedition west in search of the Sioux, who had refused to return to the reservation, Flannagan was sent over to Reno’s command with an order. He remained with Reno, thus escaping the massacre in the battle of the Little Big Horn. When mustered out of service at the close of Indian hosilities, the sergeant located at Mandan and resided there for the next four decades. He was the bailiff in district court for many years.
This picture taken around 1930 exemplifies poor road conditions that existed over half a century ago and presented major challenges to travelers. This trio of Legionnaires rolled their vehicle where the road (perhaps it was more like a trail) came to a dead end. Standing at right was Department Adjutant Jack Williams who joked often about going to early-day Legion meetings and, after an accident like this, asking the nearest farmer, “How far to the nearest gravel? I mean the nearest passable road?” Williams’ farmer usually responded: “One mile down.” T.O. Kraabel, the state veterans service commissioner officed in Fargo, is the travel companion at left. Identification of the gentlemen in the middle was not available.
Just Plain “Bill”
William Stern – confidant of financiers, politicians and- men of affairs- chose to be, and was universally known as “Bill” to untold thousands of individuals across the globe.
There were three loves in Bill’s life: The American Legion, Northwest Airlines and the Dakota Bank at Fargo. The order of importance was no problem to Bill The American Legion was first. (Politics was an essential adjunct.)
Following service as a lieutenant in World War I, he was a delegate to the St. Louis Caucus in May 1919 at which The American Legion was formed. The first North Dakota convention of The American Legion elected Bill as Sergeant-at-Arms.
He was named National Vice Commander of The American Legion in 1924, and the 1925 North Dakota convention elected him National Executive Committeeman. He was re-elected and served in that position up to the time of his death on New Years day 1964. Bill was renowned in national circles, including the National Executive Committee of The American Legion, for his unique ability to forestall conflict or argument with his wry humor. Nor was that humor limited to differences of opinion. His lifted trouser to expose his “long johns” brought loud and appreciative applause from the parade at Miami Beach. And his suggestion to all and sundry that their best interests would be served by establishing an account at Dakota National Bank were often accepted and implemented, often times by non-nationals encountered in his world travels. The scope of Bill’s generosity has yet to be revealed. As a bachelor, the world was his family and he truly took care of his own. Bill was known from coast to coast and across the seas as a mover and a shaker, but myriads knew him as “Bill,” a warm and compassionate friend.
Thomas E. Whelan, charter member of Ottum-Ball Post No. 168 at St. Thomas, contributed generously for more than a half century to local, department and national affairs and interests of The American Legion. The leadership talents displayed in The American Legion were duplicated in civic, business and political circles.
His selection as the first North Dako tan to be chosen for Ambassadorial service is testament to his friendly, downto-earth approach to all matters and persons with whom he came in contact.
Eschewing all semblance of formality, he answered to “Tommy” and, occasionally, to “Tom.” He was that kind of a guy. And it was characteristic of Tommy that while every ambassador had been sworn in at Washington, DC, he opted to be sworn in “back home” in North Dakota. And he made it stick.
Politics he liked. He could give you cards and spades and still come out on top in most political infighting. It was never difficult to find out where he stood on an issue. And you could bet your life on his word. He knew how to cut to the guts of any matter. And, always, his sparkling wit, jaunty Irish humor, ready smile and warming laugh made you feel his sincere friendship.
Little as Tommy went for trappings and folderol, his position as Ambassador and his many and varied offices, politically, and in The American Legion, were dead serious business. Able to fill the biggest shoes, Tommy carved an auspicious legacy of service to the State and Nation – and to his fellow men.
The right man at the right place at the right time doing the right things. That was Lynn Stambaugh.
Was there something significant in a July 4th birthday of this descendant in a family that emigrated from Bavaria to the United States in 1739? A fourth generation lawyer in that family, Lynn volunteered for military service in 1917. Entering the Army as a private, he was discharged in 1919 as a 2nd Lieutenant- and immediately joined the Fargo post of The American Legion.
With the shadows and portents of Hitler’s blitzkreig of Europe hanging over our land, The American Legion turned to Lynn as its National Commander in 1941.
This North Dakotan- from a state representing less than one percent of the delegate strength of the national convention – had proven himself to be the obvious choice to lead The American Legion in enunciating “the course most likely to make America secure.’
After the close of hostilities in 1945, President Truman turned to our man Lynn to serve as director of the Export – Import Bank. Again putting aside his practice of law, Lynn applied his reason and rationality to matters of trade and economics with the same dedication as he had to military affairs.
Despite long years of service in the nation’s capital, Lynn was always and ever a North Dakotan.
Lieutenant Colonel John E Davis left his World War Il military service as a Battalion Commander in the European theatre to return to his North Dakota home at McClusky and to join The American Legion’s James Roberts Post No. 124 of that community.
In addition to managing family land holdings in the area and serving as President of the First National Bank of McClusky, John interested himself in local and state politics, serving in the North Dakota Legislature.
John served two terms as Governor of North Dakota and was named National Commander of The American Legion in 1966. During his term as national commander, he traveled to Vietnam for a personal appraisal of conditions in the war zone.
He was appointed by the President of the United States to the office of U. S. Civil Defense Director in 1969. After a number of years in that service to the nation, John returned to McClusky to manage personal and family affairs and resume his office as President of the First National Bank of McClusky.
John’s service to The American Legion and to the Veterans served by and serving that organization continued as he chaired the Veterans Memorial Association which was responsible for the installation of the All Veterans Centennial Memorial Monument on the Capital grounds at Bismarck.
Probably very few of his buddies ever knew that “Sparky” bore the name of his western North Dakota rancher father, Herman F. Gierke. From the time of his snaggle-toothed youth to his elevation to the United States Court of Military Appeals, he was universally known as Sparky.
Veteran of Vietnam, Sparky was elected National Commander of The American Legion in 1988 while serving as a North Dakota Supreme Court Justice. Joining Carl E. Rogen Post No. 29 at Watford City immediately upon discharge from service, Sparky emphasized his “Proud to be an American” philosophy by devoting much time and energy to American Legion affairs while successfully maintaining the family ranching business and, at the same time, pursuing a demanding legal practice. Some “spare time” was devoted to local and state politics.
Sparky’s enthusiasm and dedication are a consistent way of life. He brings to every occasion and every task a cheerful ebullience protending success and relegating failure to the realm of the impossible.
He came aboard as office manager at Department Headquarters in 1948 fresh from training at Interstate Business College. Vernon Useldinger signed up for the U.S. Navy on Senior Skip Day at Grafton and became a yeoman aboard an aircraft carrier in WW Il.
As office manager, he brought expanded skills to Department Headquarters. Loyal to “Jack and Hans” in thought and deed, Dinger devoted his considerable energies and attention to supporting them in all aspects of Legion activity.
Recalled to active duty during the Korean War, Dinger spent 17 months away from the Legion in service to the Navy.
As “Mr. Assistant Adjutant” Dinger inherited recognition as “Mr. American Legion” with the passing of the passing of Jack and Hans.
His first election as Department Adjutant was in 1967, and there never was the vaguest question as to who would be named. His unanimous elections regularly followed until he chose to retire in 1991.
Recognized in national American Legion circles for length of service, for meticulous attention to detail, for breadth and scope of knowledge of all facets of American Legion activity, and for completeness and consistency of his devotion to God and Country, Dinger is known from coast to coast as the man to go to for the answers – whatever the question may be.
North Dakota American Legion Record of Department Conventions and Election of Department Commanders
Legion Salutes Department Commanders for Leadership
Great leadership and tireless efforts by outstanding Department Commanders have contributed to the growth and success of the North Dakota American Legion. A steady succession of capable and wonderful men, they have led The American Legion in this state from its infancy in 1919 to today’s organization of dedicated principles, purposes and programs of service to God and Country. It took much vision and good judgment to implement those early lofty ideals into the sound programs conducted by the Legion today. Limited finances complicated by the drought and depression in the earlier years, battles to secure and then retain veterans’ benefits, and to solve many problems, some every year, were challenges they met. Each traveled thousands of miles and appeared at a host of meetings in the admirable performance of their duties The Legion will long reflect upon the good deeds of these men and salutes the leadership they gave to enable veterans, as Legionnaires, to work for the preservation of our national heritage in peacetime as nobly as they did in serving their country in time of war!
ODT Travel Restrictions Limited Attendance to ’45 State Convention
With World War Il national efforts mandated toward victory in 1945, many commonly accepted activities were restricted, if not prohibited. Among the casualties were regularly held meetings.
The federal office of Defense Transportation controlled licenses for gatherings by recognized organizations. No meetings of more than 50 people were authorized.
So it was that a condensed version of the department convention was called by the Executive Committee.
Instead of the usual color and pageantry planned for June 29-30 in Fargo, only the 48 regularly elected department officers were permitted to meet Aug. 19-20 at the state headquarters in Fargo.
This miniature gathering resulted from a special meeting of the state Executive Committee in July. The concensus of the committee was that “the (North Dakota American Legion) membership would want nothing done that might interfere with the war effort or might cause additional hardship or discomfort in the movement of troops from one war zone to another.” It will be remembered that Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces in May 1945, which resulted in shifting and greatly expanding the military effort to the Pacific Theater. The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan in August brought the war to its end.
The Department Vice-Commander assists the Department Commander in conducting the· work and promoting the objectives of The American Legion.
Commencing for and since the 1946-47 Legion year, the number of Department Vice-Commanders was increased to three, each of them heading up a Region Membership Team to include the District Commanders located in each respective Region. In the event of absence or disability of the Department Commander, the Department Vice-Commander, as chosen by the Department Executive Committee, shall be invested with all the duties and privileges of the Department Commander and shall conduct the affairs of that office during that absence or disability. The Eastern Region comprises Districts 1, 2 and 10; the Central Region consists of Districts 3, 4, and 5, and the Western Region has the four Districts of 6, 7, 8 and 9.
District Commander: A Key Legion Officer
A key leader in the organizational structure of The American Legion is the district commander. That officer is charged with the supervision of posts and Legion activities in the district. This entails membership promotion, programming, advice on solving post problems, officiating and speaking before both Legion and mixed groups. The district commander provides leadership and makes great effort constantly throughout the year advancing the goals of The American Legion.
North Dakota is fortunate to have had so many outstanding district commanders over the years, and their tremendous work has contributed immensely to membership and program growth in The American Legion.
When the state Legion was first districted in 1923 and for the 41 years that followed, the Legionnaire who headed this district responsibility was titled district deputy. In 1966 the state organization changed the name of that office holder to district commander. Since our district deputies had been performing duties comparable to those of district commanders in the other departments, this re-designation enhanced uniformity in the identification of such position holders in the organization and also eliminated confusion.
Six hundred thirty-seven Legionnaires have served in this position in North Dakota since the 1923-24 Legion year. In the early days, to help get the Legion firmly established, some were prevailed upon to serve more than the customary one-year term. Some served two and three years in that capacity and we had two Legionnaires who served four terms: Frank J. Webb of St. Thomas-Grand Forks and H.R. Handtmann of Mandan.
Of this large group, there have been six deaths in office. Harold Davidson of Valley City passed away shortly after his 1946-47 appointment as first district commander; Thomas C. Brown of Valley City served out the term.
After Archie Rolfzen of Eckelson, in the first district during 1958-59, and Leo (Irish) Heffernan of Jamestown, in the fourth district during 1963-64, died, the current and past department officers and other Legionnaires in those districts teamed up to carry out the duties for these deceased commanders during the remainder of their terms.
Harry Dewald of Streeter was enthusiastically engrossed in his duties as 1965-66 fourth district commander when he became afflicted with a brain tumor condition in the summer of 1965. Surgery followed and he died Feb. 17, 1966, from the effects of a malignant tumor condition after extended hospitalization. While serving as 1971-72 seventh district commander, Arthur W. Olson of Mandan died unexpectedly on March 11, 1972. He was also serving concurrently as grand chef de gare of the North Dakota Forty and Eight. No successors were appointed. Districtwide Legionnaires teamed up with department officers to complete the Legion work in these two districts.
In the 10th district, Vernal Anderson, Gwinner, died unexpectedly on Feb. 18, 1987. Cliff Day, Oakes, a past 10th district commander, was appointed to complete the unexpired 1986-87 term. During that 72-year span only a few, for various reasons, were unable to complete their year. Rex Hatton of Grafton resigned shortly after appointment, and Floyd E. Henderson of Grafton was named successor of 1934-35 second district commander.
Robert Chesrown of Linton declined the 1946-47 fifth district commander appointment. Edwin T. Brost of Wishek was then appointed but resigned about midterm upon leaving the state. H.T. Holtz of Garrison finished that year.
Henry Busta of Velva served as 1947-48 sixth district commander since Arthur Afdahl of Ryder, who was initially appointed, moved out of the district at the beginning of the term.
Arthur Johnson of Jamestown was busy with duties as 1929-30 fourth district commander when American Airways called upon him to take charge of their Alaska operations. Aviator Carl Ben Eielson, the airline’s executive in Alaska, crashed into snow and ice during an Arctic stormy day in November 1929 and his body was not recovered from the plane wreckage until three months later.
Johnson, who was a WW I aviator like Eielson, had worked in Alaska earlier and had the necessary business experience to meet the qualifications necessary for the assignment that last three years. Charles Schwartz of McClusky succeeded Johnson in completing that Legion year. Sixth District Commander Alden Tang of Bottineau resigned in late fall of 1966 upon moving to Everett, WA. Edward A. Milligan of Bottineau, who was then a past department commander and had been active in the Legion since returning home from WW II, was appointed to complete the unexpired 1966-67 term.
Alfred Nordeng of Watford City was appointed ninth district commander to serve out the remainder of the 1976-77 term of Gerald Beck, Watford City, who resigned in mid-August 1976 upon leaving the state.
Ken Stroh of Killdeer moved out of the state in the late summer of 1991. Dennis Hansey of Scranton, a past eighth district commander, was appointed to complete the rest of the 1991-92 term in the eighth district.
To help meet the great need of services for disabled WW I veterans, the Legion’s department executive committee appointed William T. Kroll as war risk and service officer September 13, 1920. Although he provided excellent skills and dedication in aiding several thousand veterans, Kroll was terminated Nov. 30, 1921, due to lack of salary funds. The service department was turned over to state headquarters staff under the direction of Department Adjutant Jack Williams.
In March 1944, R.R. (Dick) Nelson was hired as full-time department service officer (DSO) to prepare for a heavy influx of veterans as they return home from WW Il. Schools for post service officers were held and other training provided to equip them to assist vets in filing claims with the VA and applying for benefits under the newly enacted GI bill.
George W. Rulon, who initially joined staff July l , 1946, in a membership capacity, continued emphasis on post service officer training upon filling the DSO vacancy in February 1947 and through-out the next decade before leaving Dec. 31, 1957, to accept a position at national headquarters.
Charles D. MacLaughlin registered the longest tenure as a service officer – 31 years, including 27 1/2 years as DSO, preceded by 3 1/2 years as assistant DSO. He retired Aug. 30, 1985.
Assistant Department Service Officer
MacLaughlin Has Longest Service Officer Tenure
Harry W. Moore joined headquarters staff July 17, 1967, as department membership director, with additional newspaper and public relations duties. He was promoted to assistant department adjutant Aug. 7, 1971, and served 17 years, the longest of any staffer in that position, retiring Aug. 30, 1988.
Other Assistant Adjutants
Vernon A. Useldinger, 1958-1967 David M. Schmidt, 1988-1991
Williams First of Only 3 Department Adjutants (1919-2000)
After effective performance for five months as temporary secretary, Jack Williams of Fargo, became the likely person to serve the permanent organi9zation as its first department adjutant. When button-holed to be appointed adjutant at the initial 1919 state convention, Williams asserted, “If I cannot be elected, I don’t want the job,” where upon he was elected the first in a string of 24 successive two-year terms. He passed awary June 14, 1967.
Vernon Useldinger, who then had served in various positions on state headquarters staff since June 1, 1944, completed 24 years as adjutant, retiring June 20, 1991. He was succeeded by David M. Schmidt who, with six years experience in staff operations, was elected adjutant June 18, 1991. The trio unmatched as the fewest department adjutants of any state in the entire Legion organization.
Following Schmidts resignation in 2001 an “acting Adjutant” committee was appointed by the Department Executive Committee that consisted of Willie Pritchard, Thomas Moe and Curt Twete. Beginning in 2002 several Department Adjutants were hired.
Department Headquarters in 1921
This picture of department headquarters was printed in the August-September 1921 issue of “The Legionnaire,” a news magazine published periodically from December 1919 to August 1923. Department Adjutant Jack Williams is pictured on the right working at his desk in the Ulsaker Printing Co. building at 315 Broadway in Fargo. Much is written in this history book about his enviable American Legion career.
Pounding the typewriter in the back of the office is Robert E. Flynn. At that time, he was editor of “The Legionnaire,” having a desk at state headquarters for handling Legion news.
The publication functioned on a standalone basis, with staff and operational expenses financed from subscriptions and advertising income, separate from state headquarters funds.
The third gentleman is William T. Kroll, war risk (service) officer who did a terrific job in assisting veterans with insurance and compensation claims and various other problems with government agencies. Due to lack of funds to retain him on salaried staff, he was released with deep regret in late November 1921. Fortunately, he was accepted for a position at the Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis in 1922, where he continued veterans service work.
Hanna I. (nicknamed “Hans”) Peterson was hired in June 1919 to work as secretary for the temporary committee organizing The American Legion in North Dakota. She became an integral part of staff operations for the next nearly four decades. Shortly after this picture was taken, she and Jack Williams were married Dec. 21, 1921. She served continuously at department headquarters until her unexpected death Nov. 23, 1958.
Department Headquarters in 1994
When the above picture was taken in 1994, department headquarters had been located in the Fargo American Legion building for 45 years. As a crow would fly, it was less than one block away, via back door-across the alley route, from its 1921 work station.
An obvious comparison is that department headquarters is a busy workplace, conducting the affairs of The American Legion’s statewide organization and its programs in concert with its over 200 local posts.
The major contrast in the two pictures centers around office equipment. The old mimeograph has been replaced by modern duplicating machines. Computers now days have replaced the archaic addressograph and numerous old fashioned time-consuming administrative systems.
One piece of hand-me-down equipment still used occasionally today and performing the same mission as when purchased, is the wrapping paper stand visible in the 1921 photo.
The three ladies on department headquarters staff as of the 1994 summer had an aggregate of 54 years’ service. They are (from left) Teri Anderson, administrative secretary; Connie Knudson, programs assistant, and Karen England, finance and membership assistant. After six years on staff, (back row, left) David M. Schmidt was elected to his first two-year term as department adjutant in 1991 and has been re-elected biennially. John N. Berge joined the staff in 1988 as department service officer.
Chronology of Department Headquarters Staff Hire, 1919-1994
The following have been considered regular employees on the North Dakota American Legion department headquarters staff at Fargo over the years. The terms of some loyal employees have been remarkably lengthy, while others were of shorter duration due to a variety of reasons along life’s pathway that led to leaving our staff.
Not listed are some temporary and part-time employees who were hired for short periods to accommodate workload surges and, in several instances, to function during the illness of regular staff.
John P. (Jack) Williams, May 1919 as temporary secretary, elected department adjutant 10-17-19 and served in that capacity until his death 6-14-67. The department executive committee granted Jack a leave of absence from October 1941 to October 1942 to travel as aide to American Legion National Commander Lynn U. Stambaugh.
Hannah I. (nicknamed “Hans”) Peterson, June 1919 served as secretary for the temporary organization, then department headquarters secretary and executive assistant to the department adjutant until her death 11-23-58. She and Jack Williams were married 12-21-21.
William T. Kroll, 9-13-20 served as war risk and service officer to 11-30-21, when he was regretfully released due to lack of funds to continue him on salaried staff.
Mrs. Grace Raisler, August 1934 served as secretary-clerk to 11-1-35.
Adeline Heintz, November 1935 served as steno to August 1936.
Margaret Christensen, January 1942 served for secretarial work to May 1943.
Corrine E. Amundson/Krabbenhoft, June 1943 served as secretary to July 1947.
R.R. (Dick) Nelson, March 1944 served as department service officer to 6-30-46 .
George W. Rulon 7-1-46 served as director of expansion and stabilization of membership and then, in February 1947, appointed department service officer, to Dec. 31, 1957, then joining national headquarters staff.
Donald E. Bloese, September 1946 served as department service officer to 2-14-47.
Lloyd M. Rockne, 4-1-4 7 served as assistant department adjutant to 12-31-47.
Marillyn L. Peterson, August 194 7 served as secretary to 4-15-48.
Vivian D. Novachek, August 1947 served as secretary to Aug. 31, 1948.
Shirley Jean Peterson/Engebretson, 5-1-48 served as stenographer to 9-30-49.
Vernon A. Useldinger, 6-1-48 served as office manager, then holding other staff positions including 24 years as department adjutant, elected 6-20-67 and retiring 6-30-91 . Vern was on leave of absence for recall into Korean War naval service September 1950 – January 1952.
Margo Anne Brunskill/Paulsen, 7-1-48 served as typist-receptionist to 6-30-52, preceded by some part-time work March 1946 – June 1948 while in school.
Lorraine Mickelson/Bergseid, Oct. 1, 1949, served as clerk-typist to 7-1-50.
William C. Anderson, 6-15-50 served as assistant department service officer to 7-31-52.
Betty Lou Underberg, 8-1 -52 served as secretary to June 1, 1953.
Shirley Ann Borderud/Schafer, 5-15-53 served as secretary to 7-15-60.
Mary Ann Evans, 6-15-53 served as secretary to 12-1-54.
Charles D. MacLaughlin, 7-1-54 served as assistant department service officer, then department service officer from 1-1-58 to retirement on 8-30-85.
Florence E. Johnson, 9-15-55 served as secretary to 9-30-58.
Mrs. Eunice L. Grindahl, 10-1-5 8 served as secretary to 4-30-61.
Earnest N. Schmit, 1-1-59 served as office manager to 9-1-66, when he took leave of absence to travel as aide to National Legion Commander John E. Davis who, on 5-4-67, appointed Earnie national adjutant to fill the vacancy in that office.
Linda Amann, 6-15-60 served as secretary to 3-31-61.
Sandra Iverson/Bender, 4-1-61 served as secretary to 11-15-65.
Mrs. Janet Hillstrom, 4-24-61 served as secretary to 6-30-62.
Alice Corneliussen, 6-1-62 served as secretary to 8-31-68.
LaVonne E. Evans, 12-1-65 served as secretary to 6-30-73.
Harry W. Moore, 7-17-67 served as department membership director, then assistant department adjutant from 8-7-71 to retirement on 8-30-88.
Donna Berglund, 8-20-68 served as secretary to 3-31-70.
Helen L. Hein, 3-19-70 served as secretary to 8-11-72.
Shirley E. Kastanek, 2-25-72 served as secretary to 11-20-72.
Karen J. Walkinshaw/Graner/England, 8-8-72 served as secretary, then advancing to finance and membership assistant. She retired in 2007.
Tommie Jean Petty, 11-14-72, served as secretary to June 8, 1973.
Nancy J. Samuelson, 6-7-73 served as secretary to 11-30-73.
Connie Wolfe/Knudson, 6-11-73 served as secretary, advancing to programs assistant. She retired in 2009.
Sharon R. Collette, 12-10-73 served as secretary to 1-22-76.
Glenn A. Burkle, 9-1- 74, served as office manager to 2-29-80.
Rita Rae Loe/Schoenheit, 4-1-76 served as secretary to 12-14-82.
Teri J. Anderson/Bryant, 1-5-83 served as secretary then advancing to administrative secretary. She continues on staff.
David M. Schmidt, 8-19-85 as served department service officer, advancing to assistant department adjutant 7-1-88 and then department adjutant, resigning 6-18-91-2002.
John N. Berge, 5-9-88-1999 served as department service officer.
Department Headquarters Locations in Fargo
After returning home from the St. Louis Caucus, Temporary Chairman Julius Baker and Temporary Secretary Jack Williams opened American Legion state offices about mid-May 1919 at Baker’s place of business (insurance) at 419 N.P. Avenue in Fargo. A short while later, the offices were relocated to the nearby Lalley Farm Lighting Co. building.
During the week following the Oct. 16-17, 1919, first state Legion convention at Bismarck, Williams moved state headquarters offices into the Ulsaker Printing Co. building at 315 Broadway. Williams had worked for that firm earlier, learning the printing trade.
In the spring of 1924, Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 at Fargo leased the entire upper floor of the Model Laundry Building at 633 N.P. Avenue for its clubrooms.
After remodeling and redecorating the spaces during the summer, state headquarters took occupancy of the two front offices in the fall and remained at that location for nearly a decade.
The 1934 city directory lists the Legion’s state headquarters offices at the Armory, 13 S. Broadway, where Post 2 also arranged space for its clubrooms.
Department headquarters moved to 309 Broadway in 1943 and occupied the top floor of the three-story building for the next six years. Post 2 had leased this building in mid-January 1942 to meet growing space needs for local Legion, Auxiliary and Forty and Eight member activities.
In the summer of 1949 when Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 dedicated its new $300,000 American Legion home at 505 – 3rd Avenue N., department headquarters occupied new offices on the second level. HQ moved from Post 2 and for several years Department Headquarters was located in downtown Fargo. HQ then moved to office space in West Fargo.
When the organization was founded in 1919, there was much sensitivity to politics. “The Legion in this state is free from politics,” Department Commander C.L. Dawson of Beach told a joint assembly of the North Dakota legislature Dec. 1, 1919. For that reason, department headquarters offices were not permanently established in the capital city.
The Role of The Chaplain
For God and Country we associate ourselves together so begins the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion. The recognition of the reality and presence of Almighty God comes right at the beginning.
While many might say ”The American Legion is not very religious,” the Preamble would indicate that our foundations as an organization are based on Godly convictions. Legionnaires, as individuals, often forget that aspect of their involvement in the organization. It is very easy to focus on Patriotism, Youth Activities, Defense or any number of activities and programs in which the Legion is involved. It is easy as well to simply get involved in the “running of the club.”
The “Role of the Chaplain” is first and foremost to keep God at the forefront of Legion activities.
Putting that in a practical aspect, the role of the Chaplain is to lead in prayer at appropriate times, such as at Post or other Meetings, Banquets or with individuals or groups at times of special need.
It is to speak a devotional and Godly word at Memorial or other times of special gatherings that have to do with the reality of God in our daily lives.
It is to be an example of living as one who first trusts in God and secondly tries to live for Him.
To simply summarize, The American Legion Chaplain is to speak God’s Word, live God’s Word and be a messenger of the people of God with our words of request and of thanksgiving.
North Dakota Legion Chaplain Ranks Include ‘Foxhole Padre’
The Rev. Thomas J. Tracy, ”padre of the foxholes,” was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroism in action on Guadalcanal. He was known as “every inch a soldier” by hundreds of North Dakotans who served with him in the 164th N.D. Infantry.
Becoming Chaplain of the l 64th National Guard unit, he accompanied that group to Camp Claiborne, LA, in 1940 and then followed the troops into the South Pacific the next year when the unit was federalized.
Before the bloody Guadalcanal fighting with the Japanese wound up, Father Tracy was the only chaplain with the 164th, although two Protestant chaplains were with the outfit when it landed. One of the other chaplains was injured and the second became ill with malaria.
Here’s what Harry Tenborg of Carrington, then a major in the 164th, told a newspaper reporter in March of 1943 when on leave after the Guadalcanal fight: “Father Tracy was every inch a soldier. Creed didn’t enter and Father Tracy took care of his duties as chaplain gloriously. Father Tracy would say Mass for the Catholic boys and then conduct services for the Protestants, and it was the latter services to which I went.
“Regardless of the obstacles, Father Tracy was ever on the go. He was active in the field, he went into the front lines, he was hack at the hospitals, holstering morale, hearing the men’s troubles, going from battalion to battalion to conduct services.
“In several instances that I know of he had scheduled masses interrupted by enemy bombers, but that didn’t deter Father Tracy. He and his congregation would dive into the closest foxholes and when the raid was over he would resume Mass.”
Father Tracy, who was a priest of the Bismarck Catholic Diocese following his ordination in 1936, returned to clergy assignments in North Dakota after his postwar separation from the Army.
He accepted invitation to deliver the memorial address on June 16, 1946, to The American Legion’s 28th annual department convention at Bismarck. Two days later he was unanimously elected Department Chaplain, which position he held for five years. He was again called into Army service as a chaplain in January 1951, served at the Mediterranean port of Trieste and was discharged in May 1953.
Although already recalled and back on active duty, the delegates to the 1951 department convention at Bismarck, as an expression of their admiration for Father Tracy along with the hope that his recall would only be temporary, re-elected him as Department Chaplain for the ensuing year.
Reverend Leslie R. Burgum of Jamestown was appointed to serve the 1951-52 term as acting state chaplain since Father Tracy’s recall turned out to be two years’ duration.
Legion Remembers POWs and MIAs
During the 1985 national Legion convention, The American Legion adopted a resolution urging Legion affiliates to implement the “Empty Chair” program at their official meetings as a continual physical symbol of those Americans who may still he Prisoners of War and those who are Missing in Action along with the cause for which we stand, namely their return or full accounting. The Empty Chair is identified with a POW/MIA flag or, if that flag is not available, a sign lettered POW/MIA may be mounted and displayed on the Empty Chair.
A. J. Rulon Held Finance Post 35 Years, Aided in Establishing Reserve Fund
A period of 50 years of stellar service to the North Dakota American Legion climaxed at the 1969 winter conference in Jamestown when Arthur J. Rulon resigned as department finance officer.
A past department commander, Rulon had held the finance post from 1934, a term of 35 years. He was only the fourth finance officer in the history of the department.
Blaise Johnson of Jamestown was appointed to complete the unexpired term. He was an officer of the James River National Bank in Jamestown, at which bank Rulon had been employed from 1914 until retiring in 1955, with the exception of the period of his military service during World War I.
In requesting acceptance of his resignation Rulon said, “You know, I had a birthday last month and I became 80 years old. I have stayed on the past several years to see several particular objectives through to conclusion and now they are completed. I think it’s about time someone a little younger assume these duties.” Noting the struggle that the Legion had to keep going with limited finances during the formative and depression years, Rulon assisted in establishing the reserve fund in 1942 to protect the organization’s future and to meet unexpected financial emergencies.
During most of its first quarter century of existence, the department had serious cash-flow problems. To maintain operations during the lean revenue months, short-term promissory notes were executed and were paid off in subsequent months when there was a seasonal upswing in revenue from annual dues. A stack of paid-off notes had accumulated by the early WW II years, after which department finances improved for planning and funding annual budgets.
A raise of $1 per member in department dues, approved by the 1941 department convention, not only furnished the need for increased revenue to support statewide American Legion operations but also provided the financial base upon which the 1942 department convention could feasibly establish the reserve fund.
Throughout that decade no withdrawals were made from either the principal or the accumulated interest. Supervised prudently by the department executive committee, the reserve fund grew to over $225,000 by the early 1990s.
Prior to his tenure as finance officer, Rulon’s other services to the state Legion included: 1925-26 department vice-commander, 1926-27 member of the department executive committee for the central region as well as chairman of the department legislative committee that year, 1927-28 department commander and 1930-32 alternate national executive committeeman.
And Rulon, who died in 1970, was no stranger to fields of public service, having served four two-year terms as a state representative from Stutsman County. He also was a leader of civic and fraternal organizations in the Jamestown community.
Historian Jones Was Record Holder in Legion
The writers of this history are indebted to William M. “Bill” Jones of Lisbon for the accurate annual summaries that he prepared during the 45 years that he served as department historian.
His documentations, coupled with records carefully maintained by department headquarters staff over the years, have provided reliable information upon which the Department History Committee was able to develop this history.
In tribute to his outstanding services in The American Legion, in the Lisbon community and in the military, Jones was honored at a buffet on May 15, 1966, at the Lisbon Legion clubrooms.
Department Adjutant Jack Williams commended Jones’ work in The American Legion, especially saluting his 45 years of continuous service as department historian. Williams presented an American Legion Award of Merit plaque to Jones from the state organization.
State Senator Donald Holand, a past commander of Lisbon Legion’s Florence Kimball Post No. 7, paid tribute to Jones as publisher of the Ransom County Gazette weekly newspaper for 42 years prior to retiring in 1953, as a citizen and as a community builder.
Floyd E. Henderson, then commandant of the State Veterans Home at Lisbon and a past Legion Department commander, reviewed Jone’s lengthy military record, which included active service in the Mexican Border War and both World Wars I and Il. Retired from the Army in Nov. 1943 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, Jones had been affiliated for many years with the North Dakota National Guard.
Program speakers also praised Delilla Jones for sharing with her husband the responsibilities that come with participating in many worthy activities during decades of community service.
In 1962 the National Association of American Legion Department Historians presented Jones with a citation in recognition of continuous service as department historian, longest in the nation.Department Executive Committee
Department Executive Committee
The Department Executive Committee for 1919-20 and 1920-21 years was comprised of department officers elected at the 1919 and 1920 department conventions, respectively.
At the 1921 department convention in Jamestown, a plan was adopted that changed the composition to the Department Executive Committee to five voting members: the department commander as chairman and the department adjutant, who are ex-officio members, and one executive committee member from each of the state’s then-existing three congressional districts
These three congressional district executive committee positions were subsequently aligned into the post-World War II three-region (Eastern, Central and Western) restructuring of the department. The term of each regional executive committeeman is three years, staggered so that the term of one committee member shall expire each year.
The 1977 department convention at Grand Forks expanded the voting membership of the department executive committee to seven, to include the addition of the department finance officer and the immediate past department commander. A limit of two elected three-year terms of office that a regional executive committeeman may serve was also adopted at the 1977 convention.
While the legislative body of the North Dakota American Legion is the department convention, the executive power of the organization is vested in the Department Executive Committee between department conventions.
The Department Executive Committee provides a uniform code of procedure for the orderly organization and operation of department conventions with continuing power of revision. Three regular meetings of the executive committee are scheduled each year during the winter conference usually held in February, during the annual department convention in June, and during the organization meeting or new officers generally held in early August.
Whenever the need exists to hold a special meeting, such meeting is called by the department commander.
Judge Advocate Serves as Legal Advisor
In 1 925, the position of department judge advocate was established to act as legal advisor to department officers. That person, who is appointed by the department commander, also presides as chairman of the standing committee on constitution and by-laws.
Of the 69 years that have elapsed between then and the writing of this history, two former judge advocates, both attorneys, had combined service as legal advisor that exceeded one-half of that period.
Patrick T. Milloy of Wahpeton held that position for 15 years (1949-64) and also provided counsel while he was 1948-49 department commander. In 1964 Milloy became national executive committeeman for our state, serving four two-year terms.
Draeb, the first Korean war veteran to serve as department commander (1963-64), followed as department judge advocate for 20 years (1964-84). In 1985 he was appointed trust director to the Legionnaire Insurance Trust and represented the North Dakota American Legion in that status during the following decade.
Department Reinstates Sergeant-at-Arms Position
Over a half-century elapsed between the election of a Department Sergeant-at-Arms during the first department convention at Bismarck for the 1919-20 Legion year and the next-elected Department Sergeant-at-Arms at the 1978 department convention held at Fargo.
The reinstatement of this position into the officer structure of the Department resulted from a recommendation made by the 1976-77 Department Constitution and By-Laws Revision committee that the of fice of Department Sergeant-at-Arms be established on the basis of a one-year term, elected annually.
This recommendation was approved by the 1977 department convention held at Grand Forks to become effective for the 1978-79 Legion year.
Sergeant-at-Arms in Charge of Colors Ceremonies
The Department Sergeant-at-Arms is the custodian of the department colors and is in charge of the color guard during the presentation and retirement of colors at all department functions. He is present during all department conventions and state Legion winter conference sessions. He is responsible for controlling ingress and egress to the convention hall and performs such other duties as may be required of him to ensure that the convention programs proceed free of any undue disturbances or disruptions.
Similar sentinel duties and responsibilities are performed by the post sergeantat-arms, who stands ready at all times to assist the commander.
This post official works in close liaison with the commander in planning colors ceremonies for American Legion participation in patriotic holiday programs, other special ceremonies such as post everlasting for deceased members, disposal of unserviceable flags and gravesite rites for departed comrades.
O’Connor Directed Colors Ceremonies for Two Decades in Post-WW II Era
During the years spanning 1952-1973 John J. O’Connor of Fargo provided the leadership for flag ceremonies at department convention hall and winter conference sites.
He served in close liaison on flag etiquette matters with the Department Adjutant who is responsible for arranging the program for these two major annual events.
O’Connor effectively planned the maneuvers O’Connor for presenting and retiring the colors and also designed special ceremonies for trouping numerous flags at the convention’s joint session.
After selecting interested personnel to participate in the color groups, rehearsals would be held to enhance the precision of the units in making commendable performances in executing the flag ceremomes.
The efforts of himself and those who assisted each year have helped to set the high standards of respect to the flag that is demonstrated at the annual department conventions and winter conferences.
Coordinated into the colors ceremonies at the department convention has been the playing of the national anthem by the North Dakota State American Legion Band, which group of statewide musicians also provide other patriotic music for the enjoyment of all attendees during the convention.
Beginning with the 1954 department convention at Grand Forks and continuing through the 1963 department convention at Bismarck, O’Connor conducted flag-raising ceremonies, with the assistance of a color guard and a bugler, at 8:00 a.m. on three mornings of the convention at a downtown municipal flagpole. The State Legion Band assembled at the flagpole site to play patriotic music when the colors were retired by O’Connor and the color guard in the early evening each day.
His primary assistant over this lengthy period was C. O. “Ozzie” Sveum of Enderlin, who succeeded O’Connor commencing with the 1973-74 year and then supervised colors ceremonies for the next five years when, beginning with the 197879 Legion year, the Department Sergeantat-Arms assumed those responsibilities. Sveum subsequently served 12 years as Department Sergeant-at Arms.
Patriotic music for flag ceremonies and the worship service at the annual winter conference in recent years has been provided by Fargo’s Gilbert C. Grafton Post No. 2 Band.
PAST NATIONAL VICE-COMMANDERS
Nine past department commanders, William “Bill” Stern of Fargo, John K. Kennelly of Mandan; Truman C. Wold and H. F. “Sparky” Gierke, both of Watford City; Willard W. Brandt of Linton; Boyd H. Clemens of Bismarck, Curtis O. Twete of McVille, Seb Roll of Mott and Wayne Satrom of Galesburg have served as National Vice-Commanders of The American Legion. Each made an exemplary record in rendering outstanding leadership and service to the national organization.
Stern was first to hold that office in 1924-25, followed by Kennelly 10 years later in 1934-35, from our WW I ranks. Wold in 1953-54, Brandt in 1959-60 and Clemens in 1974-75, are WW II Legionnaires who served in that position. Gierke’s term was in 1985-86 and Twete in 1993-94, both veterans of the Vietnam War. Roll and Satrom are Vietnam era veterans.
National Executive Committeemen
Alternate National Executive Committeemen
Past National Officers
Rev. James C. Tuxbury, then a member of Post 40 at Mandan, was 1976-77 national chaplain of The American- Legion. Rev. Jerry Salveson, a member of Post 2 at Fargo, also served in that office during 1987-88. Each organized and chaired the national conference of Department Chaplains during his term of office.
Stockstad Appointed National Historian
Arnold J. Stockstad was appointed and served the 1977-78 term as national historian of The American Legion. A member of Post 147 at Park River, he was president of the National Association of Department Historians for the previous two (1975-77) Legion years.
Trio Held Executive Positions on Legion National Headquarters Staff
Earnest N. Schmit, a lifelong member of Post No. 5 at Beach, became the Legion’s chief administrative officer when he was appointed national adjutant on May 4, 1967, to complete the unexpired term of approximately four months of E. A. Blackmore who died unexpectedly in late April that year.
The appointment came on recommendation of American Legion National Commander John E. Davis, which was approved by the Legion’s national executive committee during its spring meeting at national headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. Schmit, who had joined department headquarters staff at Fargo on Jan. l, 1959, took leave of absence on Sept. I , 1966 to travel as aide to National Commander Davis. As of 1994 Schmit was the only living past national adjutant
Joe E. Rabinovich, a World War I Legionnaire at his hometown Post 6 at Grand Forks, accepted the position of national supervisor of the Sons of The American Legion in 1942, office at the Indianapolis national headquarters. During the approximately I l years that Rabinovich remained on staff, he held several different administrative positions including assistant national adjutant. A jeweler years earlier when he was residing at Grand Forks, he reentered the jewelry business in 1953 in Indiana.
William C. Anderson of Fargo commenced employment on The American Legion’s Washington headquarters staff on April 1,195 5, in the veterans affairs and rehabilitation division. During his 32year career he progressed through a number of administrative positions in that division and also served as assistant executive director for the Washington headquarters. He retired in May 1987.
Anderson previously served two years in the early 1950’s as assistant department service officer on state headquarters staff in Fargo, where he keeps his Legion membership in Post 2.
American Legion National Headquarters Building, Indianapolis, Indiana
North Dakota Leaders Chair National Commission, Committees
C.L. “Dad” Dawson chaired the 1920-21 national by-laws committe. The first person to chair that standing committee, it was subsequently renamed the national constitution and by-laws committee.
A member of Post 5 at Beach, he practiced Dawson law in that community on both sides of his WW I military service.
Spencer S. Boise, a WW I Legionnaire of Post 1 at Bismarck, was chairman of the national veterans employment committee for the four-year (1947-5 1) period. Later the name of the committee was shortened to employment committee. Boise also chaired the 1947-48 housing sub-committee of the national economics commission.
The American Legion’s Washington headquarters is located downtown at 1608 K St., NW, Washington, D.C.
Foreign Relations Commission, Inter-American Committee
For over two decades Thomas E. Whelan of St. Thomas devoted himself to service in the field of foreign affairs. He chaired the national foreign relations commission for nine years (1963-72), preceded by three years as chairman of the national inter American committee (1960-63).
Whelan served nearly 10 years between 1951 and 1961 as U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua.
Foreign Relations Council
Earnest N. Schmit, Beach, chaired the national foreign relations council during the 1980-8 1 year. Q. R. Schulte, Stanley, was chairman of this council for two years (1988-90).
Membership & Post Activities Committee
During the 1954-55 year Truman C. Wold, Watford City, chaired the national membership and post activities committee. The task of this committee is to effectively promote the recruitment and retention of American Legion members and to develop interesting post activities that will attract participation by the members of local Legion posts. This committee is attached to the internal affairs commission
Merchant Marine Committee
Al Olenberger of Mcville headed the national merchant marine committee as its chairman for two years (1972-74). Vital in the flow of foreign and domestic commerce The American Legion maintains that a strong and modern merchant marine is a necessary adjunct to national security. The merchant marine committee, which comprised a section of the national security commission, is dedicated to that mission.
North Dakota, somewhat like a bridge-player’s dreams, made a “grand slam” in 1941: it became the first state to have from its ranks the head officer named in three top national Legion units. Lynn U. Stambaugh of Fargo was elected the Legion’s national commander at its convention in Milwaukee. At his home coming, held at Fargo on Oct. 10, 1941, he was joined by Mrs. James Morris of Bismarck, who served as national president of the Legion Auxiliary in 1938-39, and John “Chick” Conmy, right, formerly of Fargo and then of Chicago, who had been the chef de chemin de fer or national head of the 40 et 8 in 1928-29.
Native American Influences in Flickertail Legion
Significant contributions by Native Americans are found throughout the American Legion life in North Dakota post histories and department files. It is particularly noteworthy that a white man who also was an adopted Sioux Indian
Chief was elected commander of Gilbert S. Furness Post #40 in Mandan for 1920-21 when the Legion was only in its second year in the nation and state.
Army Maj. A.B. Welch of Mandan was credited with being the first white adopted into the Sioux Nation by its great Chief John Grass years earlier. Welch had served in the Spanish-American War, in the Mexican border conflict and in World War I. That military service convinced him of the loyalty and fighting ability of Indians.
Repeatedly, he praised the courage and dependability of his Indian brothers in uniform in speeches delivered both in English and Sioux dialect.
The year 1921 has a prideful moment for Native Americans in North Dakota. They were signally honored during a visit in Bismarck by French Marshal Ferdinand Foch. The commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in WW I, an almost-constant pipe smoker, smoked a peace pipe with Chief Red Tomahawk, the slayer of Sitting Bull. At the same occasion, Foch was given an honorary Sioux name, which translated into “Charging Thunder.”
Also in 1921, public thanks were given after the death of Richard Blue Earth, the first Sioux Indian to enlist in the US Army in WW I. Blue Earth’s remains were reburied in the Indian Cemetery at Cannon Ball after 48 hours of nearly continuous death chants, dancing and rites. The burial site was near that of his buddy, the young Chief Albert Grass, who served with him in France. Grass was cited for bravery under enemy fire and also was killed on scout duty in the Argonne Forest, like Blue Earth.
Richard Blue Earth Post #142 of The American Legion at Solen was named in his honor in late 1919. Similarly, Post #173 at Fort Yates recognized Albert Grass in its post name when it was chartered in February 1920.
Another white (and part Indian), Edward A. Milligan studied and wrote about Indian lore. He became an adopted son of One Bull and Whitebull, warrior nephews of Sitting Bull. For many years Milligan was on the faculty of North Dakota State University-Bottineau Branch, from where he fanned out for historical research.
Numerous honors were given to Milligan by Indians. Two were: selection as the only white to be a principal dancer in the 1936 Little Eagle, SD, Sun Dance, a non-stop ritual spread over three hot days preceded by 48 hours of fasting; then, 40 years later at age 76 and as a past department commander (1949-50), leading a dance in his honor at an Indian ceremony near White Shield. The latter occasion was a Memorial Day observance honoring veterans buried in the Lone Star Indian Scout Cemetery, including Harvey Hopkins, Jr., who was in Milligan’s 104th Timberwolf Division. Hopkins was a descendant of Sitting Bull.
Indian Legion posts in North Dakota have provided color guards in crowd-pleasing ceremonial headdresses at many department conventions and also at national Legion conventions. At the 1954 national convention in Washington, DC, Judge Francis B. Zahn, hereditary chief of the Sioux Nation and 1920-21 commander of Richard Blue Earth Post #142 at Solen, was featured on the North Dakota float in the parade. That was the first time that the North Dakota delegation led the parade based on its membership accomplishments. Little Shell Post #300’s color guard represented North Dakota in national convention parades in 1977 at Denver and 1984 at Salt Lake City.
Indian respect didn’t pass without note for white Legion leaders either. Officials of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council and Albert Grass Post #173 at Fort Yates had two occasions in the 1960s to bestow honors on Legion officials.
At the 46th annual state Legion convention at Grand Forks in 1954, outgoing Department Commander Gus Draeb of Hebron was presented with a pair of Indian moccasins from the post and tribal council. Department Adjutant Jack Williams also was given a certificate of honorary membership in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Williams also was awarded the Indian name of Akicita Wachin Yipe, which means “Faithful Soldier.”
In 1967, another honorary tribal membership was awarded to Department Commander Harry A. Kautzmann of Mandan by Tribal Chairman A.J. Agard of Fort Yates. More significantly, Agard delivered to Kautzmann an Indian headdress from the Henry Greybear family. The headdress was a memorial to the Greybears’ son who lost his life while in military service. Albert Grass Post #173 at Fort Yates has maintained continuous operations since it was chartered on Feb. 25, 1920. While Richard Blue Earth Post #142 at Solen was chartered a few weeks earlier, it was not active during the year 1924 but resumed activities in 1925 and has continued in an active status to the writing of this history.
In the spring of 1934, Post No. 253 was chartered at Elbowoods, located east of the Missouri River on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, and was named after Joseph Young Hawk who was wounded severely on May 6, 1918, in WW I action in France. He returned home after the war but died on June 18, 1923, at age 29. In late 1955 this post disbanded because the lowlands of the Elbowoods area were destined to become inundated in the Garrison Reservation project. In the fall of 1957, Post 253 reorganized in the White Shield District located 25 miles west of Garrison. The post was named Joseph Young Hawk-Elmer Bear Post #253, adding Elmer Bear–who died Nov. 26, 1950, in service at Kunu-Ri, Korea to the name of the former Post 253.
Following the end of WW II when many veterans returned home, providing a larger potential membership base on the reservations, Matthew American Horse Post No. 259 was organized at Cannon Ball and was chartered on Nov. 15, 1945.
During the previous quarter century, WW I veterans living in the Cannon Ball area affiliated with their nearest Legion post at Solen on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Matthew American Horse, for whom the post is named, was killed in action on Oct. 26, 1944, in Germany.
The first and only post on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation was chartered on Jan. 5, 1946. It was named Lilley-Dionne Post No. 262 in honor of Robert F. Lilley who lost his life in the English Channel, Europe, on Dec. 6, 1942, and Louis A. Dionne who was killed in action on May 29, 1943, in the Pacific theatre.
Thomas F. Badgun Post No. 271, originally located at Elbowoods (Independence District) on the west side of the Missouri River, was chartered on May 27, 1946. The post’s namesake died in service on Oct. 15, 1944, in New York. When the Garrison Reservoir was flooded, this post relocated at Mandaree.
Post 271 disbanded in 1962 and reorganized in late 1965 under name of Memorial Post No. 271. In the spring of 1971, the membership unanimously approved changing the post’s name to Myron B. Johnson Post No. 271. Johnson was killed on March 28, 1971, during hostile action in Vietnam. Part of the burial procession for Spec. 4 Johnson included a riderless horse, which had been owned by the dead soldier and commemorated him and his skill in the rodeo arena as a bronc rider.
On May 10, 1957, Clarence Spotted Wolf-John R. Irwin, Jr. Post No. 300 was chartered to operate in the Little Shell District near New Town. Spotted Wolf was killed in action on Dec. 21, 1944, in Luxembourg, Europe, and Irwin died in service on March 22, 1955, in Hawaii.
Sharon Young Wolf, a member of the Hidatsa Tribe, was the first woman elected commander of Post 300, serving the 1987-88 year after her US Army service in Vietnam.
Two other Native America posts have disbanded. On the Fort Totten Indian Reservation, Fort Totten Post No. 301 had two periods of existence: the first from late 1957 to the summer of 1960 when it disbanded and, the second, from early 1963 to 1970 when it disbanded again. The charter for Twin Buttes Post No. 303, located north of Halliday on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, was granted May 1, 1969, and was cancelled in the spring of 1981 after the post disbanded.
N.D. American Indian Code Talkers Recognized
Code talkers from American Indian tribes, North Dakota and South Dakota among them, were honored posthumously in late 2013 for their important role in sending coded messages to shield U.S. military communications from the enemy during World Wars I and II.
The Congressional Gold Medal was presented in Washington, DC, to honor the military service of Indian members from 33 tribes. Among them were 45 Standing Rock Sioux Reservation veterans of World War I and one from World War II. Also included were code talkers from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in North Dakota and South Dakota. The code talkers’ names were read aloud in a roll call of history to recognize and thank them for their important contributions toward achieving victory in both wars. Code talkers used their native language to send communications that enemies could not decipher.
The Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush, recognized that every Native American code talker who served in the U.S. military during WW I or WW II (with the exception of the previously honored Navajo) with a Congressional Gold Medal of individual design for his tribe (to be retained by the Smithsonian Institution) and a silver medal duplicate to each code talker.
According to a December 23, 2013, editorial in The Fargo Forum, “Standing Rock is credited with supplying more than any other among the 33 tribes to provide native speakers in combat. Seven of the code talkers from Standing Rock, where Lakota and Nakota are the native languages, were killed in action and buried on foreign soil; another later died from his wounds.
“We commend the code talkers for their service and we say philamahyaye, Lakota for thank you.”
The Congressional God Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed by Congress
Hands Across The Border
American Legion, Royal Canadian Legion Members Spawn Friendly Relations
Possibly no more representative comments could be given to emphasize the unique relationship between the United States and Canada than these excerpts from an editorial in the June 9, 1976, Estevan, Sask., Mercury after the Estevan Bicentennial committee delivered a memorable two-day celebration for its American neighbors:
“… Linked strongly with the U. S. through many of its citizens, the city came through in glorious fashion this last June 5th and 6th. We recognized our neighbor, marking in true western spirit, recognizing that no better neighbor could be had … Out west we still understand the importance of good neighbors and good friends. The looks of today who seems to advocate an anti-US policy could do well by look in g at the history of our borders, once marked, totally unarmed.”
“Hands Across the Border” observances similar to that in Estevan, known as the Saskatchewan ” oil capital,” have, since World War I, become an annual event for numerous North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba border communities.
We lead off here with some highlights in the Estevan and Noonan, ND, celebration in 1976, followed by other “Hands Across the Border” events held by ND American Legion posts.
Canadians Help Celebrate American Bicentennial
There may be misunderstandings and mistrusts among the peoples of two countries, but there was no evidence of this at the exchange of flags program July 5, 1976, at the border with Canada at the Noonan, ND, Customs and Immigration Station. The spirit of good will and comradeship between Canadian and US citizens and between veterans organizations of both countries demonstrated the longstanding resolve for peace along the undefended border.
Arranged mostly by the Estevan “Salute to America” bicentennial committee, the memorable two-day celebration also resulted from extensive coordination by Joe Lukach of Noonan, then western region department vice commander.
With more than 1,000 people watching emotionally, US and Canadian color guards and other units faced each other from opposite sides of the border and then marched through each other’s ranks. Then they reversed directions and returned to their original positions, from where a pair of representatives from each detachment stepped forward. Amid smiles of appreciation that this was an act of friendship, they exchanged flags.
Special guests seated on the border reviewing stand included Dan Sellman, director of the North Dakota Bicentennial Commission; Ca pt. Arnold Schimke, North Dakota Highway Patrol district commander; state American Legion representatives Arthur E. Ulness of Fargo, Boyd Clemens of Bismarck, Ivan Zotti of New Town, Victor Hass of Bowbells, and Lukach.
From Canada were Saskatchewan Mines and Resources Minister Adolph Matsalla; Saskatchewan members of Par1iament Ralph Goodale and Alvin Hamilton ; Robert Kohaly, member of the Queen ‘s Council and past dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion; Henry Hamblin, president of the Estevan branch of the Canadian Legion; Estevan Mayo r Ida Peterson, and Cliff Morin, commanding officer of the Regin a subdivision for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
With precision timing, the border ceremony was given a thunderous finish with a fly-over by jet aircraft from the North Dakota Air National Guard at Fargo. An overcast sky cleared minutes before the long-scheduled flight to add further joy to the unique celebration.
Spine-tingling pride overwhelmed many observers to joyful tears as participating ground units spread a 40- group parade through Estevan, eight miles to the north. The town-filled festival included these US visitors: Minot America n Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, Minot National Guard, Crosby Veterans of Foreign Wars and color guards or marchers from American Legion posts at Sherwood, Bowbells, Flaxton, Portal, Lignite, Columbus, Noonan, Crosby, Wildrose, Grenora, Watford City, Little Shell and Parshall. Onlookers were captivated by presentations by the Estevan and Crosby High School bands and the Sprigs ‘O Heather Girl s Pipe Band from Moose Jaw, Sask.
Before the symbolic flag exchange, a cultural exchange of books took place between the Divide County Library and the Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire.
In recent years Noonan’s James Lumsden Post 243 has used gaming funds to support several Canadian projects, among the 4-H clubs, fish and wildlife restoration projects and musical groups.
Little did any one visualize at the time that a 1937 Armistice Day observance in Carnduff, Saskatchewan, by Canadian and US officials plus ordinary citizens and veterans of military service would become an annual international Memorial Day commemoration in Sherwood, ND. That year, Jack Burton, a Canadian customs officer in Carnduff, invited George Knutson, a U.S immigration officer in Sherwood, to go with him to Armistice Day services in Carnduff. The parade was led by a bagpiper.
Knutson was impressed by the bagpipe sounds and how easy it was for him to march to that music in the parade. He wondered if the bagpiper would come to Sherwood next year to lead the Memorial Day parade. The piper–John Macintosh agreed and Knutson then extended the invitation to include branch members of the Royal Canadian Legion and neighboring citizens of the two countries. The international Memorial Day program has been run since 1938 by Sherwood Legionnaires. They were members then of the George Thomas Taylor Legion Post 52 at Mohall until 1945.
Bothun-Peterson Post 213 at Sherwood was chartered later in 1945, with Don Hanson as its first commander and a consistent leader of the 57-year-long memorial service along the US-Canadian border.
The event in Sherwood, which boasted a population of 300 in the 1960s, has attracted up to 1,000 people from both sides of the border to truly represent the peace and harmony enjoyed by citizens of each country. Numerous dominion, national, provincial, state and local dignitaries have appeared at and addressed the observances.
A make-believe “battle on the border” was staged May 30, 1942, with North Dakota and Canadian Legion members meeting face to face two miles north of Sherwood. The US contingent marched unimpeded across the international boundary and followed the Canadians several rods. There, both units halted-without one casualty.
Then, between two columns of US Legionnaires, the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Legionnaires marched southward behind bagpipers into American territory.
Again, the mock battlefield held no dying or wounded; all participants in this symbolic action finished looking as neat as when they started in their “Sunday best” clothes. The 1942 program included special guests: boys who were about to be drafted into military service or were in line to be drafted. An Uncle Sam characterization led the group.
The Sherwood High School band was organized in the early years of this event and along with other students and Legion post auxiliary, has taken active roles in the Memorial Day programs. From 1938 through 1952, Elsie Sorenson was the principal solo vocalist. Gracie Thompson and Bonnie Stiles began singing “Sleep Soldier Boy, Sleep” in 1962. Mary Benning of Sherwood continues this tradition.
Highlight attractions for several years from across the border were the 60-member Royal Canadian School of Artillery Drum and Bugle Corps and Rifle Troop Drill Team from Camp Shiloh, Manitoba. The unit is 16- and 17- year old soldier-apprentices who enlist for academic, trades and army training.
In recent years, the Memorial Day program at the high school also has included a visual presentation during the reading of an honor roll recognizing the Sherwood community’s dead who were involved in the US armed forces since the Civil War. The solemn observance is completed in the Sherwood cemetery, which has an avenue lined with flags representing area armed forces personnel who died as a result of military action. There, amid flags of the two nations fluttering side by side, final memorials are offered at a cenotaph erected in honor of the unknown war dead.
The Armistice Day observance in Carnduff that started this off continues each Nov. 11, which is Remembrance Day in Canada. Sherwood Legionnaires share in events in Carnduff in the morning and in nearby Carievale in the afternoon.
And from the Other Side of the Border…
How the joint Memorial Day observance began between military veterans from the Sherwood, ND, and Carnduff, Sask., communities was told by one of the originators, J.D. Burton, a former customs officer stationed at the long gone Elmore grocery store, the most easterly port of entry now located at Carievale, Sask. The following excerpts arc taken from a 1958 issue of “The ‘Rum’ Jar,” a publication of The Royal Canadian Legion’s Saskatchewan Command, in a Hands Across the Border story entitled “Pipes of Peace.” (For added emphasis, imagine Burton’s old English brogue.)
Burton recalled that he had established close relations with George Knutson, an immigration officer at Sherwood. Burton wrote that Sherwood Legionnaire Knutson accepted his invitation to attend the annual Canadian Decoration Day service at Carnduff in 1937.
Thinking back 20 years, Burton said, ” … I can still sec the look on his face when he realized that the only music for the parade was provided by an old set of bagpipes belonging to a comrade named Macintosh from Storthhoaks.
“Is that all the music you have to march to?”, Knutson asked, apparently thinking how much better they do these things in his own country.
“Knowing that with bagpipes, distance lends enchantment, I drew him in alongside me at the rear of the parade. Off we marched, the pipes skirling as only bagpipes can, the parade swinging along as parades can swing to the bagpipes. I saw the change collie over him as we marched and, when it was all over, he could not conceal that the experience had deeply impressed him ‘You know what I am going to do?’ he asked. “No,” l said, for I didn’t know what was on his mind. “Well, I’m going to get the Sherwood Legionnaires to invite that man to our next Memorial Day.”
He paused, ruminating ‘No, I’ll go further. I’ll get them to invite the Canadian veterans in this area, who are close to Sherwood, to join with us.” Knutson was as good as his word. So, on May 30, 1938 the first in a continuing series of Memorial Day services was held at the international border, a line nearly 3,000 miles long with not a fence, not a gun, not a fortress, not a guard –just the demarcation between two friendly nations.
Plaque Carries Friendly International Relations
An international exchange of visits between Royal Canadian Legionnaires and American Legion Post 98 in Langdon started in 1976 when Pilot Mound (Manitoha) Branch 62 asked for a spot on the Legion post’s meeting agenda. A jovial, cheering delegation from Pilot Mound made the post meeting memorable by presenting a plaque congratulating Langdon residents on the event of the US bicentennial.
Post 98 responded by sending a group to Pilot Mound the following spring. The post honored the Royal Canadian Legion branch with a freestanding plaque flanked by Maple Leaf and Stars and Stripes flags. Exchanges have continued for such simple occasions as birthdays and anniversaries. Post 98 participated in the Louise Municipality centennial celebration. (A Canadian municipality is similar to a US county.) Fourteen post members proudly carried the Stars and Stripes plus The American Legion flag and 12 historic flags used during the US bicentennial.
A significant exchange was on Oct. 31, 1980, when Royal Canadian Legionnaire Jack Hainstock of Pilot Mound was presented the national American Legion’s Canadian Friendship Award, a prestigious honor accompanied by a medal and a framed citation. The award is for outstanding service in the field of veterans affairs and in the development and perpetuation of the spirit of good will and comradeship between the United States and Canada and their veterans organizations. The salute was started in 1966 by the Legion’s National Executive Committee to recognize exceptional service.
Joint Memorial Day Services at Portal Began in 1936
“Hands Across the Border” is more than a figure of speech for residents of the Portal, ND, and North Portal, Sask., area.
Most of the two abutting communities’ functions and memberships are international. “Only the international border separates us,” declares Ann Mattison, a member of the auxiliary of Wood-Roan American Legion Post 109, citing the fire department, curling club, golf course, ambulance service, Masonic Lodge and senior citizens center.
Legion minutes show that “Hands Across the Border” began as a program title in 1956, but joint Memorial Day services began in 1936, when Canadian Mounted Police came over and marched with the American World War I vets. Mounties were based regularly for years at the North Portal station.
The Memorial Day program usually has had this simple form: Portal Legion and auxiliary members march from the Portal Recreation Center to the border crossing. There, greetings and handshakes are exchanged with Canadian Legion branch commanders and auxiliary presidents. Memorial services and lunches at the recreation center also have been entertained by Canadian air cadets, bagpipers and Canadian flag carriers from Estevan, Sask. Wreaths are placed on graves of US veterans buried in the Portal Community and Catholic cemeteries.
On Nov. 11, our Veterans Day, and Remembrance Day in Canada, the Americans march — if the weather cooperates – to the border for a service in North Portal, or to Knox United Church there. Wreaths to remember fallen Canadian comrades are laid at the cenotaph in North Portal.
Sarles, Crystal City-Pilot Mound Veterans Share Fellowship Along 49th Parallel
Good will spanning the US – Canadian border has been traditional between citizens along each side of the border. This fellowship is even more meaningful to members of Brumwell-Gray Post 276 of The American Legion and veterans counterparts in Canada.
Post 276’s first combined activity occurred on March 26, 1960, when some of its members and several from other nearby Legion posts joined together with members of the Canadian Legion branches along with US and Canadian Customs officials and area public-spirited citizens to launch the Legion’s Memorial Highway Caravan.
The ribbon- cutting ceremony took place at the Hansboro, ND, Port of Entry, after which the caravan proceeded to Great Bend, KS, to participate in the formal dedication of US Highway 281 as The American Legion Memorial Highway on March 30, 1960.
For a number of recent years, veterans from Crystal City and Pilot Mound, Manitoba, have been invited to the Veterans Day dinner and program on Nov. 11 at Sarles. Many Canadian veterans have attended and participated in the annual observance. In turn, Post 276 has been invited to their vet programs to enjoy their festivities.
During the 100th anniversary of Crystal City-Pilot Mound in 1980, Post 276 took part in their parade by marching as a unit with US and post colors. They returned the favor a few days later, marching with their colors in the parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of Sarles. Post 276 has taken part in the Canadian Legion Curling Bonspiel held each year in Crystal City.
Memorial Day in Canada is not observed nationally on a special day as we do in America. Rather, each community sets its own date and observance. Post 276 has been invited and has joined them for several of their observances. Fellowship among veterans on both sides of the border is very evident in everyday life along the 49th parallel.
Bottineau – Boissevain
Bottineau’s American Legion Post 2 has exchanged meetings and social get-togethers with their Boissevain neighbors in Manitoba in recent years.
Rolla – Killarney Comrades Exchange Memorial Observances
Long-time members of Fred C. Wagner Post 235 at Rolla agonized, some vocally, some quietly, through and after the Viet
Nam conflict period when negative national pride disrupted continuity of friendly exchanges with Canadian neighbors that started after World War II. The joint association did not resume until 1989.
Once again, invitations were accepted with pleasure by members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 25, and their ladies Auxiliary in Killarney, Manitoba, 23 miles north of Rolla. Since then, carloads of Canadians have formed symbolic cores in Rolla’s annual Memorial Day parade and services. The locals and across-the-border visitors have become accustomed to participating in what has come to be known as the “Legion Feed at the Cabin,” the post home.
In return, The Royal Canadian Legion sends Rolla Legionnaires and other residents greetings to join them in observance of their solemn Decoration Day service the second Sunday in June.
Dressed in distinctly colorful uniforms, the Canadian vets and their ladies have de1ivered memorable presentations for each
Canadian Decoration Day in Killarney and US Memorial Day in Rolla.
IWVA Formed in 1937
After WW I, a fraternal exchange developed between units of Canadian war veteran organization s and American Legion posts along the border. Over the years a friendly bond of comradeship had grown up between members of the ex-servicemen’s organizations in Canada and the United States.
It was the result of that fraternization that in the spring of 1937, C.D. Locklin, commander of Grand Forks Post 6, wrote to Col. Ralph Webb of the Canadian Legion, suggesting that an international gathering of war veterans be held in Grand Forks Sept.6-7 to include a joint memorial ceremony on Sept. 7. Col. Webb whole heartedly endorsed the proposal and promptly began making plans that led to over 700 Canadians, including three musical units, traveling on a special train and several chartered buses to the event.
From this enthusiastic beginning, the International War Veterans Alliance was formed by Canadian and American war veterans to further cement the friendly relations already existing between the peoples of the two countries.
Strong National Security Important Legion Goal
Since its founding, The American Legion has led efforts to maintain strong national security programs and effective foreign relations policies. Also working toward those ever-challenging goals, North Dakota Legionnaires have supported the fundamental interests of protecting the security and sovereignty of the United States.
Post members are reminded of our purpose of organization at post meetings when they read together the Preamble to the Legion’s Constitution. In part, that pledges teaching by repetition the development ” … of a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation … ” and “to promote peace and good will on earth … ” The bitter experiences of seeing or knowing comrades wounded and killed in World War I instilled in those and subsequent veterans the resolve that whenever or wherever US military forces are committed, they be mobilized only as a last resort when America’s vital national interest is threatened or at stake. For the most part, the public ‘s marching orders to command levels, especially since the calamitous Vietnam War, has been “If we go in, go to win” with superiorly trained and equipped personnel.
But, that advisory hasn’t always been followed. With the collapse of communism within the Soviet bloc, which literally had commanded our national attention for two generations into the ’90s, there came increased demands for few and smaller military units and pared-down defense budgets.
Through those scares and calms, The American Legion stood fast in its belief that an adequate defense force is everybody’s business. To that end, the Legion continued its home-front plans of action: to promote law and order and defense civil preparedness programs, and to support and strengthen “citizen soldier” units such as reserve contingents, the National Guard and the high school and collegiate Reserve Officer Training Corps.
Civil Air Patrol Provides Many Services
From solo efforts initially through organization nationally in 1941, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) have been enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers working quietly until being called to provide aerial assistance for whatever good neighborly need arises.
The North Dakota American Legion’s part in the CAP began in 1959 with the appointment of Fargo Hector Airport Manager Joe Parmer as state CAP director. Widely respected, Parmer understood local pilots’ and aircraft owners’ interest and willingness to respond and contribute time, effort and aircraft when there was a need for their services.
The CAP’s first aerial mission was to search for lost pilots. However, new requests came with the USA’s entry into the war on Dec. 7, 1941. With promises of being repaid for aircraft gas and repairs, homebound private flyers showed patriotism by jumping at calls to go up.
In addition to crisscrossing the countryside in search of downed civilian pilots, CAP members flew submarine patrols over coastal shorelines and towed targets for military gunnery practice. In responding regularly without cries for “attaboy” awards, the CAP was given well-deserved prestige in 1946 when Congress chartered it as an educational, non-profit organization; it became an auxiliary of the Air Force in 1948.
The Civil Air Patrol cadet program was established to provide flying-interested youths a variety of educational and training activities. Each cadet was given opportunities for orientation in military service and academic instruction in social, political and vocational aspects of aviation. There also were summer encampments at military installations, foreign exchanges, introductions to jet aircraft and drill competitions.
Legion posts provided meeting places and adult leadership for both cadet and senior CAP activities. Cadet and senior squadrons spanned the state. CAP members have contributed invaluable aid in emergencies such as floods, tornadoes and searches for children who wandered off, lost hunters and downed aircraft.
A recent example of time, effort and aircraft services given by CAP members was in May 1994. A small airplane with two men aboard was missing on a flight from Wisconsin to Montana. The last contact with the men, who planned to hunt in Montana, was when they refueled at Aberdeen, SD.
Five North Dakota CAP aircraft and six South Dakota joined in an aerial search concentrated in southwestern North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota. After 10 days of flying- sometimes in inclement weather – CAPers found the wreckage of the missing plane in a South Dakota rangeland livestock pond. The two men were dead, but their families and authorities were relieved to know the bodies had been located.
Through that effort, and less traumatic exercises, CAP cadets and senior members have received hands-on training by operating radios, serving as messengers and helping on flight lines. Cadet requirements include attending summer encampments at Air Force bases to become familiar with military life while receiving classroom instruction.
The department’s Civil Air Patrol portfolio was incorporated into duties of the Boy Scouts director during 1973-75, and since 1976 it has been assigned to the National Security director, with financial assistance the main contribution.
State Had Superior Record Supporting War Efforts
From old music records and scrap metal to War Bond sales and blood drives, Legionnaires and Auxiliary members rallied North Dakotans in numerous wartime efforts to show support to Yanks in uniforms. Over the first 50 years of this American Legion history, phonograph records – hooray for the venerable Victrola and its big, heavy disks – were essential fixtures for entertainment. So record players became portable and went along with or were provided for the troops. Countless examples of ingenuity to help with protecting them came back home, but the cold truth was that those brittle records broke easily and wore out from repeated use.
Additionally, the shellac used in record production had high war priority, which limited its use for this purpose. Early in the 1940s, the Legion championed “Records for Our Fighting Men” drives. Old records were collected to have them recycled into new disks. Richard Seelye Johnes, in his “A History of The American Legion,” wrote that these “campaigns collected tons of old records and also about $105,000 in cash gifts. The combined donations permitted the purchase of 972, 679 new records which were sent to the air, land and sea forces around the world.”
By the end of October 1942, Department Adjutant Jack Williams learned from Legion national headquarters that 99 posts in North Dakota had made shipments of more than 80,000 records to ware houses for reprocessing. National Defense Committee Chairman P. J. Edkins of Beach noted in his 1943 report that the North Dakota department “exceeded its quota by far … This was a most worthy project, for reports reaching me indicated that our troops in North Africa and the South Pacific play these records over and over again, using needles they whittle out of palm trees and sticks …”
Scrap metal drives also were organized and conducted by Legion posts. Along with aluminum, zinc, iron, steel and paper were rubber tires – or what was left of them. New tire purchases weren’t allowed without exchange of tires worn so bald to the cord that, by then, they wouldn’t be safe for highway use at the nation al speed limit of 35 mph.
Neighboring Legion posts built competitive spirit by rounding up inoperable cars and trucks relegated to weed patches. Old jalopies were sent off to become war material. Jones, the author, added this bit about wartime collection of waste materials: “In 1919 and 1920 the government had brought back from Germany thousands of captured machine guns and other spoils of victory” that had been made available on request of cities and military organizations. “German cannons of 1917 and 1918 would be melted down into munitions, to be fired at Germans in 1942 to 1945. It was a handsome patriotic gesture, and it produced many valuable tons of metal.”
Looking at scrap metal another way, it was said that North Dakotans in the US military also felt blows rained on them by what once had been discarded machinery on back lots or behind the barn. That came by way of iron and steel sold at throwaway prices to Japan and made into weapons before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Legion units mounted and managed scores of home front activities even though North Dakota lost hundreds of its people to wartime industries beyond its borders, and fuel and tire rationing limited all but necessary travel. New and used playing cards were shipped around the world. It would take 35 days on a transport to get decks of cards to South Pacific battlefronts and just three days there to have them worn out.
Greeted with similar excitement were hometown newspapers arriving weeks late but still welcome as letters from the girl friend or the folks back home. Officers and individual Legionnaires frequently assisted the American Red Cross and other agencies in getting emergency leaves for service men and women in times of family illness or death.
Legionnaires served on many local management boards established to administer federal laws, such as rationing, selective service, civil defense. The Legion, in cooperation with selective service boards, also helped distribute thousands of advice and information booklets, “Fall In,” to drafted men. For those remaining behind, there was a guide, “At Home,” written from a point of view of people who had been through this experience before.
Until the United States officially engaged in World War II, much of the nation – principally the central states – had isolationism as a primary concern. It was commonly felt that, sad as it was what Hitler was doing, the war in Europe was not our concern. Some also contended that we shouldn’t worry about selling scrap metal to Japan, said then to be a land of slant-eyed and funny-looking-people. But Pearl Harbor changed all that; we turned quickly to geography books and globes to learn the location of Midway Island, Manila and Corregidor, Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea.
To assist the folks back home, the May 1944 issue of the North Dakota American Legion Bulletin told about a free booklet on Australia, a huge, far-away island nation. Prepared by the Australian News and Tourist Bureau and The American Legion, the handy guide provided a brief history of this place below the equator where GI sons were getting some R and R in yet another land of different people and customs.
Legion posts provided energetic encouragement and support to just about every nationwide effort aimed at boosting morale at home. Everyone was urged to give rides to military personnel home on leave, avoid repeating rumors, give blood, participate in ceremonies for de parting recruits, collect used clothing for relief of suffering around the world. One activity left out on a national scale was distribution of cigarettes to GIs. However, some Legion posts in the state made individual decisions to provide smoking materials and often shipped them along with other tokens of appreciation.
The state Legion and auxiliary, in cooperation with newspapers, radio stations, retail stores, and other businesses, provided more than 14,000 gifts in 1945-46. Some of the gifts were sent to national headquarters for distribution to military and Veterans Administration hospitals and some were distributed at the Fargo VA Hospital and at state facilities housing veterans. Programs in years immediately after World War II had the department Legion and Auxiliary receiving cash donations to buy individual gifts for veterans in hospitals but unable to be home for special holidays.
The major department undertaking was a campaign in 1945 to sell enough War Bonds to buy four B-29 bombers at $600,000 each. Despite farm income being low in a state with 80 per cent of its wealth coming from agriculture, the campaign goal of $2.4 million was exceeded by $300,000 in a two-month period.
Department Adjutant Jack Williams declared proudly in the June 1948 department bulletin that North Dakota never failed its veterans or its nation, was first in the sale of War Bonds, first in funds raised for the United Service Organizations (USO), first in Red Cross drives and first in the record made by its fighting men and women.
Legionnaires, Auxiliary Members Answered Civil Defense Calls
First a national program, then a state Legion effort, civil defense was born after the Japanese attack Dec. 7, 1941, on US military bases at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. Distinguished from national security, civil defense has gone through a “mix master” of alphabet-soup names indicating a variety of goals – everything from survival after “The Big Bomb” to natural disasters from wind, water and temperature.
Initially, the main concern was to alert and instruct the public on quick relief measures in the event of anti-American activities, sabotage attempts on key facilities by secretive enemy agents or silent submarine or screaming air attacks on war production positions by the Axis powers. Air raid wardens across the state trained hundreds to be prepared for civil emergencies. Building and maintaining morale among the homefolks was assigned to the cadres of civil defense, many of them Legion and Auxiliary members. At the end of 1942, Gen. Earl D. Luce of the Seventh Service Command insisted that Department Adjutant Jack Williams accept the assignment of organizing civil defense in North Dakota and South Dakota. The North Dakota Legion department executive committee authorized Williams to take the time necessary to perform the mission.
That civilian morale continued high as World War II dragged on was demonstrated in early 1945. Japan had launched more than 9,000 bomb-carrying balloons to be carried eastward with the intent of bringing panic to the American wartime psyche. A US government gag on publicity about this vengeance campaign held until April 1994 when declassified records disclosed that fewer than 300 balloons reached North America. Bombs from one balloon killed six people in Oregon.
Farmers saw one bomb cluster drift low near Elgin, ND. The hydrogen-filled balloon went down Feb. 22, 1945, about 120 miles away near Ashley, ND. Newspaper reporters and photographers covering the story agreed not to publish anything about the incident; their notes and photographic negatives were confiscated by Army representatives.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the national atmosphere almost cracked. Some said Americans crapped in their pants in the fear that “The Russians are coming!” “The Russians are coming!” That climate, the fear about the possibility of mass-destruction bomb attacks, or worse yet, invasion of US soils was heightened with Russian leaders threatening to kick the Western allies out of Berlin, and also with the Cuban missile crisis.
These and other Cold War scares triggered such preparations as mobilizing military reservists and building backyard bomb shelters and “hardened” operations and communications centers to keep public agencies functional “in the event of… “Detailed plans for shelter from “The Big Bomb” were provided free by the government. Newspapers, magazines and television stations carried stories and graphics to help homeowners prepare safe havens against fallout. The idea was that, somewhat like Noah’s ark, fallout shelters would provide protection in a sea of radiation.
Responding to the call, post rescue squads were organized and trained to roll on a moment’s notice. Auxiliary police and fire, welfare, transportation and other community service units were signed up to work, with locally-designated civil defense directors. Besides thinking about what to do if the Air Force bases near Minot and Grand Forks were attacked, the Legion and Auxiliary members were reminded to be ready to provide needed assistance after local disasters, such as the June 20, 1957, tornado at Fargo.
However, gung-ho spirits waned as the Cold War wore on. Apathy and attitudes that “It can’t happen here” soothed previously high-strung nervous feelings. This national drift faced past American Legion National Commander John E. Davis of McClusky and Bismarck when he accepted appointment as director of civilian preparedness by President Nixon in 1969.
Across the country, home fallout shelters literally evolved into bomb-proof root cellars or storage spaces for off-season clothing and little-used knick knacks. Yellow and black signs marking often ill-equipped fallout shelters in cities faded into obscurity as the national civil defense approach changed. Instead of concentrating on fortified burrows, planning swung to the evacuation of people from “high risk” urban and industrial target areas to lightly inhabited communities in the countryside.
The North Dakota Department of The American Legion started with a defense civil preparedness director in 1955 and continued with that or similar titles for assignments through 1979. Then the portfolio was taken by the department’s national security director. Several years earlier, civil defense had been combined with other tasks to include community services and blood donor programming.
Brief History of Military Manpower from WWI to 1990s
Within six weeks of the American declaration of war in 1917, a selective service military draft was enacted. President Woodrow Wilson termed that draft as ” in no sense a conscription of the unwilling” but “selection from a nation which has volunteered en-masse.”
By the time “the war to end all wars” ceased on Nov. 11,1918, over 1,980,000 American soldiers had “crossed the pond.” Of the 3.7 million doughboys who entered service in 1917 and 1918, 72 per cent were conscripted. In less than six months, the Paris Caucus was called to order and the founding of The American Legion began.
Throughout its 75-year history, the nation’s largest veterans organization has been mindful of the nation’s manpower needs. At the end of the Great War, massive demobilization began. The US Army fell from over 2.3 million in 1918 to just over 200,000 by 1920. In the ensuing decades, the US saw peace, prosperity and depression. By about 1940, the war clouds were looming.
America’s first “peacetime” draft was passed in 1940 by comfortable margins in both the House and Senate. The 1940 measure provided that not more than 900,000 could be enrolled at any time; the term of service was limited to one year, and conscripts could not serve outside US possessions and the Western Hemisphere.
In the early fall of 194 l, the Congress voted to keep the one-year draftees in service beyond their term – by a one-vote margin in the House. After Pearl Harbor, the draft was for the duration. By V-E Day in May of 1945, America had 12 million men and women in uniform. Over 10 million men had been drafted and over five million had been deployed overseas. Additionally, over 300,000 women had been recruited.
A year prior to the end of World War II, in 1944, the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (better known as the GI Bill) was enacted. This legislation stands as the Legion’s greatest single legislative achievement. Under the GI Bill, 7.8 million veterans received additional education. Similar to WW I, demobilization began in full swing. The US Army of 8.2 million in 1945 stood at l.9millionin 1946 and at 991,000 in 1947. In March of 1947, the draft authority was not renewed. By 1948, enlistments sagged, military strengths were raised and the conscription authority was renewed. The first All-Volunteer Force was a brief historic footnote.
The American Legion had advocated Universal Military Training (UMT) since its early years. UMT spoke to national preparedness through manpower. Throughout the late 1940s, the Legion led a nationwide campaign for its enactment. While the 1948 act was titled the Universal Military Training and Service Act, its universal provisions were never implemented and it remained a “Selective Service.”
The outbreak of the Korean War saw the largest reserve call-up of the post-war era—over 800,000 reservists. The Selective Service System continued to function as the principle source of military manpower through the 1950s. The active military force level remained at less than two million through the post Korean War era.
The Vietnam War brought a rise in military strengths to an active force of four million Americans in 1968. It also brought raging national debates on the war and the Selective Service System. Then-candidate Richard Nixon in 1968 offered his view that “once our involvement in the Vietnam War is behind us, we move toward an All-Volunteer Armed Force.”
In 1969, President Nixon appointed the Gates Commission to study the costs and feasibility of an All-Volunteer Force. Following the Commission’s report and the subsequent Congressional debate and Executive Branch actions, Selected Service induction authority expired in 1973. Since its shaky period in the 1970s in terms of both quality and quantity of volunteers, the All- Volunteer Force has been the source of our Active, Reserve and National Guard forces for over two decades.
Legion Responds to Excess Profit Rumors in WWII Scrap Rubber Drive
Numerous rumors raced around North Dakota and the rest of the country in World War II. Among them were stories that unpatriotic operators were making unfair, if not illegal, profits from the collection and resale of worn-out rubber tires.
This letter, distributed from The American Legion’s National Headquarters to state Legion officials under date of Oct. 22, 1942, addressed the issue: “So much has been said about the practices followed by our government after the scrap rubber drive and stories regarding four men making millions out of that drive have noted around the country, that The American Legion went out to get the entire story.
“We now find from official and competent sources that the story on the rubber collection is as follows: “The rubber drive was turned over to the Petroleum Industry to act as the collection points. The Petroleum Industry set the price at $.01 per lb. as the price that would be paid to those asking for pay for their scrap. This price was about a quarter of a cent higher than the regular price but they could pay it as there was no additional overhead added to their business.
“After the collection, in the filling stations, the Petroleum Industry was turned over to the Rubber Reserve Company, a governmental agency under the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, through its four agents who were the largest rubber scrap brokers in the country. These four brokers went completely out of private business in order to become what amounted to government employees, operating on a fee basis, fees being established by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
“Thus the scrap rubber, from the moment it left the hands of the oil companies, until it was sold by the Rubber Reserve Company to the re-claimers, was at all times government property, and as a result, it was absolutely impossible for anyone to make a profit out of it. The rubber scrap has been sold to the reclaiming mills as fast as these plants can handle it and has been stockpiled by the Rubber Reserve Company where necessary awaiting the handling by the re-claimers. It has never been out of government hands. “This is another case of those who draw on their meager knowledge or on hearsay for information and The American Legion feels it is time to nail such reports as soon as possible after they are first told. It is for that reason that we are giving you the facts on the rubber salvage as they come from reliable and official sources. “Similar stories are being circulated on other items of salvage and, as such stories reach this office, they will be investigated and the truth sent out to our Departments to spread throughout the membership of the Legion and by that means to the public.” “We shall be glad to investigate any story or complaint that is sent to us.”
This letter was signed by Milt T. Campbell, executive director of the Division of National Defense.
Legion Supports ROTC Program
It is not argued that nearly all top leaders in tomorrow’s activities come out of college campuses. So, from its own founding, The American Legion has supported the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program as a vehicle to locate and prepare military officer and civilian leadership material. In North Dakota, Post 2 in Fargo, Post 6 in Grand Forks, Post 24 in Devils Lake and Post 26 in Minot participated most regularly from 1919 in awards to deserving university ROTC students and then later to Junior ROTC cadets at the high school level.
The awards in Fargo have been presented at North Dakota State University and at North and South high schools, in Grand Forks at the University of North Dakota, in Devils Lake at Devils Lake High School and in Minot at Minot High School.
The Legion’s ROTC awards consist of gold, silver and bronze pendant medals with ribbon bars, ROTC crests or scrolls. They are presented at spring honors ceremonies to outstanding sophomore, junior and senior cadets for military and scholastic excellence. The general military excellence award is presented to a cadet in the top 25 percent of the class in academic and ROTC subjects and has demonstrated outstanding qualities in military leadership, discipline, character and citizenship. For the scholastic award, a cadet must be in the top 10 percent of the class in academic subjects, be in the top 25 percent in ROTC classes and have demonstrated leadership qualities.
Department of Defense statistics have shown that the ROTC program almost doubles any other officer acquisition program for all branches of military service. North Dakota’s association with ROTC evolved from the federal Morrill Act, or what generally is called the Land Grant Act of 1862. That act became applicable with other federal laws when North Dakota became a state in 1889. Among other points, the Land Grant Act provided for annual appropriations to fund research in agriculture – plus having military drill – at state-supported educational institutions. On Oct. 15, 1890, the North Dakota Agricultural College (since December 1960, North Dakota State University) was founded as a “peoples college.” In contrast, the University of North Dakota, which had been established in Grand Forks in 1883 before Dakota Territory became a state, was modeled by its founders after the classical private institutions of the East.
The legislative bill, passed March 8, 1890, specified that the state college and experiment station at Fargo have courses of instruction in the English language and literature – and in military tactics. Each Land Grant college conducted military programs differently. It was not clear in early years whether the enabling act called for military training to be compulsory or a college course by choice. In 1893, the North Dakota Agricultural College Board determined that military drill in uniform would be required two hours a week for all male students; this continued to 1937, when legislation permitted military training to be optional for students on state school campuses.
The US War Department assigned its first active-duty Army officer as commandant for the NDAC military department in February 1897. That same year male senior students were exempted from compulsory military instruction. Actual lectures on military tactics, organization and company-level leadership began in 1901. In 1903, NDAC gained a man in medicine, Dr. Clarence S. Putnam, to be the college musical director. He took charge of the military cadet band that became known across the state first as the Gold Star Band and then officially as the NDSU Band.
By 1912 Land Grant universities were seen as a major source for a federal military reserve force trained in peacetime. This was sharply different from the call for on-campus military drill to fill a void of trained military officers for the North early in the Civil War. It was from this wartime need that President Lincoln signed into law the Land Grant Act of 1862.
ROTC’s enrollment, both compulsory and voluntary, has fluctuated over the program’s 132-year history, resulting largely from wavering degrees of respect for and attitudes toward the military and civil governing establishments. A modern-day low point for support of ROTC on college campuses came in the spring of 1970, when thousands of students nationwide, at North Dakota higher education institutions also demonstrated their angers.
Fed up with top governmental and military actions in Southeast Asia and at odds with almost everyone in charge of anything, students deserted classrooms and went on disruptive and destructive rampages. College administrators across the country were faced with student mobilizers asking – in some instances demanding – that ROTC courses be eliminated or at least moved from military status to academic levels.
Some North Dakota state officials also joined in criticism of on-campus ROTC activities. To the dismay of most dedicated Legionnaires, early ’70s students at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks asked for total elimination of ROTC credits. This was similar to what occurred in years following World War I when military training at NDAC was subjected to harsh criticism.
The loudest charges were made by members of the Student Farmers’ Union. The ROTC unit was discontinued by the War Department in July 1921, but was brought back at the start of classes in the fall, due largely to support by the acting NDAC president. UND had similar unrest. Positive public opinion and support for ROTC on North Dakota campuses peaked in World War II, with the 1943 Legislature reestablishing compulsory military training after a six-year halt at NDAC. Friendly rivalries and competitive spirits that developed then between ROTC units on the Fargo and Grand Forks campuses continue today. The North Dakota Department of The American Legion was declared a co-winner of the Paul H. Griffith ROTC Trophy in 1983, 1984 and 1985 for “the highest degree of support to the ROTC program within its jurisdiction, based on criteria drawn up by the National Security Commission.” The silver plated trophy, which was first awarded in 1976, has been presented annually by friends of the late Past National Commander Griffith in his memory.
Legion Works for World Peace Through Strong Foreign Policy
From the beginning, The American Legion believed that the best hope for world peace lies in a strong foreign policy backed by strong national defense. Legionnaires know that weakness or “peace at any price” only invites attack. The American Legion regularly conveys that message to Congress and the President. It is our hope that federal officials will heed the foreign policy recommendations contained in the Legion’s resolutions submitted to them annually. After all, those resolutions reflect the sound advice and support of approximately three million Legionnaires nationwide who represent all classes and ethnic backgrounds within our society. And through the years the government has, indeed, listened.
Since it began in 1919, the Legion has been an outspoken foe of communism. It opposed US diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933 and of China in 1948, and continues to oppose recognition of Castro’s Cuba. At the same time, the Legion has supported extending economic aid to countries that joined the United States in combatting the spread of communism and promoting democracy.
It has long supported the idea of a United Nations composed of independent states dedicated to world peace and security, but it disapproves the concept of a world government. The Legion continues to favor international cooperation and participation in mutual defense pacts such as NATO, ANZUS and OAS. But, it believes such participation should not be at the expense of national sovereignty. The US, according to the Legion, should retain the right to act unilaterally in matters involving national security. The American Legion opposes placing US troops under foreign command and has implored the US government to take steps to obtain the fullest possible accounting of All American POW/MIAs.
(Titled National Defense Committee Prior to 1949-50)
A North Dakota Idea Goes ”Across”
Discussions in a North Dakota small-town cafe in 1965 evolved into first a state, then a series of national American Legion statements chastising French President Charles DeGaulle for overtly disregarding the similar concepts that had bound the United States and France through two world wars.
It was conversations over coffee between St. Thomas Legionnaires Thomas E. Whelan and William J. Gust, Jr., that resulted in strongly worded resolutions to remind DeGaulle of sacrifices made by our military men and women who helped in repelling German attackers in wars spanning two generations.
The initiative by the North Dakota department of the Legion, according to Harry E. B. Sullivan, deputy director of the National Security-Foreign Relations Division in the Legion’s national office in Washington, DC, “thus played a significant role in developing a sound national security-foreign relations policy for The American Legion and the United States.”
Whelan was a walking warehouse of knowledge about foreign relations, having served as US Ambassador to Nicaragua 1951-61. As North Dakota’s built-in expert on foreign relations, Tommy also served 16 years as vice chairman or chairman of the national Inter-American Committee and nine years as chairman of the Legion’s national Foreign Relations Commission. St. Thomas Postmaster Bill Gust, Jr., was the department commander in 1960-61 and chairman of the department’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee at the 1965 convention in Williston.
Gust was a gifted writer, so Whelan convinced him to create a resolution expressing the North Dakota Legion’s displeasure over DeGaulle’s actions. Sullivan said in a summary for this history that DeGaulle had withdrawn his country from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military arm in the mid-l960s. But France maintained political membership in NATO and continued to attend its meetings.
Sullivan continued: “France’s military withdrawal was a major problem for NATO because NATO supply lines ran through France to Germany. NATO was, therefore, forced to reroute its supply lines through Belgium and the Netherlands. This placed NATO at a major continuing disadvantage if the (communist bloc) Warsaw Pact had attacked, because the rerouting of the supply lines placed them very close to the potential front-line and almost parallel to it.
“President DeGaulle took the withdrawal action because he was a staunch French nationalist. He took other nationalistic actions such as developing France’s independent nuclear force and generally taking anti-United States positions.”
At the Williston convention, Gust and then-Assistant Department Adjutant Vernon Useldinger of Fargo huddled to draft a resolution one night- between dances with their wives.
In part the resolution said the Legion “… condemns General DeGaulle’s attitudes which serve to disunite allies in their normal pursuit of international peace.” Given study but only minor changes by a committee, it then was adopted by delegates to the department convention. Whelan, who was chairman then of the national Legion’s Foreign Relations Committee, carried the North Dakota resolution to the 1965 national Legion convention in Portland, OR. One of the 70 resolutions forwarded from 25 state departments, the North Dakota paper was among 22 that passed subcommittee, then full committee hearings before final adoption on Aug. 26, 1965.
Titled “US Relationship with France,” the national Legion position paper essentially was unchanged from the North Dakota version, which was marked by its brevity. North Dakota’s “condemns” became a more diplomatic term in the adopted declaration: “… That The American Legion deplores General DeGaulle’s attitudes and actions which can only serve to disunite allies in their pursuit of mutual security and international peace.”
The idea that grew over sips of coffee and between dances didn’t end with the national Legion delegates in Portland giving it support. National Commander L. Eldon James of Virginia presented it and the 21 other adopted resolutions, plus copies of all other convention proceedings, to President Lyndon Johnson during a White House visit Sept. 9, 1965. Another booklet was presented by Commander James to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Additional sets of foreign relations resolutions were transmitted to the Department of State and to Senate and House of Representatives members on committees concerned with US foreign relations. Federally chartered organizations, like The American Legion, are required to make these annual presentations.
The North Dakota idea didn’t end there either. Subsequent conventions of other state departments and the national Legion – at least through 1968 – forwarded similar resolutions decrying the deteriorating US-French relationship. A factor putting our nerves on edge toward the last was that the US involvement in combat operations in Southeast Asia was increasing the strain on our military capability there – or at least a united effort for that war – and for NATO in Europe.
The surge of state and national Legion resolutions bemoaning the weakening relationship of many, many years and even went so far as to urge that the US government demand that France pay up on its obligations dating to World War I. Or, even more costly, have French assets in this country tied up until a settlement were reached—neither happened.
DeGaulle left office in April 1969 and, as Sullivan noted in a letter, “Gradually, in the following few years, France started to cooperate informally on a military basis with NATO and the United States. Today (1994), France still is not a military member of NATO but French military cooperation can be relied upon now in case of a major emergency.
Another First for North Dakota
The very air was loaded with “firsts” on Sept. 8, 1951, at Bismarck, ND. That was the day that “Tommy” was sworn in as United States Ambassador to Nicaragua. An outstanding “first” was the fact that no United States Ambassador had ever been sworn into office outside Washington, DC. It came about this way: A lifelong Republican leader (Tommy) was appointed United States Ambassador by a Democrat (Harry Truman) after being nominated by a maverick Non-Partisan Senator (William Langer). Thomas E. Whelan was also the first native North Dakotan to receive an Ambassadorial appointment.
Upon approval by the US Senate, Tommy arranged the Bismarck ceremony and specified that The American Legion be designated as sponsor of the occasion. While the Department Commander (Truman C. Wold of Watford City) was named as the presiding officer, arrangements fell on the ever-capable shoulders of that efficient man for all occasions, Jack Williams, department adjutant. Conferences with State Department representatives to define protocol revealed that, since such a situation had never occurred before, no protocol existed. Nonetheless, planning and arranging proceeded apace.
Governor Norman Brunsdale approved use of the State Capitol grounds for the ceremony and invitations were broadly issued. The guest list read like a Who’s Who of commerce, industry, politics and government. Past and current local, state and national American Legion officers mingled with heads of corporations and businesses, President Truman’s personal representative, State Department official and state officers from North Dakota and surrounding states. Harold Schafer, president of Gold Seal Co., undertook responsibilities of finance chairman and arranging for an elegant cocktail party reception following the ceremony.
Recognizing the long-term interest of Tommy in growing potatoes on his St. Thomas farm, Schafer arranged to intercept a railroad shipment of the tubers at Bismarck. His crew then culled out the largest potatoes, reamed out the centers and employed them as champagne glasses. Needless to say, Tommy and his ”spuds” received widespread publicity.
State Legion Had Grand Golden Year Celebration
Across the state and east to Washington, DC, in 1968 and 1969, North Dakota Legionnaires and Auxiliary members used the Legion’s golden anniversary as a year-long public relations tool to show contributions to community, state and nation.
Actually, the anniversary period year spread over about 14 months, starting with Sept. 6-12, 1968, the 50th national convention in New Orleans. The year ended Nov. 11, 1969, the 50th anniversary of the first national Legion convention held in Minneapolis, MN. Other 50-year points before those recent dates include: Nov. 11, 1918, the end of World War I, and March 15-17, 1919, the founding of The American Legion in Paris.
Legion posts held banquets for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Special birthday parties provided recognition for the diminishing ranks of World War I veterans. Salutations and felicitations also were accorded to returning Vietnam vets.
Window decals and bumper stickers were displayed proudly. Newspapers and radio and television stations carried scores of feature pieces recalling both the highlights and horrors of wartime experiences. January 29, 1969, was declared American Legion Day by the North Dakota Legislature. Department Commander Al Olenberger presented Gov. William L. Guy with the Legion’s 50th Anniversary Medallion.
As many posts were taking self-inventory of what they were doing, Olenberger declared that ” this is not the beginning of the end of The American Legion, but it is the end of the beginning.”
Legion membership passed the long-elusive 30,000 count in 1969. The 30,000th person to be processed with a North Dakota Legion membership was declared to be policeman Tracey Torstenson, a Vietnam vet and member of Tioga Post 139. A year later, the 31,000th member was determined to be Dean Pedersen of Valley City’s Edgar A. Fisher Post 60. Pedersen is a Vietnam War casualty who was blinded by fragments from an enemy shell. The all-time membership in North Dakota was 35,763, reached in 1975.
Legion posts and auxiliaries provided cash in a nationwide funding called “Gift to the Nation” in 1969. The effort financed a permanent lighting system for illuminating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Temple facade of the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery.
The US Postal Department issued a special 6-cent stamp commemorating the Legion’s anniversary. Many philatelists purchased First Day Covers and Department Adjutant Vernon Useldinger arranged for 375 First Day issues to be mailed as a special golden year souvenir to all posts, department officers, department committee chairmen and members and past department commanders.
The Legion’s 233 posts in early 1969 reported more than $200,000 expenditures for child welfare and youth activities. In 1968, 115 Legion baseball teams were fielded in the state. Boys State enrollment exceeded 670. Combined Legion, Auxiliary and Forty and Eight and musical units provided sponsorship for more than 500 deserving students at the International Music Camp near Dunseith. Hardly a community in the state was not represented in Legion-sponsored oratorical contests, Boy Scouts or other youth activities.
The impetus for the highly successful observance was provided by the Department 50th Anniversary Committee chaired by Frank J. Kosanda, Grand Forks, and assisted by committee members Joseph J. Thomas, Bismarck; Robert A. Waller, New England; Tom Willoughby, Minot; Schlener, Wahpeton; and James J. Brodigan, Fargo.
Department 50th Anniversary Committee Chair Frank J. Kosanda, Grand Forks … 1967-70
Let Freedom Ring The Spirit of ’76 …
Patriotism – the love of our country – was the key theme nationwide in 1976, the US Bicentennial Year. A “Spirit of ’76” committee in the North Dakota Department of The American Legion worked more than six years in promoting local and state efforts to celebrate the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain by the Original Thirteen Colonies in 1776.
Legionnaires, such as those in Jamestown and Minot, started early also with plans to leave lasting memorials to the special occasion. Legion posts in nearly every community organized or at least took part in civic observances ranging from parades and pageants to displays and debris clearance. Often overlooked or ignored, sprucing up the old hometown became a matter of boosting community pride, thanks to the bicentennial.
In Jamestown, a 25-foot wide, 17-foot tall metal plaque depicting the national emblem, an eagle, was among the first bicentennial projects completed. It still graces the north facade of the Veterans Memorial Building that houses Ernest D. Robertson Post 14. The bronze and stainless steel sculpture finished off the building that had been constructed in 1954. Post 14 paid about $27,000 for the memorial. Minot’s William G. Carroll Post 26 shared with other veterans organizations in a community-wide fund drive that resulted in a 62-foot tall carillon tower. The memorial to veterans was constructed in Rosehill Memorial Cemetery at a cost of approximately $40,000.
Early on, the department’s spirit of ’76 committee encouraged and promoted special bicentennial activities and events by posts, but the committee’s main push evolved into finishing construction of a bell tower at the International Peace Gardens on the US-Canadian border near Dunseith. The project was supported statewide by veterans groups expecting to use gaming funds. But that money source took a hard hit when state Attorney General Allen Olson cracked down on questionable charitable gambling operations. Following this setback, additional fund-raisers were held to meet construction costs, which escalated to $48,500, well beyond earlier contract amounts.
The Sifton bells were a philanthropic gift to the Peace Gardens via the Sifton family of Canada and First Church United of Brandon, MAN. The 14 tuned bells were dedicated July 10, 1976, as a memorial to both Canadian and US war veterans.
Nearly every conceivable type of bicentennial activity was staged in the 18 months prior to July 4, 1976. Time of the year made little difference for Legion posts to participate with other community organizations in removing trash and long-standing eyesores. Hannaford’s Mervin J. Armstrong Post 113 helped clean up their city and also demolished an abandoned locker plant. Antler Post 263 gave a new look to their Legion park and ball field and developed plaques listing the names of military veterans since World War I.
The Freedom Train, making a Lower 48 circuit and carrying numerous displays depicting the nation’s heritage, stopped in Fargo for the Labor Day weekend; Sept. 1- 4, 1975. Several Legion and Auxiliary dignitaries welcomed 45,000 people from North Dakota and western Minnesota who toured the brightly-colored train during its only North Dakota stop.
Members of Fingal’s John V. Raaen Post 187 proudly flew a new US flag on July 17, 1976, as part of their bicentennial observance. Raised by Post Commander Jerome Loibl, the flag had flown a few days earlier over the US Capitol. Also on the receiving end, Langdon’s Post 98 Commander Stephen Morse accepted a plaque commemorating the bicentennial. Making the presentation Oct. 7, 1976, was Harry Smith, president of Pilot Mount, MAN, Branch 62 of the Royal Canadian Legion. As a promotion for the US bicentennial, the 28-member Williston Cowboys American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps toured and performed for two weeks in Norway in the spring of 1975. Edgar M. Boyd Post 37 members were memorably received in their good-will performances, the first ever in Norway by a Legion drum and bugle corps.
Somewhat like an encore just over a year later, the Cowboys were the state’s official musical ambassadors in the 50-state bicentennial parade in Philadelphia on July 4.
Then, the group returned on July 8 as part of a 300-member North Dakota contingent from Williston, Tioga, Grenora, Stanley, Epping, Garrison, Trenton and Ray that told the story of the nation’s history in song and dance.
Back in Grenora, the Fourth of July parade included a Legion-Auxiliary float featuring the Statue of Liberty and the national shield flanked by US flags. Alvin T. Larson Post 116 presented the City of Grenora a US flag and a flagpole. In Hettinger, Johnson-Melary Post 115 cooperated with the VFW post and both auxiliaries in a Sept. 13, 1975, parade and also helped with oratory on several significant events in our major wars. Additionally, a $674 profit from the celebration was given to buy kitchen equipment for the Senior Citizens clubrooms.
Edinburg’s Davidson Post 156 provided the lead contingent in the town’s bicentennial parade sponsored by the Civic League. A key feature of the observance was the dedication of a granite marker and a plaque on the site of the original community in 1862. Bowman’s Frank Gordhamer Post 48’s mounted color guard led its city’s July 4th parade, which included the post’s Liberty Bell float.
The drill team and color guard of Barry-Hoof Post 72 at Napoleon led that city’s bicentennial parade. Several members of Bean-Goodwin Post 36 in Oakes were in the traveling Oakes Bicentennial Chorus that performed numerous times in the area during the 1975 Christmas season and into 1976.
Clarence McCormack Post 195 of Donnybrook donated and dedicated new flagpoles in Donnybrook and Carpio. In Carpio, the post also dedicated a new set of flag cases for the city. Salute to the Colors and Retreat were included in the activities of Thomas O. Williams Post #281 Legionnaires during the community’s Bicentennial Week observance in June at Riverdale.
The bicentennial project of Charles L. Hartman Post 134 in Stanley was to construct a memorial to deceased veterans of Mountrail County. The brick structure in the city cemetery has a shelter with a glass enclosure containing plaques with names of deceased county veterans.
A July 4-5 observance at the White Stone Hill Battlefield monument northwest of Ellendale and southeast of Kulm involved seven North Dakota Legion posts. Participating in a historical review were Legionnaires and Auxiliary members from Ellendale, Wishek, Forbes, Kulm, Edgeley, Fredonia and Ashley as well as VFW members from Oakes and the Legion post in Frederick, SD.
At the border with Canada, the crossing near Noonan was the site June 5, 1976, for a “Hands Across the Border” and US Bicentennial observance by area American Legion posts, Royal Canadian Legion branches and community units. Veterans of both nations also marched side by side in Estevan, SASK, along with high school bands from Crosby and Columbus, ND, and Estevan, and the Minot Legion Post Drum and Bugle Corps, and floats by the Ludwig Coy Post 110 at Wildrose and the William Perry Makee Post 75 at Crosby. The Crosby Historical Society and the Crosby Moose Lodge also were represented.
Also in the border area, Ottum Ball Post 168 members at St. Thomas put together a 24-man Legion color guard to march along with Auxiliary members for a June 26 bicentennial parade for the community. A pageant and heritage fair also highlighted the occasion. Bottineau’s Post 42 assisted in that community’s festival service for 1976. Gerald A. Haskin Post 122 members at Oberon aided their community’s bicentennial pageant, a heritage fair and an auction that netted $2,000 for the State Heritage Center in Bismarck.
Novotny-Kachena Post 208 at Pisek had its forces active in the bicentennial year, both in Pisek and area towns. The post conducted a flag-raising ceremony June 25 at the new City Park and then provided the color guard for an 80-unit parade. The post’s float for the parade and color guard also were entered in celebrations in Park River, Vesleyville, Lankin, Grafton and Minto.
On July 5, 1976, Lidgerwood’s Bullis Post 84 dedicated a Legion plaque in its city Pool Park. The bicentennial year department convention was held at Bismarck in mid-June. Returning home to celebrate the event with his host of Flickertail Legion friends, Past National Commander and Former North Dakota Governor John E. Davis was the convention’s bicentennial speaker. At that time he was serving as director of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, officed at Washington, DC.
A highlight of the convention was the dedication of the permanent lighting for the flag poles at the State Capitol Building on Sunday evening, June 20. This culminated the bicentennial project of 1975-76 Department President Pat Higgins. The US flag was raised by Department Commander Treumann J. Lykken of Grand Forks, and Gov. Arthur A. Link elevated the ND State Flag during the special ceremonies.
About the time his year as 1970-71 department commander was coming to a close, Department Commander Q. R. “Kink” Schulte of Stanley became interested in the early discussions that were taking place within the organization for the bicentennial celebration. He offered to serve and was appointed 1971-72 Department Spirit of ’76 chairman to begin making plans for the celebration. During the first two years in this assignment, Schulte assembled ideas for the forthcoming observance. For 1973-74, four Legionnaires were added to the committee to promote and work with local Legion posts in planning activities for the bicentennial. The appointees were Ralph Shults, vice-chairman, Hettinger; Gordon Stark, Grafton; Roger Freden, Wahpeton; and Fred Schmidt, Fessenden. All were reappointed for 1974-75 except Freden who was replaced by John J. Preboske of Fargo on the committee, and that committee was renamed for the ensuing 1975-76 year when many bicentennial celebrations were staged throughout the state. The committee, which provided enthusiastic leadership in stimulating excellent patriotic events among the posts”, continued serving until all bicentennial activities were concluded during the early part of the 1976-77 Legion year.
Department Spirit of ’76 Committee Chair
1989 ‘Party of the Century’ a Major Legion Project
July 4, 1989, was one focal point for the observance of North Dakota’s centennial with a giant “Party of the Century” on the state capitol grounds in Bismarck with major participation by the North Dakota American Legion.
Initial department involvement came about through a pledge of $10,000 toward underwriting one-tenth of the sponsorship for televising the capitol party by the KX television network.
An original pledge of major financial support of the overall endeavor by a division of the national organization fell through. Former Assistant Department Adjutant Harry Moore of Fargo came out of retirement and volunteered his time to solicit support for the project from various posts and Legionnaires across the state.
Part of a television package included 50 commercials of 30 seconds each, to be aired in the weeks prior to the telecast and 10 prime commercial spots during the sign-on to sign-off televising of capitol events on the Fourth.
Outstanding cooperation and support of many posts and individual Legionnaires across the state brought the necessary monetary backing. Pre-party commercials, many applauding the participating posts, were aired in advance of the big day with the 10 ads during the program on the Fourth. In addition, the department had a booth on the capitol mall throughout the day. Many Legion programs and members were featured along with the signing of petitions in favor of the proposed flag protection amendment that was being sought at that time.
Events at Bismarck included a governor’s reception on the Capitol steps on July 3. Among those attending were then-Department Commander James O. Coats of Mandan, entertainers Roy Clark and Myron Floren and numerous other national and North Dakota dignitaries.
Commander Coats started the big day, the 4th, riding on Mandan Post 40’s special centennial float “For God and Country” along with WW I Legionnaire Karl Keidel of Mandan. Coats later spent time in the Legion booth handing out materials and obtaining signatures.
Later in the day, Coats was introduced by North Dakota’s own National Commander H. F. “Sparky” Gierke to speak on behalf of state Legionnaires. It was estimated that about 100,000 people attended the capitol extravaganza, with many of them stopping at the Legion booth.
River Low But Spirit High
North Dakota and South Dakota Legionnaires gathered at the Missouri River at Mobridge, SD, Aug. 5-6, 1989, for the weekend bi-state celebration of the centennial year in both states. Forty-three North Dakota Legionnaires, Auxiliary and friends formed a land caravan that greeted the South Dakota flotilla at a Mobridge landing on the then very low river. Original plans were for both groups to make their way on the river to Mobridge for an observance marking both former territories becoming states 100 years earlier.
The decision to switch to a land route wasn’t difficult, at least for the North Dakotans, who put safety and liability ahead of novelty and fun because passage by boat would have been subject to too many dangers in the low-water conditions. The water level and high winds also forced several smaller South Dakota boaters to abandon the waterway and complete the trip to Mobridge by vehicle and trailer.
On Aug. 5, a caravan of about 25 North Dakotans left Bismarck, led by a Jeep owned by Legion Post 49 at Garrison. Along the way, an additional group, pushing the total to near 50, joined the travelers at Linton. Included were Department Commander James O. Coats of Mandan and Auxiliary Department President Mae Ione Hande of Rhame. Just before pulling into Mobridge, Coats and Hande joined the Garrison Legionnaires in their Jeep for the approach to the water’s edge.
A program at the Mobridge rodeo grounds featured National Commander H. F. “Sparky” Gierke and Legion dignitaries from both states. Entertainment was provided by the Singing Legionnaires of Sioux Falls, SD, and a group known as the Ufda Brudders from Britton, SD. Guests, including Mobridge area residents, were treated to a buffalo barbecue that evening, and the celebration moved on to Aug. 6 before concluding and departure for home.
Music Has Played a Big Part in Legion Events Since 1919
Music has been a part of the North Dakota American Legion scene since just shortly after the Legion was formed in the state. Among the very first musical groups were post-sponsored drum and bugle corps with Williston listing the earliest corps, forerunner of their famed “Cowboys,” as originating in 1920. Post 14 at Jamestown was not far behind, with their corps ultimately to be called the “Militaires,” coming into being in 1921. Both of these corps survives today although after breaks in operations due to. World War II and, in the case of Jamestown, to other, later problems. It was in 1921, when the department convention was held at Jamestown in late September, that a “mammoth military parade” was promised with the Jamestown “band” (undoubtedly the newly organized drum corps) scheduled to take part along with “Legion and Boy Scout bands” from Devils Lake, Fargo, Lisbon and Casselton.
Undoubtedly, the record for longevity and continuous service goes to the State American Legion Band, made up of musicians from all areas of the state from, presently, Grenora in the far northwest to Wahpeton in the southeast. It was forged, initially, as the 164th Infantry Band of the state National Guard, then served on the Mexican Border in 1916 and, shortly thereafter, with the AEF in France during World War I. The State Band was officially born in 1924 when a group of WW I veteran Legionnaires at Lisbon, including Walter Curtis, Albert “Abbie” Andrews, trumpet and first director, and then newspaper publisher Bill Jones, pushed for $250 funding from the department to help take a group of volunteers to St. Paul, MN, where they wore their Army uniforms and slept in tents in the snow, to attend the 1924 national Legion convention representing North Dakota.
These three musical units were the forerunners of what was ultimately to total four bands and 14 drum and bugle corps that were organized and functioned with Legion post and, later, department support over the state from 1920 to the late 1980s. As of this writing, the number of units has dwindled to two bands – the State Band and the Fargo Post 2 Band – and two corps, the still lively Williston Cowboys and the Jamestown Militaires. Although the latter group no longer participates in state Legion convention activities, it does perform in its home area and, normally, at Legion functions held in Jamestown.
An early article by longtime Department Historian Bill Jones of Lisbon stated, “About 1927, several of the Legion posts in the department organized drum corps to represent their posts. The prime purpose of organization was to appear for patriotic parades in the home communities, but extensive use was made of these organizations for good will tours at the smaller community functions in their respective trade areas.
“Naturally, the outstanding features of the department conventions were the parades and the friendly spirit of competition between these corps for winning the state competition. “The outstanding organizations, and many times winner of the exhibition, were the corps from Grand Forks and Fargo, each of which attended several national conventions. In 1932, Bismarck introduced two-pitch bugles. At some of the competitions, there were crowds of as many as six and eight thousand people, and the grand finale of several hundred musicians on the field made a spectacle which will remain vivid in the minds of Legionnaires for many years.
“The corps that were maintained by posts at Devils Lake, Valley City, Jamestown, Dickinson and Williston were all very creditable groups and gave unstinting service. They attended the department conventions as well as many summer events in their respective areas. The expense of equipment and the time spent by members in maintaining these corps added a great deal to the Legion life in these communities. The associations of individuals making up the corps have resulted in many true and lasting friendships.”
Succeeding the first trio of musical groups came, in fairly rapid progression, Fargo and Valley City in 1926, with Bismarck and Grand Forks following soon after in 1928. Little or, in at least one case, no documentation other than mention in correspondence or reports of one kind or another, or pictures, has been found in regard to at least three early-day corps, those at Belfield, Dickinson and Mayville. It has to be assumed, however, that the Devils Lake corps had to have begun in the 1920s, as it is listed as having appeared for the last time at the 1929 department convention in Minot.
Belfield and Mayville units appear to have come into existence in the early 1930s. It was in 1935 that Bean-Goodwin Post No. 36 at Oakes was to lay the groundwork for the Oakes High School Girls Drum and Bugle Corps, a showy and popular aggregation that began organizing in late 1935 and continued, in great demand, until it last appeared in the department convention of 1955.
No record can be found as to when Minot Post 26 actually launched its new corps that was to become known as the “Centurians,” however, it had to have been in the post WW II period as the group was in its prime by 1959 when it officially represented North Dakota in the nation al convention parade at Minneapolis.
Two other drum corps are known to have existed, at Hazen in the mid-1950s and a snappy corps at Wishek that started in September of 1963, the latter appearing as the official department corps at national conventions in Portland, OR, in 1970 and again at Minneapolis in 1975.
Of the bands, the Grafton Post 41 Band actually had the earliest origin, but as a “clown” band that eventually developed into the “Grafton Parade Band” before becoming the Post 41 Band. Continuing well into the 1990s, the band’s last recorded appearance was at the 75th Anniversary banquet held by Post 41 on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1994.
The band of Fargo’s Post No. 2 had its roots in early World War II days and is recorded as having been organized in 1942. It ballooned with the end of the war and the return home of hundreds of veterans, many of whom were musicians and had served as such during the war. The post’s WW II group flourished under the baton of Robert Thornton, taking part in several national conventions as well as many department conclaves. Unfortunately, interest lagged and, by the early 1960s, there was no director and only about seven or eight musicians, when Leroy Bassett, longtime snare drummer, and Harry Moore, a transfer from Valley City on clarinet, went to work recruiting and began to rebuild the unit. As of this date, the band is again flourishing with membership well over 40 and plays many concerts during its September to June performing year.
Victory Post 92 at Northwood fielded the fourth and last of the post bands with Ralph Mutchler, a noted musician, director and composer-arranger, as initial director. Over the years, a number of other musical groups took part in department conventions and, in at least one instance, accompanied the North Dakota delegation in a national convention parade – the nationally famous Hormel Girls Drum and Bugle Corps, sponsored by George A. Hormel & Co. Among these were the Wahpeton Drum and Bugle Corps and Band and the Devils Lake Boys (originally Boy Scout) Band.
Also appearing were Hettinger’s “Cowboy Band” as well as the “North Force” Drum and Bugle Corps of Fargo-Moorhead and many, many area high school bands.
Williston ”Cowboys” Drum and Bugle Corps
First organized in 1920, the “Cowboys” American Legion drum and bugle corps at Williston was very active until just prior to the start of World War II in 1941. At that time, the group disbanded and remained dormant until the fall of 1950, when it was reorganized by Legionnaire vets of WW II Williston High School Band Director Virgil Syverson was asked to direct the budding organization and, to this day, remains as its director. From earliest days of the WW I corps, the uniform of the group has been in the cowboy motif. The group has been extremely active in attending many functions throughout North Dakota, the United States, Canada and Norway in 1975.
Since 1950, the Cowboys have taken part in every department Legion convention. Additionally, the unit has attended national Legion conventions in 1953 St. Louis, MO; 1957 Atlantic City, NJ; 1963 Miami, FL, where the corps placed ninth in national competition; 1968 New Orleans, LA; Miami again in 1974; was North Dakota’s official musical representative to the 1981 national meet in Honolulu, HI; 1984 Salt Lake City, UT; 1987 San Antonio, TX; and Louisville, KY, in 1988 to assist in the campaign and election of H.F. “Sparky” Gierke of Watford City and Bismarck as national Commander of The American Legion.
In Williston, the corps is a familiar participant in many annual events such as Band Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, in addition to appearing at the Tioga Fall Festival, Culbertson, MT, Frontier Days, July 4 parades in Sidney, MT, and the State Fair at Minot. The group has also taken part in the Wishek Centennial Jubilee, as well as the Diamond Jubilee at Ulen, MN, hometown of Director Syverson. For the better part of a half century, the Cowboys have been a flashy part of the five-mile-long Traveler’s Day parade in Regina, Sask., Canada.
The Williston unit is also believed to be the first American Legion drum and bugle corps to travel and play on the European continent when, in 1975, it accompanied the “Festival ’76’ Production” group from the Williston area on a tour of Norway to help promote our nation ‘s Bicentennial year. The group was warmly received in the six Norwegian cities where the corps performed. In 1976, the corps represented North Dakota at the Bicentennial celebration in Philadelphia and took part in the Parade of States celebrating the 200th birthday of our nation. The unit also toured Washington, DC.
It was in 1954 that Robert W. “Bob” Moran was snatched from the ranks of the corps to be business manager, a position he served with distinction until 1975. He then assumed the position of public relations officer, in which he served for many more years. Moran was honored by the corps and Post 37 in April of 1975 upon his retirement as business manager.
In addition to his corps duties, Moran served the Legion as Williston’s post commander, Ninth district commander and Western Region vice-commander, as well as in many other capacities over the years.
In September 1964, the Cowboys entertained before a crowd of more than 15,000 at the half time of a Saskatchewan Rough Riders football game in the Regina Stadium. During its Norway trip in 1975, the group’s first performance was at Kongsvinger on May 31 to a packed auditorium. The next show was in Trondheim where Erik Rognlein, a corps member who was born in Norway, was one of four persons selected to be received by King Olaf V of Norway. At the final performance given at Fjorde, the production received a standing ovation. In Volda Orsta and Sykkylven, people who had been in line for a long time had to be turned away for lack of room.
For nearly 50 years, the present American Legion “Cowboys” drum and bugle corps has represented Post 37, the Legion and the city of Williston in an excellent manner. The unit continues to entertain wherever it performs.
Post #14 Drum and Bugle Corps at Jamestown
Ernest DeNault Robertson Post 14 of The American Legion at Jamestown has had the interesting experience of sponsoring three separate and distinct drum and bugle corps during its life of service to its community, state and nation.
A group of World War I veteran Legionnaires organized the first corps in 1921, just shortly after the start of the Legion. This initial corps performed throughout the Jamestown area and at department conventions for a number of years until interest and membership dwindled and the unit disbanded, apparently in the late 1920s or early 1930s.
Sometime after World War II, in June of 1960 to be exact, the “Militaires” originated as a reorganization of the original group and enjoyed wide popularity in central and eastern North Dakota, where they were extremely active in appearances at many community and area functions as well as Legion events through the year.
The Militaires appeared at every state Legion convention from 1961 to well into the 1970s and, possibly, into the early ’80s when loss of funding caused them to disband.
Local jeweler Ben Boatright, who was the first manager of the Militaires, kept the unit busy and well financed until illness forced him from the post. Other managers over the life of the corps included Howard McKenzie and Mike Cleary, both recruited from the ranks of the corps.
The Militaires represented the North Dakota Legion at four national conventions, including Washington, DC, in 1966, Chicago in 1972, Minneapolis in 1975, and Denver in 1977—where Mrs. Alvin (Vi) Moltzen of New Salem was elected national Auxiliary president and Past Department Commander Arnold J. Stockstad was named national historian.
Among directors of the Militaires were Dr. Retslaff, Les Engebretzen, Pete Mueller, Wes Froelich and Neil Hutchinson.
In its third formation, the corps is now known as the Jamestown Drum and Bugle Corps and is directed by Chuck McKenzie. It confines its activities to Jamestown and surrounding area, appearing at Legion functions primarily when they are in Jamestown.
Post #2 Drum and Bugle Corps at Fargo
The drum and bugle corps of Fargo’s Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2 of The American Legion was first organized in 1926 and took an active part in Legion and community activities from then until US involvement in World War II caused the unit to disband. Successor to the post-World War I corps, to later become known as the Gauchos, organized in November of 1952 with predominantly WW II veteran Legionnaires as members. Helping to bridge the gap between corps was Herbert J. “Herb” Franek of Fargo, who directed the first corps from the early 1930s and then took over in a similar role with the newer group.
Franek, who came to Fargo in 1926 from Omaha, NE, also managed the original corps for a lengthy period to the disbanding. A former violin member of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, Franek was director of the former State and Orpheum Theatre Orchestras in Fargo and a former president of the Fargo Musician’s Union. He wrote much of the music played by both the earlier and newer corps.
The original corps, in addition to taking part in local and statewide Legion events, attended national Legion conventions at 1929 Louisville, KY, 1933 Chicago, 1935 St. Louis and, possibly (records are somewhat hazy), 1937 New York City, before going to Chicago in 1939, where the group played at the national Legion Auxiliary convention that was presided over by Mrs. Amelia Morris of North Dakota, who was then national Auxiliary president.
Two years later in 1941, the corps was in Milwaukee, WI, to play on stage for newly-elected National American Legion Commander Lynn U. Stambaugh of Fargo, making the group, at that time, the only Legion musical unit to have played on the official program of both a national Legion and a national Auxiliary convention.
And the early-day corps had a great sense of humor and willingness to work, as evidenced by a program for a Feb. 6, 1930, production presented by the corps to Post 2 entitled “Hu Flung Lung” billed as a fantasy produced under the personal direction of the famous Chinese producer, “Tu Long Hi,” that listed among the acts: Prof. Houdinison and his Famous Norwegian Dummy, “East Slide West Slide” by lnneeda Sympathy Orchestra, “Lassus Trombone” by the Kazoosillians, and “The Call Of The Wild” – by Oscar Wilde ‘s Poor Relation, and featuring the “American Legion Bugle and Drum Corps Orchestra,” William Parrot, conductor.
After taking over in 1952, the post-WW II corps lost no time in becoming active throughout the community and area, in the footsteps of its predecessor, and by 1958, the unit felt ready and moved up to attending national conventions, starting with the 1958 model in Chicago. In 1959 at Minneapolis, 1961 in Denver and 1965 in Portland, OR, the corps was accompanied by its peppy girls ‘ drill team – the Legionnettes – who contributed much color to parades, concerts and other events in which the girls participated over the years of their existence. The unit was trained and drilled by Huston Galyen, longtime Post 2 worker.
In 1969, then Gov. William L. Guy named the corps the Official Governor’s Drum and Bugle Corps for that year, accompanying the appointment with a most commendatory letter. After the Portland national trip, the corps went to Houston, TX, in 1971, then to the big national event at Honolulu, HI, in 1973. Unfortunately, the all-out effort by corps members, their wives and many others to raise the large sum needed to fund the Hawaiian trip, covered most of the time from the Houston convention until departure for Honolulu. As a result, the corps was never quite the same again and disbanded within a year later. Over the years, the Gauchos won a number of first and second-place awards in department competition and always gave a good account of themselves on the field.
Oakes High School Girls Drum and Bugle Corps
It was in August 1935 when soon-to-be Department Commander (1937-38) Harry Edblom opened Bean-Goodwin Post 36 discussion on doing something for the community. He suggested the formation of a musical group such as a school drum corps at Oakes. The idea raised considerable enthusiasm and a motion· by Legionnaire Edblom was passed that resulted in a committee of three, consisting of E. A. Quam, R. A. Muxen and R. C. Peterson, being appointed to study the project and report at a later meeting.
The committee reported at the November meeting that year and, after some discussion, the post unanimously approved a motion that the post sponsor a drum and bugle corps in the Oakes High School and that the committee be authorized to spend about $375 on instruments for such corps. A full set of instruments for a 25-piece girls drum corps was ordered at once, consisting of 10 King regulation bugles and two baritone bugles, all silver with gold bells, eight Leedy field drums and two Leedy Scotch bass drums, two pairs of Turkish cymbals and a drum major’s baton.
The instruments were received in December 1935, and the drum corps began work under the instruction of Oakes Public School Superintendent and Legionnaire E. A. Quam. Membership in the corps consisted entirely of girls from the Oakes High School.
In 1936, the drum and bugle corps committee reported on the successful operation of the corps and that $375 was expended for equipment and uniforms. Legionnaires Quam and Edblom thanked the post for its support.
The corps made its first public appearance at the Oakes 50th Anniversary celebration May 28, 1936, with the girls dressed in uniform consisting of red military coats and West Point shakos trimmed in gold, white skirts and shoes and tan hose. The girls purchased the skirts themselves. The corps was reported as easily one of the leading attractions at the many celebrations during the 50th Anniversary year. In addition to its many local performances, including the state Volunteer Firemen’s convention, the corps appeared at various other cities and towns, including Aberdeen, SD; Ellendale, Fullerton, Monango, Valley City and at the department Legion convention in Jamestown.
Corps personnel in 1936 were listed as: buglers – Verna Bowerman, Gwendolyn Gasper, Carol Hoar, Yvonne Johanneson, June Lowe, Lila Minard, Muriel Mueller, Lucille Smestad, Helen Stearns, Lois Stenquist, Rose Strutz, Jeannette Werre; drums and cymbals – Jeanne Bassingwaite, Beryl Bellinger, Margaret Boethling, Doris Buland, Laura Harris, Lucille Lancaster, Harriet Pederson, Lorraine Pederson, Myrtle Sanders, Rosemary Sheridan, Grace Sletvold, MaeBelle Weatherhead and Drum Major Helen Rohlffs.
In 1937, the corps added to their uniforms white West Point belts and white pompoms for the shakos. This equipment gave the girls a new look for the department convention at Minot, where they received much popular acclaim and established the group as one of the leading juvenile organizations of their kind in the state.
In addition to being a big attraction locally and throughout the area, the corps, in 1938, was a big hit at the department convention. As a result, it was invited to attend the South Dakota department convention in Aberdeen, where the group appeared in a feature exhibition with the national champion junior corps from Des Moines, IA, and the nationally-known St. Agnes Drum Corps from St. Paul.
Among many other appearances, the corps, in 1939, took part in welcoming Crown Prince Olav and Princess Martha (no country specified) at Fargo, and also took part in the 50th Anniversary of statehood at Bismarck. In 1941, the corps and a number of Oakes Legionnaires traveled to Fargo to take part in the welcome-home ceremonies for newly-elected National Legion Commander Lynn U. Stambaugh. Corps activity was severely limited during the WW II years; however, the group remained active in the immediate Oakes area and, in late 1943, then Post Commander H. C. Edblom suggested the post show its appreciation for the long service of Legionnaire Quam as director and manager.
As a result, Quam was presented a regulation uniform from the post. In 1946, Post 36 records show the beginnings of problems in transporting the corps when bus service was not available to get the corps to Bismarck for the state convention.
In 1947, the corps is reported as having received first prize money of $50 for best street exhibition at the department convention in Fargo, as well as receiving $129 from department funds to help cover travel costs. In May of 1948, the girls made their first out-of-town visit for the year to Jamestown to perform where the Freedom Train was on display. They were reported to be “The greatest attraction other than the train itself.”
In July, the corps went all the way north to take part in the giant Park River Fourth of July celebration, entertained the district Legion baseball tournament at Wahpeton and performed at the department convention in Devils Lake.
Longtime corps director and Oakes Schools Superintendent E. A. Quam died of a heart attack on stage during the annual Veterans Day observance program in November of 1951.
Oakes High School Band Director Lloyd Nelson, a member of the State Legion Band, was hired to direct the corps in 1952 following the loss of Quam. The group continued a high level of activity in the area and state, including attendance at state conventions of the Elks at Jamestown, VFW at Valley City and Legion at Fargo. In 1955, the corps was struggling with no director and diminishing funds. A committee was appointed to have charge of what money the corps had and to try to make the group as self- supporting as possible. The corps did attend the department convention in Bismarck, appeared at Lisbon and was invited to the South Dakota department convention in Aberdeen.
After struggling for most of several years without a director and low funds, the post’s Jan. 16, 1956, meeting empowered the executive committee to dispose of the corps instruments and uniforms in storage. Later in the year, it was reported that three snare drums from among the stored items were sold to the school, apparently betokening the demise of what had been a brilliantly performing musical organization that had served well for 20 years and brought much acclaim to the Oakes community as well as to Post 36.
Wishek Legion Drum and Bugle Corps
The American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, sponsored by Fred Kelle Post 87, at Wishek was organized in September of 1963 and, according to official record, appeared at department conventions from 1964 through 1976. The corps made its first appearance in official state Legion competition at the 1965 department convention at Williston.
Starting with nine members in the organizational corps, the unit had grown to 19 playing members plus three colors and two color guards by the late 1960s and listed a total membership of 25 by 1971.
The Post 87 corps was the official department musical organization at national conventions in Portland, OR, in 1970 and at Minneapolis in 1975.
Arthur Eisenbeis directed the group during a large part of its existence and Victor Krein was music major. Ray Wiest, a Fifth District commander and ultimately Central Region department vice-commander, was president for several years, and Lavern Blinsky and Milton Wiest served as corps managers over the years of activity.
The group participated in many community events throughout the central part of the state as well as at numerous Legion functions throughout its area and at department functions.
The corps disappears from official records after 1976 and, it is assumed, fell victim to the major problems of diminishing funds, increasing expenses and loss of musicians that have resulted in the demise of many musical groups over the years.
Donald Loder, Bugler Cooperstown
Donald Loder, honored as North Dakota Legionnaire of the Year in 2003, was a member of the N.D. Legion Band for 58 years and played the bugle call “Taps” at the funerals of more than 500 veterans. “I knew most of them and some of them were best friends,” he told the Griggs County Courier.
A lifetime member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Loder was drafted into the Army in 1943 and was recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict. He died July 31, 2012, at age 88, and was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Grand Forks.
In the fifth grade, Loder began playing a trumpet that was bought for him by his father. He also played while in high school at Cooperstown and at North Dakota State University. After his discharge from the Army in 1953, he joined the State American Legion Band. He played at his first national convention that year and nearly 30 more over the years. He played at Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies and if he knew someone’s birthday they received a telephone call from him performing “Happy Birthday” on his trumpet.
Loder was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1960 and served two terms. He was active in many community organizations, he planted evergreen trees on the Cooperstown golf course as well as on farms in the area, and he had his own little animal refuge on his farm where he feed deer and pheasants, as well as his beloved dogs and cats.
Grand Forks Drum and Bugle Corps
Organized in 1928 with a start-up membership reported at 80, the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, sponsored by Grand Forks Post 6, flourished for a good 20 years until it was disbanded in 1948 when the ranks were beginning to thin. Then it was revived with the help of World War II veterans, and the beat went on until 1957 when the “last Two Men’s Club” was formed, and the post-WW II corps disbanded.
The club served as a focal point to get the surviving members together each spring for a “campfire” and mulligan stew and, each spring for another 30 years, they and their wives met in the Memorial Clubrooms of the Grand Forks County Courthouse.
And, in 1989, on June 22 to be precise, the last two members of that World War I group pulled the cork on a memorial bottle of chianti wine and sipped the contents. The two “sippers” were George Phelps, retired jeweler, and Henry Kennedy, former real estate firm operator.
Key figures in the formation of the original corps were longtime dentist Dr. John G. Brundin, described as an experienced musician and a ” top” drummer as well as bugler; Cy Adams, an experienced drum major who had previously per formed with units at Watertown and Aberdeen in South Dakota, and Oscar Bondelid, director, and the man who wrote a great deal of the music the corps used during its lifetime.
According to a very early report, “It was not long before the group found they had personnel for a champion corps and rehearsals were faithfully attended and seething with enthusiasm. “The gang looked forward to each rehearsal and they considered it one of the most enjoyable pastimes a person could find, so progress was rapid. Funds were raised and new uniforms ordered whose striking beauty attracted national admiration and were the pride and joy of all members.
“The first competition was held in Grand Forks at the state Legion convention in 1928 when, on North 4th Street, under a burning sun, each corps put their all into the presentation and Grand Forks won the most points!
”There was ‘Joy in Mudville’ that day. “After that experience, the leaders looked for greater horizons and as time went by, the playing was greatly elaborated upon, along with the drills, resulting in a grand finale with the National Anthem and a trick maneuver.
“The presentation at Valley City in 1931, when the corps was at its peak, was a performance that had the judges gasping. A presentation they still talk about when the corps is the topic, Bismarck was second, Valley City third, and James town fourth.
“In 1929, the corps attended their first national convention at Louisville, KY, where they were a credit to Grand Forks. This trip was an eye opener to our leaders and members. It was a real educational journey, and the inspiration received there sent the corps to greater heights.
“From there on, Oscar Bondelid composed the “Grand Finale” score and planned different maneuvers which the corps perfected that resulted in that grand Valley City performance and also the 15th place nationally at Detroit in 1931. The corps also gave an excellent performance in Cleveland, OH, in 1934.”
The Detroit national convention competition ranking came against approximately 100 corps nationwide and gave the Grand Forks unit a score of 96.75 points of a possible 100. A corps from Racine, WI, was first with 99.10 points, and the Chicago Edison Post corps had 97.95 for fourth place.
The corps was North Dakota champion in 1928 through 1931, and then fell to a tough Fargo corps for the intervening years until regaining the top spot at Jamestown in 1936.
As stated, the corps disbanded in 1948; however, records show them coming out of retirement in 1950 to take part in the Legion department convention parade in Grand Forks, one they billed as their final parade. Thereafter, the WW II veterans joined in until the group again disbanded in 1957.
Although there are no records of additional corps activity after 1957 until the 1980s, it appears there was a resurgence of the post-WW II group. Correspondence dated in the late 1980s states that “Despite the setbacks suffered by the club and post, your drum and bugle corps marches on. In recent months, we acquired the talents of Mr. Tom Jeliff to be our director and instructor. Mr. Einar Einarson is our assistant director and instructor. In the coming months, we will announce tryout times and places and will have regular practices and we will appear at the state convention in Fargo in June!”
The note goes on to state, “We are always in need of fundraising ideas. We sold pop and coffee at the two BINGOs held recently by the 40 and 8. Our expenses in the next few months will be great, so, if you have any ideas, give any of us a call. Thank you for your continued support.”
The plea listed Al “Doc” Kilgore, as corps president; Sue Kime, vice-president; David Kaufman, secretary-treasurer; Al Enger, manager, and Tom Jeliff, director. Following that, there was no further reference to the corps.
Bismarck Drum and Bugle Corps
The American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps sponsored by Lloyd Spetz Post 1 at Bismarck, that was to become known as the “Governaires,” was organized in 1928.
Interest in establishing a corps stemmed from S. W. Corwin having seen and heard a corps at Perham, MN, that inspired him to contact the Bismarck Chamber of Commerce about starting a corps and, eventually, the commander of Post 1 appointed a committee of three to form and instruct a corps. Committee members named were Curtis Dirlam, Lester Deihl and Spencer Boise, the latter having been assistant director of a National Guard Band activated for WW I.
According to an early report, “Deihl was never very active in the organization but Curt Dirlam was very patient in taking men with little or no musical background and drilling them in the rudiments of drumming. Boise agreed to work with the bugles but indicated he was more interested in working with a band and would stay with the corps until they get going.”
Corwin proved very influential in getting money for the group and they were soon supplied with 12 bugles and 10 or 12 drums. The first public appearance was reported to have been in Minot dressed in 40 & 8 smocks and Legion caps, to promote the candidacy of a Dr. Straus of Bismarck for district governor of Lions.
In 1930, Post 1 became really enthusiastic about the corps, and the community responded by raising approximately $5,000 for uniforms and equipment. The 40 & 8 purchased baritone bugles. The first uniform consisted of white metal helmets, green blouses, red breeches with black puttees, and the detail was so fine that all the members went to the same store and bought exactly the same style shoes. The red breeches were later discarded in place of white with red stripes down the sides.
Walter Tester served as drum major for a number of years but, when he moved from Bismarck, Boise took over that position as well as that of director. Among members of the corps who were very active up to about 1940 were: John Arman, William Zabel, Herman· Leonard, Thomas J. Burke, Frayne Baker, Roy Mills, F. F. Skinner, C. W. Leifur, Paul Dalager, Roy Indseth, Sig Lillehaugen, Floyd Reynolds, Fred Miller, J. J. Morgenthaler, Hjalmer Rud, Oscar Forde, Earl Owen, Jack Vadnie, Joe Fairchild, Clarence Gunness, J. W. McDonald, Charles Walcher, Harold Pike, William Myers, Don McPhee, Steve Arman, Warren Jenkins, Frank Eernisse, Luther Monson, Nick Frost, A. L. Sauerressig, John Spare, Warren Whitson, Mike Anderson and Dick Nelson.
In 1932, there were 32 men in the corps out of a membership of 450 in the post. Eleven of these members were elected post commander over the years from 1928 to 1945, and Rheinhart J. Kamplin was state commander in 1930-31 and Spencer Boise in 1935-36.
In 1931, corps members raised money from their own pockets and sent Boise to the national convention in Detroit, from which he returned with ideas about two-pitch music. The rules at that time required that bugle valves be sealed in either the key of G or D, a restriction removed long ago. Boise wrote three marches in two-pitch. The corps obtained the necessary bugles and played the new numbers at the 1932 Devils Lake convention, the first appearance of two-pitch bugle music in the state.
One of the numbers was titled “Commanders March” and was used for many years by the corps, in addition to which Boise had the number arranged for band. The State Legion Band also used it for several years, joining the Bismarck Corps on a few occasions in playing it at the annual convention.
During these years, the only expense money received by the musical units at the convention came in the form of prize money for winning or placing high in competition. Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck repeatedly won the first three prizes.
During the early 1930s, and especially during the campaign to move the capitol out of Bismarck, the drum corps traveled extensively. It is interesting that, in many instances, the WW I corps appeared at the Legion’s 25th anniversary celebration in a community, and the corps of WW II members appeared at the same communities for their 50th anniversary observances.
As defense projects began to develop and the need for manpower increased during 1939-40, many members left Bismarck temporarily and the corps became inactive for the WW II era. Later, many members of the original corps became associated with WW II veterans and reorganization began in 1945 and into 1946, still under the direction of Spencer Boise.
In 1955, the corps was completely outfitted in new blue uniforms and shakos with plumes and white spats along with new horns and drums. It was the first corps composed entirely of WW II veterans. Bob “Booty” Boutrous served as drum major from 1955 to 1967, and Gordon Knaak was music director 1959-66. John Conyne was drum major and George Anderson music director during 1967-74. Frank Goetz, Neil Hutchinson and Don Twedt were drum majors and Goetz the music director during 1975-81. Goetz and Kirby Zent were 1982-84 drum majors and music directors, and Rick Borr drum major and director 1985-88.
Gov. John E. Davis, a past department and, ultimately national commander, of the Legion, named the corps the “Governaires” and designated them as his official corps during his term in office. For many years to follow, other governors followed suit.
The corps, whose membership fluctuated from 40 to 60 in the 1970s and’80s, traveled throughout North Dakota, attended Montana state Legion conventions, Frontier Days at Cheyenne, WY, the Minneapolis Aquatennial, Jesse James Days at Northfield, MN, and the Detroit Lakes, MN, Water Carnival, among others. The group also attended national Legion conventions at Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Honolulu, Boston, Las Vegas and New Orleans.
The Governaires was North Dakota’s most decorated corps, having won the state Legion competition a total of 22 times over the years. Managers of the post-WW II group included Duane Davis, Boyd Clemens, Eldred “Red” Welch, Al Voegele and Aaron “Moody” Dalke. Clemens and Dalke became department commanders, Clemens a national vice-commander and Dalke a national executive committeeman.
After the 1988 season, the corps disbanded due to lack of interest and aging members, and its equipment was sold after a near 60-year run during which it brought much acclaim to Post 1 and the city of Bismarck as well as to the Legion in general.
Post #60 Drum and Bugle Corps at Valley City
The drum and bugle corps sponsored by Valley City’s Edgar A. Fisher Post 60 was organized in 1926 and grew to a membership of at least 46 during the years in which it was active until disbanding in 1934. During its active period, the corps took part in department conventions and was prominent in and around Valley City displaying its talents at many events and occasions.
Made up of World War I veteran Legionnaires, the corps was drum-majored by Adrian Pfusch, who also carried over to perform the same duties for the post-World War II corps that reorganized and re-equipped in 1947.
It was in 1959 at Minneapolis that the Red Coats (as they were to become known) first appeared in a national convention parade. Once into the national swing, it wasn’t long before the group was named official representative of the department to the national convention at Miami Beach in 1960. In relatively short order thereafter, the Valley City troop served as official musical delegate to national meets at Dallas in 1964 and Atlanta in 1969. Unfortunately, the all-out effort required to field an adequate crew in Atlanta seemingly expended the remaining energy to maintain such a group, and the corps disbanded a short time later.
From what few records have been located on the corps, in 1967 its activities were numerous and colorful, including participation in department convention activity at Minot that June, appearing at Valley City Crazy Days, and again for the annual reunion of the l64th Infantry Association held at Valley City in October. Also, in 1967, and one of the biggest events (other than national conventions) in which the unit took part was the giant parade in Bismarck associated with the homecoming of American Legion newly-elected National Commander John E. Davis.
At that time, Bernard C. Lyons and Lee Holm were listed as co-managers of the corps; Don Opdahl was president, and Lowell Peterson the drum major. Through its relatively short existence, the Post 60 corps became known for its always flashy presentations at department conventions, particularly in competition where the unit never placed very high in the judging but always brought tremendous applause for its field show prowess.
One time, in particular, recalled to have been in Fargo, when the judging points scored by the corps in the competition were wiped out when its lead trumpeter, at that time Don Piehl, later to become director of the State Band, marched smartly front and center, put down his regular trumpet, whipped out, from beneath his uniform jacket, a tiny (and illegal) B-Flat bugle on which he proceeded to make the stadium ring with some of the highest and wildest notes ever heard in the many years of the event.
And later, many years after disbanding, the corps called on former members to reform and parade and play in a gigantic 75th anniversary parade for Valley City in the 1980s. Former corps members came from near and far and fielded a most creditable crew of well over 50 musicians who made the welkin ring throughout the several mile-long march.
In the early 1990s, the group held another reunion sponsored by Post 60 that, again, brought many, many former members to the city for a near two-day party that renewed many friendships and many, many memories.
Boise-Franek One of Top Awards Available to Corps
From 1960 when North Dakota American Legion musical organizations, drum and bugle corps in particular, were really hitting their post-WW II stride, the really top honor available to the corps in competition was the Boise-Franek Traveling Trophy. It was awarded annually to the North Dakota Legion-sponsored drum and bugle corps attaining the highest rating in competition during the annual department convention musical exhibition.
The trophy was officially named by the department executive committee during its 1961 convention meeting in Fargo in honor of Past Department Commander Spencer S. Boise of Bismarck and Herbert J. Franek of Fargo for their leadership during the entire lifespan of Legion musical activities in North Dakota.
Both men were deeply involved in Legion music from early post-WW I years to well into the post-WW II era. They both helped drum and bugle corps in their respective Legion posts to span the break between the two periods, and both served as chairman of the department musical organizations committee (DMOC) for a number of years in addition to directing and writing music for their respective corps.
Boise was the original DMOC chair and Franek served on the committee from its inception. Franek ultimately took over the chair in the 1950s and served to 1962, after which he acted in an advisory capacity to the committee.
The trophy was awarded each year through 1980, by which time all space for names of champion corps had been exhausted and it had to be retired.
A totally new trophy, renamed the Herb Franek Overall Champion Trophy, was developed as successor to the Boise-Franek award since Past Department Commander Boise had passed away during the intervening years, and the department executive committee felt the new trophy should be appropriately named for Legionnaire Franek.
The original trophy was first awarded to the Williston Cowboys at the 1960 convention in Williston. Strangely enough, the Williston corps also was the last winner of the Franek Trophy at Bismarck in 1984, after which only the Williston corps and State Legion Band survived to participate in subsequent department and national conventions.
No trophy was awarded at Minot in 1962 and again at Bismarck in 1972 when torrential rains wiped out the competition.
Over the years, Bismarck heavily monopolized the original trophy as well as the successor, receiving the Boise-Franek award 16 times and the Franek trophy three times. Williston took the former on two occasions and the latter in ’84, and Fargo won the first trophy one time, in 1970.
In 1973, the “Doug Wetherby Trophy” was originated and first presented for the best use of color guards by a drum and bugle corps in field competition. The trophy was donated by the drum and bugle corps competition judges, of whom Wetherby of St. Paul was the dean for North Dakota performances.
The initial presentation was to the Fargo Gauchos, who managed just the one win while Jamestown won twice, Bismarck five times, Minot once and Williston three times during the span from 1973-1984.
Another coveted award was the Ben C. Boatright Memorial Traveling Trophy, named in memory of longtime Jamestown corps Manager Ben Boatright. It was presented to that corps receiving the highest score for marching and maneuvering in the competition.
Jamestown’s Militaires, probably appropriately, was the first recipient of the award, in 1975, its initial year, and again in 1977. The Bismarck corps won it three times, Minot once, and Williston’s Cowboys topped the field by winning four times, the last three in succession during 1982-84.
The fourth major trophy made available to corps across the state was the Mike Busch Memorial Trophy for best use of percussion by a corps in the annual competition. Presented to the DMOC in 1981 by the widow and family of longtime Williston Cowboys Legion drum and bugle corps drummer, Mike Busch, a 30-year member of the corps at the time of death, the trophy was awarded for just four years, 1981-84, when competition ended.
The Governaires of Bismarck received the award each of the first three years until it was, appropriately, won by the Cowboys in 1984.
Conventions, Musical Units Funding Program Unparalleled
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the North Dakota American Legion was growing and only a few cities could continue to provide facilities to host a department convention. Expenses, such as sharing half the expense of man-mileage for Legion-sponsored (by posts) senior musical organizations with the department, paying expenses for State Band participation, plus other costs of operating a convention grew to staggering budgets that began to stifle enthusiasm on the part of the posts in these cities to host the annual event.
At the time and prior thereto, the department had no funds to assist Legion-sponsored units financially in attending national conventions, had observed the State Band scrounge for funds for a quarter century to survive, was facing growing burdens in meeting costs of performing other essential services connected with the department convention, and saw cumulative costs rising in sending department delegates to the annual national convention at, usually, distant and often coastal locations, plus other lesser related areas of support.
So a solution was sought and a resolution was passed at the 1953 department convention at Minot recommending that there was need for additional revenue for the purpose of financing musical organizations and department conventions, and that a seven-man committee be appointed by the incoming department commander and the department executive committee (DEC) to further study the matter and make concrete recommendations to the 1954 convention.
Such a committee, designated the special activities committee, was appointed and consisted of Truman C. Wold, chairman, Watford City; P. T. Milloy, Wahpeton; William H. Johnson, Minot; Glen W. Rott, Fargo; Earl F. Boyd, Bismarck; H. G. Ruemmele, Grand Forks; and Perry Goss, Jamestown.
The committee studied the problems at considerable length and made recommendations to the 1954 convention at Grand Forks on the basis of conservative longtime membership estimate of 24,000 in the department, that an increase of 50 cents per capita in dues be made to increase department revenue by $12,000 to fund the following program:
Continuation of the State Legion Band in the suggested amount of $2,500 per year; financing of future department conventions at an estimated $2,500 per year; man-mileage funding of post musical units and color guards taking part in department conventions to the tune of $3,000 per year; assistance to musical organizations representing the department at national conventions in the amount of $2,500 per year; and increased delegate expenses for traveling to coastal national convention sites estimated at $1,500 a year.
A suitable resolution asking for a constitutional amendment to accomplish the proposed increase was presented to the 1954 convention and was duly passed. The DEC, in cooperation with the department musical organizations committee (DMOC), and working with statewide musical units, developed these provisions into an outstanding program believed not closely paralleled anywhere in the nation. The fund was named the Legion conventions and musical organizations fund and is popularly referred to as the LC&MOF.
For the first year, only man-mileage expenses were paid to the units attending the department convention, with the remainder of the 1955 receipts accumulated to provide a protective cushion to guarantee finances for sending one post Legion-sponsored senior musical unit to the national convention each year, such funds payable on condition that the unit concerned meet requirements established by the DMOC with the various units and that the unit attend the convention.
Initial man-mileage needs were estimated at $3,000 per year (at a time when two post bands were taking part in conventions in addition to the various drum corps) and the man-mile fee was set at 3 cents. The amount was raised over the years to 4 cents in 1969, 5 cents in 1970, 7 cents in 1974, 10 cents in 1981 and to 12 cents in 1983, the latter three hikes limited to a maximum of 50 persons in a unit.
From the initial $2,500 per year for the official unit attending the national convention, the amount ranged from $2,500 to $3,300 for six years from 1956-1961, then was set at $3,000. The official unit fee was raised over the years to 1987, when it was hiked to $5,000 for over 1,500 miles round trip, dropping to $4,750 for 1,000 to 1,499 miles and $4,500 for under 1,000 miles.
Special allowances were made in 1973 and 1981 for corps traveling to Honolulu, requiring a seven-night housing stay.
State Band funding was started at $2,500 per year and continued there through several increases to $5,500 at present, of which $3,500 of the annual allocation is applied for national convention expenses and the remaining $2,000 is disbursed for department convention expenses. Department convention and increased delegate expenses to the national convention started at $2,500 and $1,500 respectively and in 1960-61 the added delegate funding was increased to $2,500.
Thanks to a larger annual enrollment in state Legion membership than initially projected, the availability of additional income enabled the department executive committee to grant improvements in financial support in all phases of the conventions and musical organizations program.
Numerous other program administrative expenses were funded over the years, including meetings of the DMOC at winter conferences and department conventions, plus other DMOC expenses at the height of drum corps involvement and continuing into the present format of the Field Show featuring those musical units present and any other groups desiring to take part by displaying their abilities.
Department Special Activities Committee Chair
Truman C. Wold, Watford City …. 1953-54 (To investigate the costs of conducting conventions and to reorganize department handling of conventions, musical units and State Band, resulting in a 50 cents per capita raise in dues at the 1954 department convention at Grand Forks.)
North Dakota State American Legion Band
At the age of 70, the North Dakota State American Legion Band, named by World War I American Expeditionary Forces Commander John J. “Black Jack” Pershing the “Liveliest Band in the World,” is still going strong with an esprit de corps many find hard to believe. In fact, some of the liveliest members of the 40-plus member organization are in their early to mid-70s, and the last WW I charter member retired only about seven years ago. Rudy Hoefs of Hankinson was present at the organization of the group in 1924 when it attended the St. Paul national convention of the Legion, wearing their WW I Army uniforms and sleeping in tents in the snow in November.
The original band stemmed primarily from the former l 64th Infantry Band (1st ND National Guard) that served on the Mexican Border in 1916 and in Europe in WW I and reorganized after returning home. Appearing at every department convention since 1925, with the exception of the WW II years when conventions were much curtailed functions, the band also has appeared at 30 national conventions and was prominent in the election of three national Legion commanders from North Dakota.
Under statewide veterans organizations sponsorship, the band participated in the 1982 dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. The group placed second in 1962 Las Vegas and third in 1932 Portland national Legion senior band competition. Additionally, the band was judged national champion 40 and 8 band three times – at Detroit in 1931, Portland in 1932 and the Twin Cities in 1959 (the last year the Legion and 40 and 8 met jointly.) It missed first place by one-tenth of a percentage point, placing second at Chicago in 1933, and also was runner-up at seven other 40 and 8 meets – Philadelphia in 1926, San Antonio in 1928, Louisville in 1929, St. Louis in J 935 and 1953, in Washington, DC, in 1954 and Chicago in 1958.
When North Dakota led the 1954 national Legion convention parade in Washington, DC, the State Band was in front playing rapid-fire marches and snappy tunes in keeping with its reputation. The unit always has worked hard to publicize North Dakota enroute to and ·from national conventions as well as during the time the unit is in the convention city. On the way to Philadelphia in 1926, the band stopped at Minneapolis and played for the Notre Dame-Minnesota football game.
While in the Liberty Bell City, it gave a three-hour concert before 5,000 people at the North Dakota exhibit during the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial. In Washington, DC, in 1954, the group surprised the members of a new Legion post at Colmar Manor, MD, by playing a concert for the grand opening of their new Legion home and furnishing music for an impromptu parking lot dance during the rest of the evening.
The band appeared at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 as the 40 and 8 national champion band; paraded in Savanna, IL, enroute to Detroit in 1931; paraded and had a radio broadcast at Butte, MT, on the way to Portland in 1932 and again played at a U-Minnesota football game on the way to St. Louis in 1935.
Trips were made to Omaha in 1925, Los Angeles in 1956, with the band blowing residents of Martinez, CA, out of their beds at the crack of dawn after the train was delayed in that community in the early morning hours enroute home from LA. The group traveled to Portland again in ’65, and Washington, DC, in ’66, Houston in ’71, Honolulu in ’73, Seattle in ’76 and Denver in ’77 in support of candidate Vi Moltzen of New Salem when she was elected national president of the Auxiliary.
Additional national convention trips include New Orleans in 1978 and 1985, Boston in 1980, Chicago in 1982, Cincinnati in 1986, Pittsburgh in 1993 and Minneapolis in 1994. At every national convention, also true at department meets, the band plays numerous times at the Legion headquarters hotel and at other locations to rank, always, as one of the busiest “ballyhooing” units present.
The band furnished excellent music on occasions honoring six prominent Legionnaires… in 1941 for the homecoming of newly-elected National Commander Lynn U. Stambaugh of Fargo; at the 1951 inauguration of Thomas E. Whelan of St. Thomas as US ambassador to Nicaragua; the 1957 inauguration of John E. Davis, then past department commander from McClusky, as governor of North Dakota; for Ken Fitch Appreciation Day during the 1963 state legislative assembly when the longtime band manager’s colleagues in the House of Representatives presented a plaque terming him “Dean of Legislators of North Dakota by Unanimous Consent of the Members of the House,” at a January 1965 state legislative session in honor of longtime Department Adjutant Jack Williams; at the 1966 election and installation of former Gov. Davis as national American Legion commander in Washington, DC, and in 1988 at the election and installation of North Dakota Supreme Court Justice and past Department Commander H. F. “Sparky” Gierke of Watford City and Bismarck, as national commander in Louisville, KY.
To speed organization of the band in 1924, first officers were all chosen from Lisbon and were: William M. Jones (to be longtime department historian), president; A. Galbreath, vice-president; Albert (Abbie) Andrews, director; and Walter G. Curtis, secretary-treasurer, which duties subsequently have been assumed by the manager. Curtis, who became department commander in 1925-26, served as manager until 1927, when the late K. A. “Ken” Fitch of Fargo assumed those duties until his death in September 1963. Under Fitch’s management, the band became the first musical unit in the US known to use a girl majorette. Fitch attended all appearances made by the band for the 37 years he was manager. He was succeeded by William C. Sweeney, Jr., of Fargo, who served from 1964 to September 1975. For the next 14 years, Orlyen Stensgard, also of Fargo, was manager. He stepped aside in favor of Bruce Holtan of Fargo, a native of Washburn and son of one of the longtime post-WW II band members, Orville Holtan, following the band’s participation in the 1989 national convention at Baltimore, MD.
Trumpeter Abbie Andrews directed the crew during 1924-28. Lois Wright of Valley City took the baton for one year, 1928, when he was succeeded by Arnold Forbes, then of Wahpeton, who held the post for 18 years. Charter Band Member Edmond W. “Shave” Green of Hankinson then was director from 1947 until his death in late 1975.
Following the loss of Green, Donald Piehl, then of Wahpeton and a member of the trumpet section of the band, was unanimously elected director by his fellow bandsmen in 1976.
Entertaining majorettes have been in the band complement most of the time since 1927, when Miss Harriet Phillips of Fargo joined the group. The Misses Audrey Houglum and Kitty Paige (Miss North Dakota in the late ’40s), both of Fargo; Marilyn Torgerson, Park River; Marlowe Olson, Hillsboro; Patricia McGinley (Miss North Dakota 1959) and Judy Saunders, both of Minot, were among the group. More recent majorettes included sisters Rhonda and Renae Anderson of Minot in the early 1970s, when they shared the duties at different conventions, and sisters Jolene, Janet and Janice Jensen of Bismarck in recent years to 1979. Since then, the band has worked without a majorette.
The unit is most unique in that, except on very special occasions, the members meet only for combination rehearsals and appearances on the average of twice a year.
The popular band is made up of Legion musicians from all areas of the state, from extreme east to the far west and from near the Canadian border to near South Dakota. With a reduction in demand for marching and concertizing at both department and national levels in recent years, the band has broadened its scope and now fields an outstanding dance band that is in great demand at conventions and winter conferences. A segment of the group comprises an “Old Time Band” as well for those who prefer waltzes, polkas and such music.
One of the major highlights for the North Dakota American Band was attendance at the World War II Memorial Dedication in 2004. We were the only American Legion band in the country to participate by doing the parade, a dance and a major concert besides all the outside ballyhooing we do. Bringing women into the band is also one of the bigger changes for the band in the last 25 years.
The fact that we march in parades once every two to three years makes winning the National Convention Marching Band Competition in both Reno in 2007 and Charlotte in 2014 pretty cool.
This is a band from all corners of North Dakota, but people will often comment on the fact our director (Glen Wolf) comes back from Commerce City, CO, one of the percussion guys (David Hennessy — his dad was a past Department Commander) comes back from Plano, TX, and that I (Bruce Holtan) now come back from Aiken, SC. It shows a commitment our members continue to have to the band and the American Legion.
Glen Wolf became only our sixth musical director in 2004 after our former director, Don Piehl, passed away following 27 years with the baton.
The North Dakota American Legion State Band represented North Dakota at dedication ceremonies for the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, on the last weekend of May 2004. During its four-day stay in the nation’s capital, the band played Friday, May 28, following the National Candle Light Walk on the Mall, and the dance band performed Saturday night for a National American Legion Association VIP reception at the Mayflower Hotel.
On Sunday, May 30, the marching band presented a concert as part of the “Tribute to Generation: National World War II Reunion” on the Canteen Stage in the center of the National Mall. The band was invited to play by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Its final performance was Monday morning, when the band took part in the annual Memorial Day Parade.
The State Band had received a letter of commendation from North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, along with the designation as the Governor’s Honorary Band at the dedication ceremonies.
The trip to Washington, DC, was slightly different than the one the band took in 1995 to help dedicate the Korean War Memorial, probably due to the events of September 11, 2001. Security was noticeably higher, but that didn’t seem to change the attitudes of the spectators or the spirit and patriotism of the weekend’s events.
Our first performance Friday following the Candle Light Walk on the Mall was lightly attended as we played a brief concert in the rain. Those who braved the elements greatly appreciated the music before the drenched band members returned to the bus to dry off a bit.
Saturday’s dance at the Mayflower Hotel was well received. The event was a VIP reception hosted by the National American Legion. We were invited to play by that organization, which was a nice feather in our caps.
Sunday’s concert was on the Canteen Stage, under a tent in the center of the Mall. During our performance, Washington, DC, Mayor Anthony A. Williams stepped up on stage and welcomed the visitors and the band to the city. We were very glad he selected our performance to make his announcements.
During that show, five active band members who are WWII veterans were introduced to the audience. They were Don Loder, Cooperstown; Ed Koshney, Cando; Kermit Rosendahl, Fairmount; Elmer Buckhaus, Hankinson, and Leo Ehli, Lidgerwood.
The full band generally gets together to play only once a year, so we spent a couple of hours practicing our marching technique over the weekend. The rehearsal seemed to help as I believe we made a pretty good showing of ourselves at Monday’s Memorial Day parade.
Of course, being the next parade entry behind Nancy Sinatra probably lessened interest in our group, but we still received plenty of cheers and applause from the spectators who lined the streets. We estimate the parade itself was about two miles long. It had more than 50 marching bands including two from North Dakota: our Legion band and the marching band from Dickinson State University.
Our thanks to the Legionnaires and Auxiliary members who helped raise the money needed to send 44 band members on this four-day excursion. We had North Dakota in mind at each performance and were proud to represent our fine state in Washington, DC, during this historic event.
North Dakota Legion State Band Performs at World War II Memorial Dedicatory Events
By Lynn Schroeder, Member The Cavalier Chronicle
The trip to Washington, DC, was slightly different than the one the band took in 1995 to help dedicate the Korean War Memorial, probably due to the events of September 11, 2001. Security was noticeably higher, but that didn’t seem to change the attitudes of the spectators or the spirit and patriotism of the weekend’s events.
Our first performance Friday following the Candle Light Walk on the Mall was lightly attended as we played a brief concert in the rain. Those who braved the elements greatly appreciated the music before the drenched band returned to the bus to dry off a bit.
Saturday’s dance at the Mayflower Hotel was well received. The event was a V.I.P. reception hosted by the National American Legion. We were invited to play by that organization, which was a nice feather in our caps.
Sunday’s concert was on the Canteen Stage, under a tent in the center of the Mall. During our performance, Washington, DC, Mayor Anthony A. Williams stepped up on stage and welcomed the visitors and the band to the city. We were very glad he selected our performance to make his announcements.
During that show, five active band members, who are WWII veterans, were introduced to the audience. They include Don Loder, Cooperstown; Ed Koshney, Cando; Kermit Rosendahl, Fairmount; Elmer Buckhaus, Hankinson, and Leo Ehli, Lidgerwood.
The full band generally gets together to play only once a year, so we spent a couple of hours practicing our marching technique over the weekend. The rehearsal seemed to help as I believe we made a pretty good showing of ourselves at Monday’s Memorial Day parade.
Of course, being the next parade entry behind Nancy Sinatra probably lessened interest in our group, but we still received plenty of cheers and applause from the spectators who lined the streets. I’d estimate the parade itself was about two miles long. It had more than 50 marching bands including two from North Dakota, our band and the marching band from Dickinson State University.
My thanks to Governor Hoeven for naming us North Dakota’s Honorary Band for this trip and to the Legionnaires and Auxiliary members who helped raise the money needed to send 44 band members on this four-day excursion. We had North Dakota in mind at each and every performance and were proud to represent our fine state in Washington, DC, during this historic event.
State Legion Band Shines in National Performances
Of course, being the next parade entry behind Nancy Sinatra probably lessened interest in our group, but we still received plenty of cheers and applause from the spectators who lined the streets. We estimate the parade itself was about two miles long. It had more than 50 marching bands including two from North Dakota: our Legion band and the marching band from Dickinson State University.
Our thanks to the Legionnaires and Auxiliary members who helped raise the money needed to send 44 band members on this four-day excursion. We had North Dakota in mind at each performance and were proud to represent our fine state in Washington, DC, during this historic event. Bruce Holtan and Lynn Schroeder are members of the American Legion State Band.
Fargo Legion Band
According to a late 1950s write-up, one of few found in either post or department files, “The Post Band of Gilbert C. Grafton Post 2, Fargo, North Dakota was originally organized in May of 1942.”
The band was very active from inception, within the limits imposed by wartime, and until the hundreds of veterans began to return home following WW II when the ranks swelled to where, in one concert picture, more than 32 musicians appeared with then director Robert M. Thornton.
Over the years, the band appeared in many civic functions, at department conventions, at every Memorial Day and Veterans Day service, and in many activities in surrounding communities in both North Dakota and Minnesota.
Bill Tritt, then of Fargo, was an early director of the group. He was ultimately succeeded by Thornton, a member of the Fargo school system -music faculty. Thornton took over in 1951 and held sway for a number of years into the late 1950s and early 1960s, including participation in two national Legion conventions – in Chicago in 1958 and Minneapolis in 1959 – before interest began to wane and lack of a director brought the band to a low point of about eight dedicated members who tried to keep things going.
Don Dargan was an early manager of the band. The only one mentioned prior to the mid- l 960s rebuilding of the unit was longtime snare drummer Leroy Bassett. He and new recruit, Harry Moore, began a largescale recruiting campaign that resulted, ultimately, in a band of some 40 members.
The renewed band then enjoyed the managerships of longtime Legionnaire James Brodigan, who was succeeded by Robert Lechner for another lengthy term. Subsequently, Gordon Stalcup and Don Rapske acted as co-managers for a number of years. More recently Ron Anderson, working with longtime band president Marley Swanson, has handled the managerial duties.
Among talented musicians, many of whom came from the band ranks, who have handled director’s duties over the years since the mid-1960s are Gary Roseth, who later moved to the Twin Cities area; Fargo’s Agassiz School band head David F. Wilson; longtime Minnesota school band director Paul A. Hoivik and, most recently, Bernard McKigney, former band director in the Pelican Rapids, MN, system, who continues in the post as of today. McKigney is the fulltime administrator-musician with the 188th Army Band of the North Dakota National Guard.
While not participating in department conventions except when in Fargo, the band, until funding restrictions began to curtail activity in recent years, attended winter conferences across the state, where it performed in concerts preceding the annual conference banquet, as well as prior to various general sessions and, particularly, the concluding worship service, adding greatly to these events. The group also took opportunity on such trips to concertize at many local nursing homes and other such facilities in host cities.
The band has continued to take their music to many area nursing homes and veterans clubs throughout the area. These visits included Hillsboro in North Dakota and Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls in Minnesota, in addition to answering occasional requests from similar facilities in other communities in the two states. One of the band’s permanent commitments is to travel to the North Dakota Veterans Home at Lisbon for a concert in proximity of Memorial Day every year.
Still active with the band, several since the early 1950s, are trombonists John Grosz, attorney, and Ed Gudmundson, retired Moorhead pharmacist; longtime drummer John Smaby, and truly faithful alto saxophonist Milo “Mike” Backstrand, who commutes, sometimes as many as three times a week, from his lake home near Audubon in western Minnesota.
Grafton’s American Legion Post 41 Band, a group that was “Very active in the community and a popular attraction,” for many years was actually organized about 1948, following the return home of many WW II veteran musicians, but really stemmed from several bands that dated back to the early 1920s.
The group existed under several different names over the years. Charter Member Sam Lykken said, “It started about 1922 for a vaudeville show and then played for many years as clowns. After quite a few years, the original clown band disbanded, mostly due to World War II.”
Known variously as the Grafton Legion Clown Band and the Grafton Legion Band, the unit ultimately became the Grafton Parade Band. It achieved national acclaim during the 1940s and 1950s, during which era it gained prominence when the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association made public an announcement that the Grafton musical organization had been selected as the outstanding band in the 1949 Rose Parade.
The band was again a guest of the Rose Parade in 1951, as well as being a guest of St. Paul’s Great Northern Ice Carnival in 1949, and a guest band of the Portland, OR, Festival of Roses in 1950, the 1953 Orange Bowl in Miami, FL, and the 1955 Mardi Gras in New Orleans, LA.
Early-day members included : Bill Mcintyre, Ingebretson, Sam Lykken, McDonald, R. P. Luchau, A. Salter, E. Salter, H. D. Aylesworth , E. Welch and H. Salter.
In order to pay proper tribute to such a nationally acclaimed group, a few local musicians who had been unable to make the trip to the ’49 Rose Parade, pooled their resources and began what was known as the Second Grafton Legion Clown Band. The unit was organized to be the ‘homecoming band,’ which played at the Chamber of Commerce banquet given in honor of the Grafton Parade Band.
Members of the second band, at its inception, were Sam Lykken, Don Hegranes, Bill Field, Helmer Field, Henry Newgard, Elvon Anderson and Frederick (Fritz) Finger. (Hegranes, Newgard and Finger were later to become members of Fargo’s Post No. 2 Band.)
An article, author unknown, that apparently dates from the 1970s, reported Les Anderson as director of what was then a 20-member band. By that time, the article stated, the unit had drifted away from being a clown band, and “We are more the concert type now.” The musicians were practicing once a week, “as usual,” in Field’s Dry Cleaner’s basement.
The band, at that time, played a variety of scores, or scores of variety. “We play lots of march music,” said Anderson. “It’s actually quite varied – Jazz-Dixieland, incidental, modern, but no rock ‘n roll.”
And not only did the Grafton Legion Band play a broad variety of music, it also consisted of a broad spectrum of people – three Andersons, two Fields, two LaBerges and two Moes, who are related. There are others too, all different ages and backgrounds. The unique thing about the organization is that many of the musicians had been playing together for more than 50 years and were then said to be “still very capable and talented musicians. They can play a mean horn and are an inspiration to many younger students. Many musicians from neighboring towns play with the band on occasion as well.”
And Anderson was reported as saying, “We play for weddings and wakes. In fact, we have even played for a lot of politicians who didn’t show.” The article went on to say, “Indeed, there has been a lot of clowning around in this area, and all of it for quite some time. The names have changed; however, the game is still to have fun.
“And the Grafton Legion Band is doing just that. They are doing what they enjoy; they are enjoying what they do. Meantime, the group is just as popular as its predecessor back in 1922—maybe even more so.” And another brief history of the band reports that when originally organized they performed as a Clown Band, dressing in clown as well as other unusual uniforms.
They continued that style of performance for many years, entertaining at many community events. It was approximately 1965 when the group, most of whom were veterans, approached Post 41 to be their sponsor, and at that time they changed their format from a clown band to a concert style band. They performed at many Legion and civic functions through the years as well as at many state Legion conventions, where they took part in both 40 and 8 and American Legion parades.
According to the latter report, the band became inactive about 1985 when it became difficult to replace musicians who had either moved from the community or passed away; however, it did enjoy several resurrections for special events, the last of which was recorded as their playing for the 75th Anniversary Banquet of Post 41 on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1994.
Victory Post #92 Legion Band at Northwood
“North Dakota Legion Bulletin” was headlined “Victory Post Starts Band,” and went on to state that organization of an American Legion band by Victory Post 92 at Northwood had been one of the primary activities of the post during the preceding several months.
The article stated that the band first appeared during the Summer Festival Days in Northwood in July of that year and had, more recently, entertained residents of the Northwood area with several outstanding concerts.
The group was initially directed by Ralph Mutchler, a well-known and highly talented musician and arranger, who remained at the helm for several years until leaving the area.
At the time of the report, the band was planning to take part in activities at the 1958 department convention at Grand Forks, after a most successful fundraising campaign to outfit the unit with uniforms and other needed equipment and to cover expected expenses.
In a later picture of the band, Northwood Superintendent of Schools Robert E. Sheppard had taken over as director and was one of a nattily uniformed crew of 28 that included Ingvald Maurseth, Chester Halvorson, Orren Lee, Ingvald Wasness, Torfin Draxton, James Mutchler, Oscar Kepler, Drum Majorette Myrna Johnson, Helmer Grotte, Orph H. Halverson, Helmer Maurseth, Noren Meland, William Henry, L. Allen Engen, Ben Wasness, Dave Maristuen, Donald Ruud, Vernon Tangen, Joe J. Bilden, Ted Skurdell, Torfin J. Grotte, Jerome T. Grotte, Henry A. Forberg, Arthur G. Bilden, Palmer J. Sougstad (who later became a department commander) and Manager Louis R. Thompson.
The script for North Dakota’s participation in the 1959 national convention in Minneapolis listed the Northwood Post Band as the “newest Legion-sponsored unit in the state” and reported the band having been the center of attraction during Northwood ‘s 75th Jubilee the preceding June.
The Post 92 Band took an active and colorful part in Northwood area activities for several years. However, ever-growing expenses and loss of musicians took their toll, and the group appears to have dissolved sometime in the 1960s.
Legion Visits Hawaii for ’73 and ’81 National Conventions
In the first 75 years of The American Legion, two of the three national conventions held overseas were staged in Hawaii.
The other was the Legion’s ninth annual convention Sept. 19-22, 1927, when 20,000 Americans journeyed to Paris, France, to commemorate the 10th anniversary year of the April 6, 1917, US entry into WW I.
Two chartered aircraft transported 422 Nodak Legion, Auxiliary, musical unit personnel and accompanying family members to the Legion’s initial national assembly at Honolulu in ’73.
With three of a total of 20 musical units in the entire national convention parade, North Dakota’s State Legion Band, Fargo Gauchos and Bismarck Governaires drum and bugle corps made one of the most tuneful and flashy appearances of any Legion department represented in the parade – the largest ever seen in Hawaii – along Honolulu ‘s Kalakaua Avenue.
Approximately 200, including the Williston Cowboys Drum and Bugle Corps, attended the ’81 national meet. AAA North Dakota Travel Agency efficiently handled arrangements for both trips. The air traffic controllers strike caused many problems for that agency in scheduling flights for the ’81 trip.
Attendees on both visits to the Pacific paradise greatly enjoyed swimming and sunbathing on Waikiki Beach and many opportunities for sightseeing. Among them were touring the island of Oahu, visiting the National Memorial Cemetery (Punchbowl) of the Pacific and viewing the Arizona Memorial, military installations at Pearl Harbor and many scenic areas.
Change of Conditions Caused Some Posts to Cancel Charter
For various reasons some formerly chartered American Legion posts had their charters cancelled after changing conditions adversely affected their operations. As World War I veterans returned home, they began organizing local American Legion posts in communities of all sizes statewide.
Commencing in the late spring of 1919, charters had been issued to 200 new posts by year-end 1920 … a fantastic growth rate! Some of those towns had a very small population base amid a high density of local Legion posts in most areas of the state. Thus, as population began gradually shifting away from the very small towns, a few posts began to disband. The drought years of the ’30s, coupled with the depression, provoked an exodus of people from North Dakota and led to more posts folding. Old-timers remarked that some small towns virtually disappeared during that difficult period.
Then later in the ’30s, as dictators in Europe grew more powerful and aggressive, more citizens left the state to obtain employment in defense work at manufacturing centers. With the US promptly declaring war on the axis powers after Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, sneak air attack on Pearl Harbor, more people departed to help meet national manpower needs at war industry and supply plants to provide weapons and goods for our armed forces.
While a few posts closed operations during that period, some others with thin ranks hung on … thanks to dedicated Legionnaires willing to serve several years in the various offices, awaiting WW II vets to return home and replace them in carrying out the mission of The American Legion.
After the war ended victoriously, the large influx of new eligible veterans enabled some towns to organize new Legion posts and also a kw other communities to reactivate their former local post. In the next four decades veterans who served during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and subsequent US military operations in Lebanon and Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf became eligible for American Legion membership. They have been the source of new members to supply manpower to propel the work of the Legion as well as to offset accelerating death losses of older members in our ranks from the first two world wars.
Still, the rural areas continue to face a declining population, placing a stress upon our very small posts. At such time as any of these posts face the problem of maintaining a minimum requirement of 15 members, department officers counsel and encourage each such post to consider merging with a neighboring post and transferring members to that post or to another post of the member’s choice to participate and support Legion activities.
The home sites of four posts were washed out by the flooding of the Garrison Reservoir in the 1950s. Charters of posts at Sanish and Van Hook were cancelled in 1953 when those two towns relocated into the new community of New Town. Legionnaires from Sanish and Van Hook combined to promptly organize a post at New Town under new name and number of The Beck Sherven Post 290.
The other two posts, both currently active, were located at Elbowoods and Elbowoods Independence District (I.D.) in the basin. Post 253 at Elbowoods disbanded in 1955 but reorganized in the fall of 1957 under same post number at the White Shield District location west of Garrison by the town site of Emmet. Post 271 was relocated from Elbowoods (I.D.) to Mandaree.
Then there was the unique situation when North Dakota became the “foster” department of the Legion post located at Westby, MT, for 19 years. Westby is located just across the Montana border from the northwestern corner of North Dakota.
In the spring of 1923 the members of Westby Post #71, for the reported reason that most of them resided rurally on the North Dakota side of Westby, made the request to transfer the post to the Department of North Dakota. After National Headquarters ruled that such a transfer would require the mutual consent of both departments, they assented.
In 1942 the post asked permission to transfer back to Montana, and the North Dakota Department reciprocated. While attached to North Dakota, the Westby post was assigned #229.
Over the 75-ycar history of our organization, the charters of other former American Legion posts in these communities have been cancelled: Adrian, Alamo, Ambrose, Amidon, Antler, Argusville, Barrie, Bathgate, Brinsmade, Burnstad, Calvin, Clifford, Clyde, Colfax, Coteau, Des Lacs, Dickey, Dogden, Douglas, Dunn Center, Fillmore, Fort Totten, Fullerton, Golden Valley, Guelph, Hamilton, Hannah, Hansboro, Heaton, Hensel, Inkster, Kathryn, Kintyre, Leith, Litchville, Loma, Luverne, Marion, Marmarth, Martin, McLeod, Mercer, Mylo, Nortonville, Oriska, Pingree, Raleigh, Regan, Robinson, Rock Lake, Ross, Sentinel Butte (which was the headquarters of a tri-city post also composed of Golva and Medora veterans), Sheyenne, Sutton, Timmer, Tower City, Tuttle, Twin Buttes (north of Halliday), Underwood, Venturia, Warwick, Westhope, White Earth, Zahl and Zap.
During 1958 and 1959 the department set is record high of 240 active posts.
N.D. Top State in Legion Post Density
“For some I 0 years, national headquarters membership specialists C. W. Geile and Lloyd Wignall have been insisting that if we are going to have the kind of Legion that can best represent veterans (a substantially bigger Legion), no one factor can produce it more surely than the formation of many more posts,” wrote Editor Robert B. Pitkin in the March 1974 issue of The American Legion Magazine.
This is certainly true if we look at the extremes, he wrote. North Dakota has taken the pains to form 42.77 posts for every 10,000 eligible veterans in the state. She leads in posts as she leads in achievement of potential enrolled. And the first four states in achievement fall in the same order in furnishing posts for their potentials.
When listing every single state in order of achievement of potential, there is a close relationship between achievement of potential and the ratio of posts offered to the eligible. This is the only measurable factor which shows an absolutely consistent relationship between what a state Legion organization does (organizing ample posts) and its membership achievement. The more posts in relation to eligible, the more members. The rule is so firm that individual variations from state to state become invisible when states are grouped by tens.
There are other growth factors that aren’t measurable. The main ones are (a) strong local activity in positive Legion programs and (b) strong and able district organizations. In general, however, these go hand in hand with the creation of ample posts, when humming programs and strong districts arc statewide, instead of local and spotty. As a rule, the livelier states form the most posts, Pitkin stated.
US 281 American Legion Memorial Highway
Envisioning eventual marking of the road from northern Manitoba to Mexico City, scores of Legionnaires, civic leaders and public officials – including several from North Dakota – culminated years of legwork to have US Highway 281 dedicated as The American Legion Memorial Highway on March 30, 1960.
The ceremony in Great Bend, KS, was in a Legion post town that is about midpoint on the 2,000-mile route stretching from Brownsville, TX, to the International Peace Gardens spanning the US-Canadian border a few miles north of Dunseith, ND.
The North Dakota end of an historic caravan – one of two that traveled between the international borders – started at Hansboro, ND; where Canadian representatives from nearby Cartwright, MAN, joined in dedicating the “dream road” project that wouldn’t directly involve their town and area.
Cars carrying seven North Dakota Legionnaires and around 60 more enthusiasts from the five other states through which US 281 passes came together from the north and south in Great Bend in Central Kansas. As also happened in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, many supporters drove briefly with the Highway Patrol-escorted caravans before returning home. Historical note: Improvements to the highway were marked by recent completion of bituminous surfaces.
These North Dakota Legionnaires made the 3 l/2-day journey that included brief, day-time stops for dedication speeches in front of Legion posts in Hansboro, Cando, Minnewaukan, New Rockford, Carrington, Jamestown, Edgeley and Ellendale: Carroll Torgerson, department commander of Cooperstown; Arthur E. Ulness, 40 and 8 grand correspondent of Fargo; Johan Rossing, New Rockford Post 30 adjutant; Bruce Hoel, Cooperstown Post 143 adjutant; Jens Ashland, Cooperstown post chaplain, and Earnest N. Schmit, department headquarters office manager, Fargo.
Legion National Vice-Commander Willard Brandt of Linton, ND, christened the highway with a bottle of soda water broken against a standard holding both a US 281 shield and a blue, white and gold Legion emblem. Local and area boosters joined the memorial highway sponsors in anticipation that publicity and other promotions would trigger additional road improvements plus more traffic into the towns.
Logistics involving timetables for arrival, departure and overnight quartering of the caravaners through each state was equally as challenging as getting to that point in 1960. Highway enthusiasts began in the early 1930s to promote US 281 as the Canada-to-Gulf Coast Highway. Delegations from Kansas and Nebraska met with North Dakota representatives at the International Peace Gardens but the response was small and the idea lay dormant until 1947, when the Nebraska US 281 Highway Association was reactivated.
Ideas were abundant for improving and extending the route – it still had some unpaved sections – and became priority goals for community, Legion and even high-level Mexican and Canadian officials. Along with business and tourism benefits, the memorial designation was seen as a perpetual reminder to travelers of the sacrifices made by all military veterans to preserve the freedom to pass freely between states and with only minor limitations when crossing the borders of the three sovereign nations.
State support groups and the National US 281 Highway Association were formed. In addition, an international group was organized in 1949 to build interest for tourist travel between Mexico City and Flin Flon in northern Manitoba, and even Alaska. With public mobility increasing spectacularly, the International 281 Highway Association boasted about having more than 1,600 active members in 1969.
This was fueled in the mid-1950s by Legion posts and departments along the highway adopting resolutions seeking to give 281 a special name: The American Legion Memorial Highway. Besides good intentions, they needed state legislative and executive approval for a special name designation to run along with the established route number.
The North Dakota resolution moved from Legion posts to the 1954 department convention in Grand Forks to the 1955 Legislature in Bismarck, where passage on Jan. 4 was quick.
With these actions, F. E. “Bud” Murphy, a member of Post 14 at Jamestown, emerged as the originator of an idea to have individual Legion posts participate in promoting the highway along its entire length. His plan was to have each of those posts buy two identical signs to be posted near the entrance and exit points to their town. The proposal was agreed upon, and Murphy went to work.
He personally delivered many of the signs that were manufactured in a low-bid contract in DeSmet, SD, from a design created by Jamestown Legionnaire and commercial artist Don Enge His signs were 5 feet wide and 2 feet high and shaped like a Legionnaire cap. “American Legion Memorial Highway” was printed in gold on each sign, which was attached to standards and placed below US 281 markers.
The signs have gone through several changes locally and over the transcontinental route through the years, but they continue the memorial highway concept. One proposal would have read “American-Canadian Legion Memorial Highway,” but the National Legion judge advocate ruled there was no such entity, since The American Legion and the Royal Canadian Legion were distinctly separate organizations in the two countries.
Enge, who also designed the cover art for this history, was the designer of a miniature cap pin that about 1,500 Legionnaires have purchased to wear on their Legion caps. The pin hears the memorial language: “Dedicated to all deceased veterans of all Murphy served the state and international groups for many years. He was president of the North Dakota 281 Highway Association 1971-93, president of the International US Highway 281 Association 1978-93, and currently is vice-president of the international group.
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
North Dakota Normandy Veterans Honored
A roundish conglomerate rock found in Barnes County and given an engraving sits now in a memorial garden in Caen, France, in honor of North Dakotans who participated in the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.
The 1 1/2-foot diameter, 180-pound remnant of glacial action, was dedicated in Fargo in 1988 after being moved from the farm of Lyle McClean of Spiritwood, who landed at Utah Beach. Then-state Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Milton W. Kane, who had spotted the field boulder while deer hunting, received financial help from the state Veterans Coordinating Council after learning about the Normandy Museum project. (Total costs of the local project turned out to be minimal.)
Each state and the 13 nations involved in the largest wartime invasion in history were invited to send symbolic boulders to commemorate what is considered the turning point against Germany in World War II.
Kane hauled the rock in his station wagon to Fargo, where Dakota Monument Co. smoothed some rough edges before the rock was engraved and the great seal of North Dakota was secured with an epoxy. Kane said the monument firm charged only $35 for its preparation of the boulder.
The North Dakota Air National Guard, with significant behind-the-scenes help from then Adjutant General A. P. Macdonald of Fargo, flew the rock to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC. American Airlines carried the rock to France at no cost.
Veterans Dedicate Bell Tower at Peace Garden
Capping U.S. Bicentennial activities in North Dakota was the July 10, 1976, dedication of the Veterans Memorial Bell Tower in the International Peace Garden north of Dunseith. The tall structure was erected with funds solicited by state veterans organization and their auxiliaries along with private donations collected over more than two years. The tower houses the Lady Arma Sifton bells gifted to the Peace Garden by the Sifton family of Brandon, MAN, several members of whom were present and took part in the ceremonies.
A large number of American Legion, Catholic War Veterans, North Dakota Collegiate Veterans, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Veterans of World War I, USA, their affiliate organizations, along with members of the Royal Canadian Legion and auxiliary, participated in the dedication under the direction of Q. R. “Kink” Schulte of Stanley. Schulte was state chairman of the Legion’s Spirit of ’76 Committee and also treasurer of the bell tower committee made up of participating veterans groups.
Initially, the bells manufactured in England were dedicated March 27, 1932, in First Church United, a house of worship in Brandon strongly supported by Lady Sifton. Subsequently, the bells became the property of Central United Church of Brandon, which merged in 1969 with First Church United. Sifton family members then donated the bells to the International Peace Garden Association with a request that they be a memorial to military service veterans of both Canada and the United States. The Carillon bells, a tuned set of 14, weigh 20 tons. They have an octave range and had an estimated value at that time of $150,000.
A dedicatory plaque near the tower base states that it is “A Memorial to Canadian and United States Veterans of All Wars Dedicated to Peace.” The original dedicatory plaque is inside the tower base, above the keyboard where the mechanism for playing the chimes is located. Automatic equipment allows the bells to be rung at predetermined times.
Planning by the Legion for the bell tower project started two years ahead of the bicentennial. It began after the Peace Garden Board of Directors requested state veterans groups to provide the money to rescue the Sifton family’s gift from rust and dust for a new place of prominence.
Within the Legion, the project was launched during the 1974 convention in Fargo immediately after adoption of an authorizing resolution. The significance of that action was loud and clear with the presentation by Spirit of ’76 Committee Vice Chairman Ralph Shults of a $191 check representing $1 for each member in his Johnson-Melary Post #115 at Hettinger.
That kicked off more donations coming from other Legion posts and veterans groups across the state participating in the Veterans Bell Tower Memorial Fund.
It was hoped that the fund drive for the targeted $30,000 construction cost could be reached by completion of the tower and its dedication. However, costs ballooned due to inflation. Then major money sources dwindled because Attorney General Allen Olson curtailed questionable charitable gaming practices. The result was dollar goals had to be increased along with more innovative ways to make up the shortage, such as auctioning patriotic colored loaves of bread at the ’76 Winter Conference banquet at Jamestown.
Longtime members of the fundraising committee were L. J. Buzzell, Minot, representing the DAV; Dale Boatright, Fargo, VFW; Floyd E. Henderson, Fargo, Veterans of World War I; Harold (Andy) Anderson, Minot, (committee president 1974-75); Jerel Felker, Fargo (1975-76 president); and Gregg Blikre, Minot (1976-77 president). Shorter-term members of the committee were from the Collegiate Veterans and the Catholic War Veterans, who joined the project after the funding campaign was launched.
When State Adjutant General C. Emerson Murry delivered the July 10, 1976, dedicatory address (despite a faulty PA system), the construction cost had risen to $48,500, with $3,995 still unpaid, which prompted yet another funding appeal.
The needed money was collected and the memorial tower with its generous gift of bells from Brandon, MAN, became a lasting memorial to military veterans from the two friendly nations.
We Honor Our North Dakota Medal of Honor Recipients
Cuba-Joseph E. Carter
No Picture Available
On board the U.S.S. Marblehead during the operation of cutting the cable leading from Cienfuegos, Cuba, 11 May 1898. Facing the heavy fire of the enemy, Carter set an example of extraordinary bravery and coolness throughout this action.
SLETTELAND, THOMAS-Phillipine Insurrection
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Division: 1st North Dakota Infantry
Born: Bergen Norway
Departed: 1915, Buried at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan, North Dakota
Entered Service At: Grafton, N. Dak.
G.O. Number: Date of Issue: 03/11/1902
Accredited To Grafton, Walsh County, North Dakota
Date: Near Paete, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 12 April 1899
Citation Presentation Date: March 11, 1902
Single-handed and alone defended his dead and wounded comrades against a greatly superior force of the enemy.
Anders, Frank L-Fargo–Phillipine Insurrection
Rank: Corporal (Highest rank: Major)
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company B
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: November 10, 1875, Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory
Departed: Yes, January 20, 1966
Buried: Hill Side Cemetery, Ripon, Wisconsin
Entered Service At: Fargo, N. Dak.
Date of Issue: 03/03/1906
Accredited To: Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota
Place / Date: At San Miguel de Mayumo, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 13 May 1899
With 11 other scouts, without waiting for the supporting battalion to aid them or to get into a position to do so, charged over a distance of about 150 yards and completely routed about 300 of the enemy who were in line and in a position that could only be carried by a frontal attack.
Downs, Willis H.-Jamestown–Phillipine Insurrection
No Picture Available
Rank: Private (Highest Rank: Wagoneer)
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company H
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: June 1, 1870, Mount Carmel, Conn.
Departed: Yes, September 15, 1929
Buried: Highland Home Cemetery, Jamestown, North Dakota
Entered Service At: Jamestown, N. Dak.
Date of Issue: 02/16/1906
Accredited To: Jamestown, Stutsman County, North Dakota
Place / Date: At San Miguel de Mayumo, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 13 May 1899
With 11 other scouts, without waiting for the supporting battalion to aid them or to get into a position to do so, charged over a distance of about 150 yards and completely routed about 300 of the enemy who were in line and in a position that could only be carried by a frontal attack.
Jensen, Gotfred-Devils Lake-Phillipine Insurrection
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company D
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: November 20, 1872, Ryde, Denmark
Departed: Yes, December 26, 1945, Soap Lake, Washington
Buried: Washington Soldiers Home Cemetery, Retsil, Washington
Entered Service At: Devils Lake, N. Dak.
Date of Issue: 06/06/1906
Accredited To: Devils Lake, Ramsey County, North Dakota
Place / Date: At San Miguel de Mayumo, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 13 May 1899
With 11 other scouts, without waiting for the supporting battalion to aid them or to get into a position to do so, charged over a distance of about 150 yards and completely routed about 300 of the enemy, who were in line and in a position that could only be carried by a frontal attack.
Location of Medal Of Honor: North Dakota State Historical Society, Bismarck, North Dakota
Boehler, Otto-Wahpeton–Phillipine Insurrection
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company I
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: October 15, 1873, Germany
Departed: Yes, October 15, 1910
Buried: St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Breckenridge, Minnesota
Entered Service At: Wahpeton, N. Dak.
Date of Issue: 05/17/1906
Place / Date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899
Accredited To: Wahpeton, Richland County, North Dakota
With 21 other scouts charged across a burning bridge, under heavy fire, and completely routed 600 of the enemy who were entrenched in a strongly fortified position.
Davis, Charles P.-Valley City-Phillipine Insurrection
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company G
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: Long Prairie, Todd County, Minnesota
Departed: Yes, May 28, 1943
Buried: Hillside Cemetery, Valley City, North Dakota
Entered Service At: Valley City, North Dakota
Date of Issue: 04/28/1906
Place / Date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899
Date of Issue: 06/06/1906
Place / Date: At San Miguel de Mayumo, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 13 May 1899
With 11 other scouts, without waiting for the supporting battalion to aid them or to get into a position to do so, charged over a distance of about 150 yards and completely routed about 300 of the enemy, who were in line and in a position that could only be carried by a frontal attack.
With 21 other scouts charged across a burning bridge, under heavy fire, and completely routed 600 of the enemy who were entrenched in a strongly fortified position.
Kinne, John B.-Fargo-Phillipine Insurrection
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company B
Division: 1st North Dakota Infantry
Born: October 3, 1977, Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin
Departed: Yes, June 19, 1943
Buried: Fern Hill Cemetery, Aberdeen, Washington
Entered Service At: Fargo, N. Dak.
Date of Issue: 05/17/1906
Accredited To: Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota
Place / Date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1889
With 21 other scouts charged across a burning bridge, under heavy fire, and completely routed 600 of the enemy who were entrenched in a strongly fortified position.
Longfellow, Richard M.-Mandan-Phillipine Insurrection
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company A
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: June 24, 1867, Logan County, Ill.
Departed: Yes, May 17, 1951, Lewiston, Idaho
Buried: Norman Hill Cemetery, Lewiston, Idaho
Entered Service At: Mandan, N. Dak.
Date of Issue:
Accredited To: Mandan, Morton County, North Dakota
Place / Date: Near San Isidro Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899
Ross, Frank F.-Langdon-Phillipine Insurrection
No Picture Available
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company H
Division: 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry
Born: December 2, 1967, Avon, Ill.
Departed: Yes, January 29, 1936, San Bernandino, California
Buried: Bellevue Cemetery, Ontario, California
Entered Service At: Langdon, N. Dak.
Date of Issue: 06/06/1906
Accredited To: Langdon, Cavalier County, North Dakota
Place / Date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands 16 May 1899
Bradley, Willis Winter-WW I
Organization: U.S. Navy
Company: U.S.S. Pittsburgh
Born: 28 June 1884, Ransomville, Niagara County N.Y.
Departed: Yes, August 27, 1954
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California
Entered Service At:
Date of Issue:
Accredited To: North Dakota
Presentation Place / Date: May 1, 1928, The White House by President Calvin Coolidge
For extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving on the U.S.S. Pittsburgh, at the time of an accidental explosion of ammunition on that vessel. On 23 July 1917, some saluting cartridge cases were being reloaded in the after casemate: through an accident an explosion occurred. Comdr. Bradley (then Lieutenant), who was about to enter the casemate, was blown back by the explosion and rendered momentarily unconscious, but while still dazed, crawled into the casemate to extinguish burning materials in dangerous proximity to a considerable amount of powder, thus preventing further explosions.
Wold, Nels-Minnewaukan- WW I
No Picture Available
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company I
Division: 138th Infantry, 35th Division
Born: December 24, 1895, Winger, Minn.
Departed: Yes, September 26, 1918, France
Buried: Elim Cemetery, Winger, Minnesota
Entered Service At: Minnewaukan, N. Dak.
G.O. Number: 16
Date of Issue: 12/31/1919, Awarded Posthumously
Accredited To: Minnewaukan, Benson County, North Dakota
Place / Date: Near Cheppy, France, 26 September 1918
He rendered most gallant service in aiding the advance of his company, which had been held up by machinegun nests, advancing, with 1 other soldier, and silencing the guns, bringing with him, upon his return, 11 prisoners. Later the same day he jumped from a trench and rescued a comrade who was about to be shot by a German officer, killing the officer during the exploit. His actions were entirely voluntary, and it was while attempting to rush a 5th machinegun nest that he was killed. The advance of his company was mainly due to his great courage and devotion to duty.
Smith, Fred E.-Bartlett-WW I
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: 308th Infantry
Division: 77th Division
Born: March 29, 1973, Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois
Departed: Yes, September 29, 1918, France
Buried: Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, Romagne Meuse, France
Entered Service At: Bartlett, N. Dak.
G.O. Number: 49
Date of Issue: 12/31/1922
Accredited To: Bartlett, Ramsey County, North Dakota
Place / Date: Near Binarville, France, 29 September 1918
When communication from the forward regimental post of command to the battalion leading the advance had been interrupted temporarily by the infiltration of small parties of the enemy armed with machineguns, Lt. Col. Smith personally led a party of 2 other officers and 10 soldiers, and went forward to reestablish runner posts and carry ammunition to the front line. The guide became confused and the party strayed to the left flank beyond the outposts of supporting troops, suddenly coming under fire from a group of enemy machineguns only 50 yards away. Shouting to the other members of his party to take cover this officer, in disregard of his danger, drew his pistol and opened fire on the German guncrew. About this time he fell, severely wounded in the side, but regaining his footing, he continued to fire on the enemy until most of the men in his party were out of danger. Refusing first-aid treatment he then made his way in plain view of the enemy to a handgrenade dump and returned under continued heavy machinegun fire for the purpose of making another attack on the enemy emplacements. As he was attempting to ascertain the exact location of the nearest nest, he again fell, mortally wounded.
Gurke, Henry-Neche-WW II
Rank: Private First Class
Organization: U.S. Marine Corps
Company: M, 3d Marine Raider Battalion, 2d Marines
Division: 1st Marine Amphibious Corps
Born: 6 November 1922, Neche, Pembina County, North Dakota
Departed: Yes, November 9, 1943, Bouganville, Solomon Islands
Buried: Neche Union Cemetery, Neche, North Dakota
Entered Service At:
Date of Issue:
Accredited To: North Dakota
Place / Date: Washington, D.C. The Navy Department-Presented to his parents
For extraordinary heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 3d Marine Raider Battalion during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area on 9 November 1943. While his platoon was engaged in the defense of a vital road block near Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island. Pfc. Gurke, in company with another Marine, was delivering a fierce stream of fire against the main vanguard of the Japanese. Concluding from the increasing ferocity of grenade barrages that the enemy was determined to annihilate their small, 2-man foxhole, he resorted to a bold and desperate measure for holding out despite the torrential hail of shells. When a Japanese grenade dropped squarely into the foxhole, Pfc. Gurke, mindful that his companion manned an automatic weapon of superior fire power and therefore could provide more effective resistance, thrust him roughly aside and flung his own body over the missile to smother the explosion. With unswerving devotion to duty and superb valor, Pfc. Gurke sacrificed himself in order that his comrade might live to carry on the fight. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
Bloch, Orville E.
Bloch, Orville E.-Streeter-WW II
Rank: First Lieutenant
Organization: U.S. Army
Company: Company E
Division: 338th Infantry, 85th Infantry Division
Born: Big Falls, Wis.
Departed: Yes (05/28/1983)
Entered Service At: Streeter, N. Dak.
G.O. Number: 9
Date of Issue: 02/10/1945
Place / Date: Near Firenzuola, Italy, 22 September 1944
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Bloch undertook the task of wiping out 5 enemy machinegun nests that had held up the advance in that particular sector for 1 day. Gathering 3 volunteers from his platoon, the patrol snaked their way to a big rock, behind which a group of 3 buildings and 5 machinegun nests were located. Leaving the 3 men behind the rock, he attacked the first machinegun nest alone charging into furious automatic fire, kicking over the machinegun, and capturing the machinegun crew of 5. Pulling the pin from a grenade, he held it ready in his hand and dashed into the face of withering automatic fire toward this second enemy machinegun nest located at the corner of an adjacent building 15 yards distant. When within 20 feet of the machinegun he hurled the grenade, wounding the machine gunner, the other 2 members of the crew fleeing into a door of the house. Calling one of his volunteer group to accompany him, they advanced to the opposite end of the house, there contacting a machinegun crew of 5 running toward this house. 1st Lt Bloch and his men opened fire on the enemy crew, forcing them to abandon this machinegun and ammunition and flee into the same house. Without a moment’s hesitation, 1st Lt. Bloch, unassisted, rushed through the door into a hail of small-arms fire, firing his carbine from the hip, and captured the 7 occupants, wounding 3 of them. 1st Lt. Bloch with his men then proceeded to a third house where they discovered an abandoned enemy machinegun and detected another enemy machinegun nest at the next corner of the building. The crew of 6 spotted 1st Lt. Bloch the instant he saw them. Without a moment’s hesitation he dashed toward them. The enemy fired pistols wildly in his direction and vanished through a door of the house, 1st Lt. Bloch following them through the door, firing his carbine from the hip, wounding 2 of the enemy and capturing 6. Altogether 1st Lt. Bloch had single-handedly captured 19 prisoners, wounding 6 of them and eliminating a total of 5 enemy machinegun nests. His gallant and heroic actions saved his company many casualties and permitted them to continue the attack with new inspiration and vigor.
A flag-drapped casket carried Colonel Orville E. Bloch to his final resting place in the military section at the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery, Seattle, Washington. “The Little Giant” died May 29, 1983, at age 68 of a heart attack at Chelan, Washington. A man small in stature whose conspicuous gallantry against German machine guns in Italy during World War II and who won the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, was laid to rest as Taps was sounded, slowly, sadly, the way it always sounds in a cemetery.
Born in Big Falls, WI, February 10, 1915, Orville moved to Streeter with his parents at age five. Despite his size, he starred on the basketball and football teams. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the old CCC, during the Depression and then worked his way through college. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture in 1942 from the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo. But the diploma meant little then, since the war in Europe was bleak for the Allies and the United States still was reeling from the embarrassing and costly slap at Pearl Harbor.
“Wiener”, “The Little Giant”, Orv Bloch and Colonel Bloch — he was called all of them over the years. This son of German immigrants was turned down by the Army, Navy and Marines for an officer’s commission because he was too short: 5-foot-4. On completion of basic training, he benefitted by the Army looking
away from his records showing his size. He was admitted to officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry October 22, 1942.
Shipped to the European Theater, he served with the 85th Infantry Division. He was a rifle platoon and company commander, a first lieutenant, during the division’s march from Naples, Italy, to the Po River Valley.
As 1st Lt. Orville Bloch, Company E, 338th Infantry, 85th Infantry Division, he was a one-man army, when on September 22, 1944, his platoon found its house-to-house advance being held up by five enemy machine gun nests near Firenzuola, Italy. With three volunteers, Bloch then led and directed such furious forays that the German soldiers were baffled, off guard and totally confused as to which direction the patrol was attacking from next. While bullets whined around him, Bloch kicked over machine guns, fired a carbine from the hip, threw hand grenades and chased thoroughly frightened enemies into nearby buildings, kicking down doors and forcing them to come out and surrender.
He was presented the highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, on a battlefield near Firenzuola. The Medal of Honor was instituted for the Navy in 1861 and for the Army in 1862, with the other services soon following with their medal. The design for each service is similar – a metal star suspended from a blue ribbon decorated with 13 white stars.
The Medal of Honor statement says, in part: “Altogether, Lt. Bloch had singlehandedly captured 19 prisoners, wounding six of them and eliminating a total of five enemy machine gun nests. His gallant and heroic actions saved his company many casualties and permitted them to continue the attack with new inspiration and vigor.”
There was much more to Orville Bloch than one day of soldiering. Bloch received numerous other wartime awards and citations. Among them were the Italian Military Cross of Valor and the Free Polish Silver Cross. When the fighting ended, Bloch stayed in the Army. He became a “regular” in July 1946 and reached the rank of colonel before retiring in 1970.
His career included posts at the Far East Command headquarters in Tokyo (1948-51); Third Army headquarters, Atlanta (1952-53); Carribean Command, Panama Canal Zone (1953-56); Joint U.S. Military Group, Bangkok, Thailand (1959-61), and Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Washington, DC (1961-63).
In his home state, Bloch was the 1965 recipient of the NDSU Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award. He was also honored during the 1980 department convention of North Dakota American Legion, of which he was a lifelong member through Streeter’s Post 265, along with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Medal of Honor Society of America.
Everyone expected Bloch to become a brigadier general. But a physical examination revealed a serious heart ailment. He was retired from the service. He became involved in real estate, land development and apple production in Washington state during retirement. He divided his time in the Seattle and Chelan areas. Bloch’s last visit to his old hometown of Streeter was a month before his death. Hearing that the school’s finances could use any kind of help, he returned to Streeter bringing 57 cases of Washington apples. Loading the apples from his orchard into the back of his Ford pickup, with 300,000 miles on it, he transported the fruit from Manson, Washington, to Streeter.
Orville donated the apples, the local Fairway Grocery Store donated the space, and the Booster Club sold them and received the money. The proceeds – $425 – were used toward the purchase of new uniforms for the Streeter School Bobcat basketball players, most of who never heard of him. In 1932, Orville and several other students formed the first basketball team at the Streeter High School, so he had more than a passing interest in the uniforms for the team.
Survivors are his wife, the former Beverly Asplund of Wilton, North Dakota. She and Orville met in Streeter, where she was teaching school. Beverly Bloch is a member of the Streeter Legion Auxiliary and resides in Chelan, WA. They have one daughter and three sons.
Pendleton, Jack J.,
- RANK: STAFF SERGEANT
- CONFLICT/ERA: WORLD WAR II
COMPANY I, 120TH INFANTRY,
30TH INFANTRY DIVISION
- MILITARY SERVICE BRANCH: U.S. ARMY
- MEDAL OF HONOR ACTION DATE: OCTOBER 12, 1944
- MEDAL OF HONOR ACTION PLACE: BARDENBERG, GERMANY
- ACCREDITED TO: YAKIMA, YAKIMA COUNTY, WASHINGTON
- AWARDED POSTHUMOUSLY: YES
- BORN: MARCH 31, 1918, SENTINEL BUTTE, GOLDEN VALLEY COUNTY, ND, UNITED STATES
- DIED: OCTOBER 12, 1944, GERMANY
- BURIED: TAHOMA CEMETERY, YAKIMA, WA, UNITED STATES
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 12 October 1944. When Company I was advancing on the town of Bardenberg, Germany, they reached a point approximately two-thirds of the distance through the town when they were pinned down by fire from a nest of enemy machineguns. This enemy strong point was protected by a long machinegun strategically placed at an intersection and firing down a street which offered little or no cover or concealment for the advancing troops. The elimination of this protecting machinegun was imperative in order that the stronger position it protected could be neutralized. After repeated and unsuccessful attempts had been made to knock out this position, S/Sgt. Pendleton volunteered to lead his squad in an attempt to neutralize this strongpoint. S/Sgt. Pendleton started his squad slowly forward, crawling about 10 yards in front of his men in the advance toward the enemy gun. After advancing approximately 130 yards under the withering fire, S/Sgt. Pendleton was seriously wounded in the leg by a burst from the gun he was assaulting. Disregarding his grievous wound, he ordered his men to remain where they were, and with a supply of hand grenades he slowly and painfully worked his way forward alone. With no hope of surviving the veritable hail of machinegun fire which he deliberately drew onto himself, he succeeded in advancing to within 10 yards of the enemy position when he was instantly killed by a burst from the enemy gun. By deliberately diverting the attention of the enemy machine gunners upon himself, a second squad was able to advance, undetected, and with the help of S/Sgt. Pendleton’s squad, neutralized the lone machinegun, while another platoon of his company advanced up the intersecting street and knocked out the machinegun nest which the first gun had been covering. S/Sgt. Pendleton’s sacrifice enabled the entire company to continue the advance and complete their mission at a critical phase of the action.
KOREAN CONFLICT – GALLANTRY AND INTREPIDITY – OCTOBER 20, 1951
Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble, United States Army. (Wahpeton, ND)
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Sangsan-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951. On that day, Master Sergeant Keeble was an acting platoon leader for the support platoon in Company G, 19th Infantry, in the attack on Hill 765, a steep and rugged position that was well defended by the enemy. Leading the support platoon, Master Sergeant Keeble saw that the attacking elements had become pinned down on the slope by heavy enemy fire from three well-fortified and strategically placed enemy positions. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Master Sergeant Keeble dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, Master Sergeant Keeble crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the heavy fire that the crew trained on him, Master Sergeant Keeble activated a grenade and threw it with great accuracy, successfully destroying the position. Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the enemy troops were now directing their firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a frantic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement, and skillfully neutralized the remaining enemy position. As his comrades moved forward to join him, Master Sergeant Keeble continued to direct accurate fire against nearby trenches, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Inspired by courage, Company G successfully moved forward and seized its important objective. The extraordinary courage, selfless service, and devotion to duty displayed that day by Master Sergeant Keeble was an inspiration to all around him and reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble | North Dakota Office of the Governor 1917 – 1982
Master Sergeant Woodrow “Woody” Wilson Keeble is one of the most highly decorated Soldiers in North Dakota history. A veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Keeble was presented with the Medal of Honor posthumously on March 3, 2008 at the White House. He is the first full-blooded Sioux Indian to receive the nation’s highest military honor. He was inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes on March 4, 2008.
Keeble was born on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Reservation in Waubay, S.D., and made his hometown in Wahpeton, N.D. He joined the North Dakota National Guard in 1942, and was a member of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 164th Infantry Regiment (Rifle).
His unit became the first U.S. Army unit to engage in offensive operations in WWII when they reinforced the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal. The 164th Infantry Regiment significantly contributed to decisive victory in the battle. Keeble received his first Bronze Star Medal, his first of four Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his actions at Guadalcanal.
Keeble reenlisted with the 164th Infantry Regiment at the beginning of the Korean War and later volunteered for a combat assignment with an active duty Army unit. He served with Company G, 19th Infantry of the 24th Infantry Division in Korea, where his actions would eventually earn him the nation’s highest military honor.
On October 20, 1951, when all of the officers of his company were killed or wounded, Keeble took charge of the support platoon attempting to complete the company’s mission of taking control of a steep, rocky and heavily fortified hill.
Although treated the day before for over eighty shrapnel wounds, Keeble returned to duty on the day his actions earned him the Medal of Honor. Armed with grenades and his rifle, Keeble successfully conducted multiple, single-handed assaults against three well-fortified enemy positions. These heroic actions saved the lives of his fellow soldiers and inspired his company to achieve its important objective.
Keeble’s famous comments exemplify his military service. “There were terrible moments that encompassed a lifetime, an endlessness when terror was so strong in me that I could feel idiocy replace reason. Yet I have never left my position, nor have I shirked hazardous duty. Fear did not make a coward out of me.”
At the presentation of the Medal of Honor, President George W. Bush remarked, “Woody Keeble’s act of heroism saved many American lives, and earned him a permanent place in his fellow soldiers’ hearts.” Presented: July 23, 2008 Portrait Painted By: Vern Skaug
Hoeven Presents Rough Rider Award to Keeble Posthumously
Woodrow Wilson Keeble has been given North Dakota’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, in posthumous recognition of his courageous leadership and selfless service in the U.S. Army. Governor John Hoeven unveiled a portrait of Keeble July 23, 2008, at the Dakota Magic Casino, Hankinson, ND. Pictured with Gov. Hoeven in the ceremony were Keeble’s stepson, Russell Hawkins, center, and great nephew, Kurt Bluedog. The portrait, painted by Vern Skaug of Bismarck, is now hung in the state Capitol.
Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Keeble of the Sisseton/Wahpeton Sioux Indian Tribe, one of North Dakota’s most decorated war veterans, was awarded the highest honor of the State of North Dakota posthumously by Gov. John Hoeven on July 23, 2008. The presentation of the Rough Rider Award was made at the Dakota Magic Casino, Hankinson, ND, with family and friends as well as state officials in attendance.
Governor Hoeven, responding to an outpouring of support from throughout the state, the veterans and especially Richland county where Keeble spent his entire adulthood and worked at the Indian School in Wahpeton, said: “Woody Keeble is a source of pride for the State of North Dakota, the Sisseton/Wahpeton Oyate Nation and the North Dakota National Guard.” “His courage, determination and willingness to risk his life for others in the face of incredible adversity embody the spirit of our veterans and our soldiers, who serve selflessly and with distinction from generation to generation.” Keeble is the 36th recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award established in 1961 by then Gov. William L. Guy.
Keeble’s famous comments exemplify his military service, Hoeven said: “There were terrible moments that encompassed a lifetime, endlessness when terror was so strong in me that I could feel idiocy replace reason. Yet I have never left my position, nor have I shirked hazardous duty. Fear did not make a coward out of me.”
Keeble was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in a ceremony at the White House on March 3, 2008. Governor Hoeven was in attendance at the ceremony and participated with remarks and a presentation of the North Dakota flag flown over the North Dakota Capitol building.
President Bush remarked at the ceremony, “Woody Keeble’s act of heroism saved many American lives and earned him a permanent place in his fellow soldiers’ hearts.”
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice, 3d Platoon, Troop D, distinguished himself at Khe Sanh. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and 3 fellow soldiers were occupying a bunker when a company of North Vietnamese sappers infiltrated the area. At the onset of the attack Sp4c. Fitzmaurice observed 3 explosive charges which had been thrown into the bunker by the enemy. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled 2 of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers. Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade. While in search of another weapon, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice encountered and overcame an enemy sapper in hand-to-hand combat. Having obtained another weapon, he returned to his original fighting position and inflicted additional casualties on the attacking enemy. Although seriously wounded, Sp4c. Fitzmaurice refused to be medically evacuated, preferring to remain at his post. Sp4c. Fitzmaurice’s extraordinary heroism in action at the risk of his life contributed significantly to the successful defense of the position and resulted in saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. These acts of heroism go above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit on Sp4c. Fitzmaurice and the U.S. Army.
Michael J. Fitzmaurice was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions with the Army’s 2nd Squadron of the 17th Cavalry at Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam, on March 23, 1971. Suffering shrapnel wounds throughout his body, he was blinded in his left eye and his eardrums were shattered while defending a bunker position that saved the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers. He was hospitalized for the next 13 months. Out of service for about two years, he was working in a meatpacking plant at Huron, SD, when Washington called to inform him that he was to receive the Medal of Honor. Fitzmaurice and his family were flown to Washington for the ceremony where President Richard Nixon presented him the medal on Oct. 15, 1973.
Fitzmaurice had been accredited to North Dakota by a fluke of fate in that his mother was visiting in Jamestown while pregnant, and he was born March 9, 1950, three months prematurely, after which the family returned immediately to their home at Doland, SD.
At a later date, the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee changed its lead criterion for Medal of Honor accreditation by states from place of birth to place of entry into service. Fitzmaurice’s Medal of Honor was subsequently credited to his state of residence, South Dakota, where he has lived most of his life.
In 1987, Fitzmaurice moved to Hartford, SD, a community close to Sioux Falls. At that time he obtained a position at the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center in the plumbing department and his wife, Patty, in the payroll department. He retired May 31, 2011.
On Oct. 3, 1998, Governor William J. Janklow and Major General Philip Killey dedicated the South Dakota Veterans Home at Hot Springs as the Michael J. Fitzmaurice Veterans Home in recognition of the Congressional Medal of Honor he was awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
Hagen, Loren D.
- ACCREDITED TO: FARGO, CASS COUNTY, NORTH DAKOTA
- AWARDED POSTHUMOUSLY: YES
- PRESENTATION DATE & DETAILS: AUGUST 8, 1974
BLAIR HOUSE, PRESENTED BY VICE PRES. GERALD R. FORD TO HIS FAMILY
- DIED: AUGUST 7, 1971, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
- BURIED: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY (MH) (28-1204), ARLINGTON, VA, UNITED STATES
Rank: First Lieutenant
Organization: U.S. Army
Division: Vietnam Training Advisory Group
Born: 25 February 1946, Fargo, N. Dak.
Entered Service At: Fargo, N. Dak.
Date of Issue:
Place / Date: Republic of Vietnam, 7 August 1971
1st Lt. Hagen distinguished himself in action while serving as the team leader of a small reconnaissance team operating deep within enemy-held territory. At approximately 0630 hours on the morning of 7 August 1971 the small team came under a fierce assault by a superior-sized enemy force using heavy small arms, automatic weapons, mortar, and rocket fire. 1st Lt. Hagen immediately began returning small-arms fire upon the attackers and successfully led this team in repelling the first enemy onslaught. He then quickly deployed his men into more strategic defense locations before the enemy struck again in an attempt to overrun and annihilate the beleaguered team’s members. 1st Lt. Hagen repeatedly exposed himself to- the enemy fire directed at him as he constantly moved about the team’s perimeter, directing fire, rallying the members, and resupplying the team with ammunition, while courageously returning small arms and hand grenade fire in a valorous attempt to repel the advancing enemy force. The courageous actions and expert leadership abilities of 1st Lt. Hagen were a great source of inspiration and instilled confidence in the team members. After observing an enemy rocket make a direct hit on and destroy 1 of the team’s bunkers, 1st Lt. Hagen moved toward the wrecked bunker in search for team members despite the fact that the enemy force now controlled the bunker area. With total disregard for his own personal safety, he crawled through the enemy fire while returning small-arms fire upon the enemy force. Undaunted by the enemy rockets and grenades impacting all around him, 1st Lt. Hagen desperately advanced upon the destroyed bunker until he was fatally wounded by enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. With complete disregard for his personal safety, 1st Lt. Hagen’s courageous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his own life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon him and the U.S. Army.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on 3 October 2009.
On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner.
Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers. Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter.
While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters. After receiving reports that seriously injured soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of the fallen comrades.
Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Post Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.
President Barack Obama placed the Medal of Honor around the neck of former Army Staff Sgt.
Clinton Romesha during a ceremony Feb. 11, 2013, in the East Room of the White House. Romesha is the fourth living service member to receive the medal for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. The former soldier earned the Medal of Honor for actions Oct. 3, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. On that morning, Combat Outpost, or COP, Keating, manned by only 53 Soldiers and situated at the bottom of a steep valley, came under attack by as many as 300 Taliban fighters.
Throughout history, the question has often been asked, why? Why do those in uniform take such extraordinary risks? And what compels them to such courage?” the president said. “You ask Clint and any of these Soldiers who are here today, and they’ll tell you. Yes, they fight for their country, and they fight for our freedom. Yes, they fight to come home to their families. But most of all, they fight for each other, to keep each other safe and to have each other’s backs.”
The president said that upon learning he would receive the Medal of Honor, Romesha displayed the brand of humbleness typical of many soldiers. “When I called Clint to tell him that he would receive this medal, he said he was honored, but he also said, ‘it wasn’t just me out there, it was a team effort,'” the president said. “And so today we also honor this American team, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Included among those who died in the fighting that day in Afghanistan were, Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, Sgt. Christopher Griffin, Sgt. Joshua Hardt, Sgt. Joshua Kirk, Spc. Stephan Mace, Staff Sgt. Vernon Martin, Sgt. Michael Scusa, and Pfc. Kevin Thomson. “Each of these patriots gave their lives looking out for each other,” Obama said. “In a battle that raged all day, that brand of selflessness was displayed again and again and again, Soldiers exposing themselves to enemy fire to pull a comrade to safety, tending to each other’s wounds, (and) performing ‘buddy transfusions,’ giving each other their own blood.”
The president said on that day, it wasn’t just Romesha who earned recognition for his actions, it was dozens of Soldiers. From that battle, Soldiers earned 37 Army Commendation Medals, 27 Purple Hearts, 18 Bronze Stars and nine Silver Stars, the president said. “These men were outnumbered, outgunned and almost overrun,” Obama said. “Looking back, one of them said, ‘I’m surprised any of us made it out.’ But they are here today. And I would ask these soldiers, this band of brothers, to stand and accept the gratitude of our entire nation. “God bless you, Clint Romesha, and all of your team,” the president said. “God bless all who serve. And God bless the United States of America.”
The North Dakota Department of the American Legion held its Winter Conference February 1-3, 2013, in Minot, N.D. — where Romesha and his family live — and during the conference banquet the Department presented Romesha an Honorary Life Membership to The American Legion for his distinguished service to the country. Romesha’s membership will be held with Post 26 in Minot.
North Dakota Department Commander Dave Rice, of Harwood, ND, was joined by American Legion National Vice-Commander Glenn Hickman, of Ohio, to present his membership card and a Legionnaire’s “Medal of Honor-Blue Cap” for his distinguished service. Minot Post No. 26 has welcomed Romesha into the organization and has extended the family any assistance needed to integrate them into the Minot community. The North Dakota Unit of the American Legion Auxiliary also provided his wife, Tammy, a lifetime membership.
Clinton, who grew up in Lake City, CA, and his wife Tamara (Tammy) live in Minot with their three children; Dessi, Gwen and Colin. Romesha works in the Bakken Oilfields in Northwestern North Dakota.
Legion posts at Beach, Gwinner, Harwood, Larimore, New Town, Pisek, Streeter, Velva, Wahpeton and Watford City enthusiastically assisted the Minot post in contributing toward the purchase of the life membership for Romesha.
North Dakota Medal of Honor Acre, Bell Tower Residing and Maintenance Fund Drives Joined
Less than a year following the completion of construction and dedication, July 10, 1976, of the Veterans Memorial Bell Tower in the International Peace Garden north of Dunseith, ND, retired U.S. Army Colonels La Von P. and Ruby Linn, husband and wife, of Alexandria, VA, donated $10,000 to fund development of the North Dakota Acre in the Medal of Honor Grove at the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, PA.
At nearly the same time, it began to become apparent that some type of funding would be necessary to cover maintenance costs for the tower in perpetuity. So action was begun to fund the tower maintenance and, at the same time, complete the Honor Grove project by building an obelisk of native stone, transporting and installing it on the North Dakota acre, and also replenish the $10,000 donated by the Cols. Linn in order that these funds might be applied to complete other state projects that were encountering trouble with funding.
Under the chairmanship of then immediate Past Department Commander John A. Schafer of Flasher, necessary funds were
ultimately raised in short order with the replenishment check presented the Cols. Linn during the 1978 American Legion department convention in Fargo.
Each state area has a seven-foot obelisk resembling the shape of the Washington monument, surrounded by a 25-foot square brick plaza with concrete curb and walkway. Appropriate trees and shrubs are planted to line approaches to each area and a state seal is mounted on one face of the obelisk and a donor plaque on the opposite face. The remaining two faces hold plaques listing recipients of the Medal of Honor accredited to the state. In addition to the obelisk recognition, each individual recipient was further memorialized by a stainless steel plaque placed alongside a living tree with his name, military organization and date and location listing his act of valor.
Between 200 and 300 persons, most with North Dakota ties, braved the elements on a day that started out heavily overcast and with a steady rain, to participate in and witness the actual dedication of the North Dakota Area. The event was held in humid sunshine after skies cleared at the last minute. Attending from North Dakota was a group including Gov. Arthur A. Link, Maj. Gen. C. Emerson Murry, representatives of the major state veterans organizations, and the 188th North Dakota Army National Guard Band and Chorus.
The area includes a monument and individual markers identifying 17 listed North Dakotans who received the Medal of Honor for exploits in various wars beginning with the Spanish-American War. The names of these 17 honorees are printed on the above program.
The actual monument that was unveiled at the dedication was a temporary fiberglass obelisk that was subsequently replaced by one specially built of North Dakota native field stone by Minot stonemason Kenneth J. Lundy. It was presented to the state by Col. LaVon Linn who, at that time, was immediate past national president of the National Sojourners organization, a group of Masons who are or have been members of the military services.
The sole surviving official North Dakota Medal of Honor recipient at the time of the dedication, Col. Orville E. Bloch, U.S. Army Retired, a native of Streeter, ND, was present and un veiled the individual marker bearing his name in one of the ceremony ‘s more emotional moments.
Gov. Link gave the dedicatory address, citing the heroism of Bloch and others, including then Corporal (later Major) Frank L. Anders, who won his medal for heroism in the Philippine Insurrection, and 1st Lt. Loren Hagen (Vietnam), both Fargoans.
The monument was accepted on behalf of North Dakota by Gen. Harold K. Johnson, U.S. Army Ret., a member of the board of directors and vice-chairman and former president of the National Council of Trustees of the Freedoms Foundation, a native of Bowesmont and Grafton, ND, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Among participating representatives of veterans organizations in attendance were immediate Past American Legion Department Commander John A. Schafe r of Flasher; Department Adjutant Vernon Useldinger and Assistant Department Adjutant Harry Moore, both of Fargo; James Rosendahl, Fargo, chairman of the Governor’s Administrative Committee on
Veterans Affairs ; Catholic War Veterans Department Commander Duane Evenson, Fargo ; Past Disabled American Veterans Department Commander Bernard A. Wagner, Sanborn ; Veterans of Foreign Wars Department Commander Phil Srur, Grand Forks, and Immediate Past World War I Veterans Department Commander, also National Junior Vice-Commander of that organization, Floyd E. Henderson, Fargo, most of whom took part in the dedicatory program.
As of March 1978, Chairman Schafer reported that the Veterans Memorial Fund drive received $1,257 of the announced combined goal of $8,500, including $6,000 toward the replenishment and $2,500 toward the Bell Tower Maintenance Fund that had not been kicked off until late February.
Contributions had been accelerated considerably by passage of legislation legalizing certain gaming activities for fundraising by private clubs and veterans organizations. By June of 1979, Chairman Schafer was able to report donations and earned interest of $11,862 that covered the Legion’s share of the obelisk memorial and its transportation and emplacement along with the replenishment fund, as well as nearly $5,600 toward the bell tower maintenance.
And, in March 1980, the chairman reported the completion of the combined project to reside the bell tower with permanent metal siding and establish a permanent, interest-bearing maintenance fund for both routine upkeep and long-range care of the memorial. He complimented the Leingang Steel Siding Construction Co. of Mandan for an outstanding job and thanked his associates, Past Department Commander Aldon O. Palmer, Fargo, of the VFW, and Bernard A. Wagner, Sanborn, of the DAV, as well as posts, chapters and Auxiliary units of all organizations for their assistance in completing the various drives and projects.
Support for the combined project totaled $22,021, of which $11,000 was for installation of top-grade steel metal siding on the bell tower, $10,750 was turned over to International Peace Garden, Inc., for investment to provide income for future maintenance of the bell tower, and $271 was remitted to Peace Garden officials to use for current maintenance.
Statewide American Legion affiliates contributed $14,749, North Dakota Veterans of Foreign Wars groups donated $7,022 and the North Dakota Disabled American Veterans gave $250.
On Dec. 31, 1994, the North Dakota Veterans Organizations trust account balance for the bell tower, held in trust by the International Peace Garden, Inc., was $23,597, with accumulated ’94 maintenance expenses of $631 due, for net account equity of $22,966.
The preceding phase of the fund drive to replenish the Freedoms Foundation the donation made by the Cols. Linn to develop the North Dakota Area of the Medal of Honor Grove and to construct and transport the native stone obelisk to Valley Forge had a net cost of $11,561, which was shared as follows by these vets groups in the state: The American Legion – $6,058, Veterans of Foreign Wars – $3,658, Disabled American Veterans – $ 1,200, World War I Veterans – $494, and Catholic War Veterans – $150.
Medal of Honor Grove Readied; Dedicated in 1977
Thanks to the strong financial assistance of the Cols. Linn, the North Dakota Medal of Honor acre was properly prepared in plenty of time for official dedication on Saturday, July 30, 1977, with a number of prominent present and former North Dakotans in attendance. Then Gov. Arthur A. Link had initially named then North Dakota Adjutant General C. Emerson Murry of Bismarck and Legion Department Adjutant Vernon C’seldinger of Fargo, then serving as president of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council, to head a committee to plan for the dedication.
The acre, part of a 52-acre Freedoms Foundation grounds, is part of a woodland area divided into state memorial areas for the 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The individual acres occupy roughly the same relative geographical positions as they do in the United States.
Medal of Honor Shrine Displayed at Fargo VA Hospital
Sixteen of North Dakota’s bravest men were honored during a ceremony at the Fargo VA Hospital Dec. 9, 1988. The occasion was the unveiling of a new memorial that pays tribute at that time to North Dakota’s 16 Medal of Honor recipients, the highest U.S. military award.
The state’s 17th Medal of Honor of Honor recipient—Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble–for valorous service during the Korean War was added to the shrine in 2012 when a picture of him and a description of his heroic assault on enemy positions were placed in the memorial.
The shrine was funded by veterans groups throughout the state. Chris Wingire, then associate center director of the VA Hospital, and Jim Puppe, member of the adjudication division staff at the Regional Office, were organizers of the fund drive that paid for the developed memorial.
The shrine encasement is located in the out-patient department (north entrance) of the VA Hospital.
Remembering Our Fallen from North Dakota who were killed in action in the Global War on Terrorism
“Remembering Our Fallen” is about creating displays to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Its legacy is that these men and women will not be forgotten; that their names will be remembered and spoken often to their families and friends. In doing so, it is hoped that the family members and friends will receive comfort and healing, and at the same time, remind others of the tremendous cost paid by some.
To view our fallen hero’s from North Dakota in other wars and conflicts go to: http://www.nd.gov/veterans/heroes
Colonels Linn Honored at ’78 Convention
A very special part of the 1978 American Legion department convention at Fargo came when then Department Commander Charles H. Schroeder called upon Department Adjutant Vernon Useldinger for comments and presentation of a check replenishing the original donation of $ 10,000 by the Colonels La Von and Ruby Linn to fund preparation of the North Dakota Area in the Medal of Honor Grove.
Useldinger reported that, in 1973, a request to fund development of the project had arrived when native North Dakotan Gen. Harold K. Johnson was president of the Freedoms Foundation. At about that time North Dakota veterans organizations were organizing a statewide drive to erect the Veterans Memorial Bell Tower as a Bicentennial project so, feeling we could not embark upon two large projects at one time, we were unable to respond favorably to the Medal of Honor Grove project even though it was regarded as meritorious.
The oil embargo hit, followed by escalating inflation. Despite the North Dakota gaming crackdown, funding was completed to erect and dedicate the Bell Tower on July 10, 1976.
By a 7-3 favorable vote at the September 1976 primary election, North Dakota voters amended the archaic constitutional prohibition on gambling. The voters authorized the 1977 legislative assembly to establish and legalize games of chance for charitable purposes by designated non-profit groups, which went into effect in April 1977.
About that same time, a letter arrived from the Medal of Honor Grove director reporting that the Cols. Linn had co-contributed $10,000 to develop the North Dakota Area.
We were overwhelmed by this most generous expression, and then Gov. Arthur A. Link appointed a committee of veterans organizations representatives to plan dedication ceremonies under the chairmanship of C. Emerson Murry, state adjutant general.
All North Dakota veterans organizations were invited to send representation to the dedication and all were able to be represented except the Collegiate Vets who, understandably, were at that stage in life with limited funding.
The dedication and associated activities were held July 30, 1977. The Medal of Honor Grove and the parent Freedoms Foundation are most impressive – a historical and scenic area recommended for all to visit.
With the new games of chance law, charitable-funding potential allowed the committee to seek funds to replenish the donation made by the Cols. Linn to the Freedoms Foundation so as to assist other states, like we were helped, to further develop the Medal of Honor Grove.
Also, the committee decided to have constructed an obelisk memorial of native stone. Stonemason Ken Lundy of Minot finished the obelisk and, following two weeks of mortar-drying time, it was about ready for shipment to Valley Forge.
“Project support has been wonderful by the posts and chapters, their Auxiliaries, members and friends,” said Useldinger, who then made the replenishment Lundy donation to Col. LaVon P. Linn, who accepted the $10,000 replenishment donation to the Freedoms Foundation for further development of the Medal of Honor Grove.
Floyd E. Henderson of Fargo, a prominent representative of North Dakota veterans for 60 years and national senior vice commander of the Veterans of World War I, USA, presented a plaque to the Cols. La Von and Ruby Linn. The plaque recognized the Linns for their “… exceptional dedication and generosity in developing the Medal of Honor Grove at Valley Forge and in heartfelt appreciation for the kindnesses extended to North Dakota.”
Col. LaVon Linn responded with their thanks and by giving a stirring historical presentation on Gen. George Washington.
North Dakota Helps Dedicate ”The Wall” in National Salute to Vietnam Veterans
The story of North Dakota’s participation in the National Salute to Vietnam Veterans and events surrounding the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, over the Veterans Day period of 1982, is a saga of cooperation between veterans organizations.
Forming the backbone of the state’s official delegation was the 40-man American Legion State Band. Among the members, all veterans of our major wars in this century, was World War I veteran Rudy Hoefs of Hankinson, ND. Hoefs was a member of the band from its organization in the summer of 1924, when it played at The American Legion’s national convention at St. Paul, MN, that year.
The nearly $21,000 required to transport and house the band during the four-day experience was contributed by posts of the Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and AmVets as well as by some individuals throughout the state. The drive for funds stemmed from action taken during the district Legion meeting held at Stanley in the Ninth District Sept. 28, 1982.
At the Stanley meeting, four of the 16 Legion posts in the district pledged $1,279 toward sending the band east. The district also requested the other 12 posts to contribute at least 30 cents per member toward the amount needed and urged the other nine districts across the state to follow suit.
From this relatively simple beginning, the drive mushroomed into a joint sponsorship by a number of Legion and VFW posts plus help from Am Vets, the 40 and 8 and several individuals to raise the needed funds in the 44 days available from start to band departure on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1982.
Raising the needed funds was aided by the assistance of both then North Dakota Governor Allen Olson and the office of Attorney General Robert Wefald, who worked through American Legion Western Region Department Vice-Commander H. F. “Sparky” Gierke of Watford City, who was named official North Dakota representative to the Salute by Gov. Olson.
Retired Army Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam, and entertainer Chris Noel, who helped ease their isolation 10,000 miles from home, were among the guests at a party The American Legion gave in Washington, DC, Nov. 10, following a gala Entertainers Salute to Vietnam Veterans featuring Wayne Newton.
Two nights later, veterans and their friends were the guests of honor as the Legion flung open the doors of the Capitol Hilton’s Presidential Ballroom and disc jockey “Wolfman Jack” played music of the Vietnam era. The party was an epic event of warmth and “good vibes.” At one point the dancing stopped so everyone could join hands and sing “God Bless America.”
These – plus a lunchtime wine and cheese reception on Veterans Day for the families of POW/MIAs – were the social highlights of the Legion’s participation in the National Salute Nov. 10-14.
Thousands of Legionnaires from across the country came individually or in small groups to be part of the historic events scheduled around Veterans Day, which were characterized in news reports as the real end of America’s longest war and a psychological bridge across the generation gap for the veterans movement.
Legion posts in the departments of Maryland and Virginia provided free lodging for some Legionnaires – and non-members – who couldn’t afford Washington hotel rates. Some distant departments and posts sponsored delegations: Jefferson-Steinke Post 18 at Hope sponsored Vietnam veteran Legionnaire Dave Washburn; Peterson-Olson Post 13 at Finley sent Vietnam veteran Dennis Lindstrom, and Kenmare’s Vet’s Club, of which Heidenberg-Peterson Legion Post 64 is a part, paid expenses for Legionnaire and Gold Star Father Don Nore and Gold Star Mother Doris Jacobson, both of Kenmare. Scranton’s Harry W. Lindberg Post 151 and its Auxiliary unit assisted with the expenses of Past Western Region Vice-Commander Dennis Hansey and his wife Bertha, Gold Star parents of that community. A number of others went at their own expense.
The national American Legion brought in one Vietnam veteran Legionnaire from each state to coordinate the participation of veterans from his or her part of the country. The North Dakota coordinator was Department Americanism committee chairman Garland Crook of Rhame. He preceded the main North Dakota delegation by several days. He reported that he worked his tail off in serving as additional security at Veterans Day observances at Arlington National Cemetery and for other functions throughout the five-day period of his involvement, including the giant parade prior to the dedication ceremony.
Other North Dakota delegation members and participants in events, in addition to the band, included American Legion Department Commander Milton W. Kane of Valley City and blinded Vietnam veteran Dean Pederson, also of Valley City; Past North Dakota VFW Department Commander Orville Gullickson and his VFW member son, Jerrel, of Taylor; VFW Department Service Officer Charles Barstad of Fargo; Vietnam veterans Tom and Michele Rainsberry of Grand Forks, who were sponsored by Grand Forks Legion Post 6 of which Tom was then commander; Eighth District Legion Commander Norm an Erdman of the Reeder post and Sixth District Commander Arnold Berg of Berthold.
This group was joined for the parade by Past Legion Department Chaplain Rev. Magnus Lutness, formerly of Bismarck, and then of the Washington area; Past Fourth District Commander Ed Doherty of New Rockford, then working in the capitol; Cavalier Legion member John Boik, then of Virginia, and former North Dakotan Barry Speare, an employee of the Veterans Administration at Jamaica Plains, NY, VA Facility.
The State Band and several delegation members spent Friday, Nov. 12, taking a tour of Washington, including a visit to the Capitol and other historic spots that included concerts at most of the headquarters hotels for the event and a final appearance at the Capitol Hilton.
On Saturday, after two days of pleasant, at times almost too warm, temperatures, the day dawned grey, overcast, cold and with a blustery wind roaring in over the Potomac that chilled parade participants as they huddled on the Mall awaiting their turn to move out onto Constitution Avenue.
During the form-up period on the Mall, the North Dakota contingent was enhanced by one of the most colorful units in the parade – a delegation of Legionnaires and veterans, including 10 Vietnam veterans, from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in south central North Dakota and north central South Dakota, carrying a colorful banner.
Making up the Standing Rock Sioux delegations were A. J. Agard; Clayton Brownotter, Sr., a gold star father and Legionnaire; Herman E. Cameron, Jr.; Rev. and Mrs. Innocent Goodhouse, gold star parents and he a Legionnaire; Legionnaire Pat Kelly and Vietnam veterans Robert Buffalo Boy, Norman Conica, George Fourth, Percy Goodeagle, Orlando Goodwood, Thomas Iron, Ron Marshall, Rich McLaughlin, Elliot Rhoades, Virgil Running Bear and Duane Vermillion. This group received constant ovations along the line of march and, according to Albert Grass Legion Post 173 Adjutant Herman Cameron, Jr., were additionally feted at a Veterans Day luncheon given by the National Congress of American Indians and a Saturday dinner hosted by the Washington law firm of Marvin Sonosky that handles tribal legal matters in the Capitol.
At the conclusion of their participation in the parade, the North Dakota contingent moved to the memorial area only to discover the area was freshly sodded and had been well wet down over preceding days, plus rained on all the preceding night. It more closely resembled a swamp than a place to play concert music. However, after concerts by several other participating bands, the North Dakota musicians, with cold water soaking into their shoes, performed to cheers and applause from a large crowd gathered for the dedication.
On Thursday and Friday, Nov. 11 and 12, unit registrations were held for those who served in Vietnam. Major veterans organizations also held open house. Of the Legion-hosted party, The Washington Post said “Wolfman Jack, the well-known, gravel-voiced disc jockey of the 1950s and 1960s, was there along with a handful of Congressional Medal of Honor winners, one of whom had a metal hook where his left arm had been. The disc jockey and the award winners grabbed the mike between songs and shouted to the vets that they were heroes, that this was their week at last, and they responded with shouts and cheers… “
Saturday, Nov. 13, was the climax of the National Salute as over 15,000 Vietnam veterans paraded down Constitution Avenue. Teary-eyed well-wishers shouted, “God bless you, God bless America” from the sidelines. The American Legion was very visibly represented with blue caps in every contingent and department colors in most. Disabled Vietnam vet Joe Frank of St. Louis, who later held high offices on the national level, represented the Legion on the veterans organizations float, while the Legion’s own float featured Janice and Brian Welsh, war widow and orphan of Air Force 1st Lt. Richard Welsh. Mrs. Welsh’s letter to The American Legion catalyzed the organization’s involvement with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a way to give meaning to all those who died in Vietnam and to their comrades and survivors.
Following the proud and emotional parade, a throng estimated at over 200,000 converged on the Mall north of the Lincoln Memorial to dedicate the starkly expressive wall of mirror-like black stone bearing all the names of those killed in Vietnam.
The U.S. Marine Corps Band played, the flags of all states, territories and possessions were brought forward and the national colors were posted. The sun broke through the clouds and the chill air was full of love and pain. As The New York Times reported: “At the memorial site, Al Keller, Jr., national commander of The American Legion, which raised more than $1 million of the $7 million cost of the memorial, sought to heal the still festering wounds.”
U.S. Park police estimated more than 205,000 people participated in the climactic event of the National Salute, dedication of the memorial. About 100,000 were Vietnam veterans – an enormous turnout of nearly 4 percent of those who served in Vietnam. For some, it was a “heavy trip.” But the dominant feeling that emerged from the grief, bitterness and catharsis was positive – pride, self-respect, relief and admiration. It was easy to believe something important would come out of this. Many Legionnaires thought so, too.
State’s Vietnam Vets Memorial Fund Drive Tops $1 Per Member
Concurrent with the national Legion organization’s drive to seek $1 million to help fund construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in North Dakota, H. F. “Sparky” Gierke was appointed chair of the department’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund committee and was ably assisted by these 10 district chairpersons: Peter Bilstad, Fargo, 1st district; Keith Knudson, Dahlen, 2nd; Gary W. Rourke, Osnabrock, 3rd; Erling Rolfson, Jr., New Rockford, 4th; James J. Hilzendeger, Napoleon, 5th; Dwile Zeren, Minot, 6th; Dale Bittner, Center, 7th; Harold Johnson, Rhame, 8th; Hal Weninger, New Town, 9th; and Glen Hubrig, Hankinson, in the 10th district.
Organized in late 1981, the committee mounted a successful campaign in early 1982 that produced contributions from statewide Legionnaires, posts and affiliated groups totaling $36,116 as of June 22, 1982, as reported by national headquarters.
At that time, when the North Dakota American Legion’s membership was in the 32,500 range, the aggregate funds collected averaged $1.11 per member. We haven’t heard of any other Legion department surpassing a one dollar per member average in monetary support for the memorial. An enthusiastic response was given to North Dakota’s “They Served with Honor … They Deserve to Be Remembered” campaign theme to memorialize the names of approximately 58,000 Americans on “The Wall” who died in the Vietnam War.
Department Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Committee Chair
H. F. “Sparky” Gierke, Watford City 1981-82
Legion Remembers Comrades Buried in Foreign Lands
From its formation, The American Legion has been loyal to its pledge to comrades lost in armed conflicts, that they will not be forgotten – ever, and especially those who died in foreign lands and lie buried there. That conviction was fueled soon after World War I when relatives of men buried overseas sent to Legion posts, departments (North Dakota among them) and national headquarters small contributions for the purpose of placing flowers on graves on Memorial Day.
An American Memorial Day committee had been in existence in France about 20 years to provide care for about 300 Americans’ graves. In 1920-21-22, attempts were made by the national Legion to assist the group in France with fundraising, but that effort disintegrated. From it came a permanent endowment fund, the Overseas Graves Decoration Trust.
Formed entirely within Legion membership, the remembrance program received considerable press coverage initially. But it very likely is one of the lesser-known American Legion programs that have a presence almost worldwide.
Since 1921, flags and other decorations have been placed at overseas US military cemeteries. Memorial Day observances have been held at overseas US military cemeteries. Memorial Day observances are conducted in Belgium, France, England and the Philippines. Over the years, the trust fund also has decorated the graves of US military personnel buried in then-West Germany, Tunisia, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and New Guinea, plus other sites.
To start the endowment fund, Legion posts and departments were assigned dollar quotas. The levies weren’t large. Legion posts and auxiliaries did what they could, what with hard times and small memberships.
A sample report dated May 28, 1923, from Department Adjutant Jack Williams to Legion National Treasurer R. H. Tyndall in Indianapolis, IN, showed these donations: Hillsboro Auxiliary $20, Crosby Auxiliary $4.80, Lidgerwood post $10, Adrian post $3, Osnabrock post $7.50, Belfield post $6, Bottineau post $7, Total : $58.30.
The North Dakota Legion quota of $2,689 was not reached, however. Records indicated that $1,388 was contributed statewide from its posts, auxiliaries and members. The Legion’s national Overseas Graves Decoration Trust committee supervises this program.
All Veterans Memorial Dedicated in 1989 N .D. Centennial Year
Nearly one thousand veterans and friends gathered on the south steps of the State Capitol on June 10, 1989, for dedication ceremonies of the All Veterans Centennial Memorial.
H. F. “Sparky” Gierke of Bismarck, then National Commander of The American Legion, was the keynote speaker for the dedication of the memorial honoring the 4,494 North Dakotans who died in the defense of our country during the last 100 years of North Dakota statehood.
“The citizens of North Dakota, by dedicating the memorial, say to those men and women, to all who served Thank you.
Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your dedication and most of all, thank you for your sacrifice. We are eternally grateful,” were the words of Commander Gierke during his address.
He went on to say, “As a resident of North Dakota and a veteran of the Vietnam War, I’m especially proud of this memorial. These men and women are the people upon whose shoulders we stand as we look to the future.”
Commander Gierke restated his conviction that it is everyone’s duty to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and that the nation must continue its efforts to account for those listed as prisoners of war and missing in action.
This monument is the result of an idea of 100 founding members who wanted to establish a memorial not only to honor all North Dakotans who had served in the US Armed Forces since statehood but also to especially memorialize those who died in war time service.
The concept of the memorial began taking shape when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in Washington, DC, in 1982. Formally launched in 1985, the campaign goal called for completion of both the fundraising and building phases of the project by 1989 and to dedicate the memorial that year in conjunction with the state’s Centennial Celebration.
The $334,000 memorial, which was officially recognized as “A North Dakota Centennial Project” by the state’s Centennial Commission, was funded by contributions from North Dakota veterans organizations, their members, Auxiliaries and friends.
A statewide solicitation letter sent to North Dakota Legionnaires helped the committee to reach the monetary goal for the project. A similar successful appeal was made to the members of the other vets groups during the latter months of the fund drive.
A granite platform gives the memorial a place of importance above the surrounding plain of grass and trees. Yet the open sides of the memorial blend the structure with nature and the environment of the state capitol grounds. At the center of the memorial is a bronze globe of the world on which the sun shines, through a hole in the south wall of the monument, on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, to honor Veterans Day. The sun coming through this portal radiates off an outline of North Dakota on top of this bronze world globe.
Surrounding the globe are 54 bronze plaques on which are listed, in alphabetical order by war, the 4,494 names of North Dakota veterans who lost their lives in defense of their country. Some of those veterans are buried on foreign soil and, heretofore, there was no public recognition of their names in the state.
The globe and plaques are sheltered by a cube (32′ x 32′) supported by columns. In the cube is a dome with a skylight. The cube and dome are universal symbols of purity, unity and stability.
Breakdown of Number of War Dead Names Engraved on Memorial Plaques
|Spanish American War||15|
|Mexican Border War||1|
|World War I||1366|
|World War II||2501|
Thousands View New Memorial
Thousands of North Dakotans and out-of-state visitors have viewed the All Veterans Centennial Memorial since it was dedicated. Staged on the capitol grounds at Bismarck, the day-long July 4th, 1989, Party of the Century drew an estimated attendance of upwards to 100,000 people from nearby and distant points.
While participating at the special centennial celebration events, thousands of attendees paused to reflect upon their freedoms when visiting this memorial on that Independence Day.
This impressive memorial continues to be a premier tourist attraction in Bismarck.
ND’s 164th Infantry Regiment … First Army Unit Taking Offensive Action in World War II
The 164th Infantry Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard enjoys a unique position in this nation’s military history and in the history of our state. It traces its lineage back to the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry, whose members were awarded nine Congressional Medals of Honor for Spanish-American War action in the Philippine Islands in 1898-99.
After action during the Mexican Border campaign in 1916-17 and after its activation for WW I, the organization was designated the 164th Infantry Regiment and was made part of the 41st Division. The entire division was broken up in France and its soldiers were used as replacements for other combat divisions.
After release from active duty in 1919, the Guard unit went through several reorganizations, all the time retaining the designation of the 164th. It again was called to active duty 10 February 1941 for a one-year period of training as one of the four infantry regiments of the 34th Infantry Division. On 8 December 1941, the Regiment was detached from the 34th and directed to proceed to San Francisco. After duty guarding against sabotage, it boarded ship on 18 March 1942 and ultimately landed in New Caledonia. There, with Guard units from Massachusetts and Illinois, it was made part of the American Division, the only unnumbered US Army division that formed overseas.
The first American offensive action in WW II began on 7 August 1942 when the 1st Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal in the South Pacific’s Solomon Islands. This battle had reached a stalemate and, on 13 October 1942, the 164th landed at Kukum Beach. This made it the first Army unit to take offensive action in WW II. It received numerous commendations during the campaign from General George C. Marshall, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and General Alexander A. Vandergrift. It ·was Vandergrift who stated in part: “The officers and men of the First Marines salute you for a most wonderful piece of work… We are honored to serve with a unit such as yours. I’m sure you are very proud of the fighting ability demonstrated by your unit and our hat is off to you.”
On 1 March 1943, the 164th left Guadalcanal after suffering 589 casualties, of which 147 were killed in action. They were awarded five Distinguished Service Crosses, one Navy Cross, 40 Silver Stars, over 300 Purple Hearts and numerous Soldier’s Medals and Legions of Merit.
They were not yet relieved from duty in the theater. They continued to be tasked for service on Bougainville, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol and Negos. All together they served over 600 days in combat.
188th Artillery Regiment Units Fought in Widespread African-European Battles
The 188th Artillery Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard was formed in September 1940. Mobilized on 1 April 1941, it suffered through several reorganizations that included splitting it into the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 188th and 957th Field Artillery Battalions.
The 766th saw action in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. The two field artillery battalions landed in France shortly after D-Day and participated in the Normandy breakout. They continued to move through France and Belgium.
The 188th, as a part of VII Corps, crossed into Germany in September 1944. Both units participated in the U.S. counter offensive that stopped the German Army “Battle of the Bulge” offensive. The 957th crossed into Germany on 15 March 1945 at Remagen. They continued in action until the end of the war, having served 320 days in combat and suffering 127 casualties, of which 36 were killed in action.