This week in S.D. National Guard History

In recognition of the South Dakota National Guard's 150 years of service to the state and nation from 1862-2012, the SDNG will be publishing significant dates in the history of the organization all year long for the media's use in your publications or broadcasts.

For more information on these events, please contact the SDNG Historian, CW5 Duke Doering at (605) 737-6581, or e-mail

On this date in SDNG history:

March 27, 1947

On this date in SDNG history – Service Battery, 147th Field Artillery Battalion, of Howard, was formed under the command of Capt. Warren L. Prostrollo. The ninth enlisted man raised his right hand and took the oath on this date. The official federal recognition date was March 25 when Prostrollo, Lt. William Quinn, Warrant Officer Stuart Bradbury, and eight enlisted men were enough to form the unit and meet the minimum requirements for federal recognition.  No summer encampment was held in 1947 due to the small number of personnel that belonged to the 147th Field Artillery at that time. Growth of the unit was slow at first, but by the time the Service Battery was called to active duty on Sept. 1, 1950, there were three officers, two warrant officers and 55 enlisted men. One of the officers, 1st Lt. Elroy (Stretch) Lemaster, eventually became the South Dakota National Guard chief of staff and served in that position for several years in the 1960s and 1970s.

March 28, 1952

On this date in SDNG history – Five officers and airmen of the South Dakota Air National Guard participated in "Operation Haylift." March 28 was the first day of the mission that lasted until April 11, 1952. Unusually, heavy amounts of drifted snow had stranded cattle in the fields in western and central South Dakota. A total of 27 emergency flight missions were flown with the unit dropping 2,412 bales of hay to starving cattle. Two additional missions were for flood duty carrying sandbags to the flood area. On the fifth day of the hay lift, the unit's home airbase at Sioux Falls became flooded by the Sioux River, which necessitated operating from the Mitchell airfield.

March 29, 1877

On this date in SDNG history – Dakota Territory: The code of 1877 gave the National Guard one of its many "new looks." The code required Guardsmen to attend a minimum of six drills annually, plus musters, inspections, a 10-day encampment, and the enlistment period had been raised from two years to three. The citizen-Soldiers armament was also modernized. The old Enfield muskets of pre-Civil War vintage were turned in and the latest thing in Springfield's, the Model 1873, was issued. The 1873 was a single-shot, breech-loading rifle that fired a .45 caliber round using 70 grains of black powder and a 500 grain bullet. It was long barreled, known affectionately as "Long Tom." This was the rifle later taken to the Spanish-American War by the South Dakota National Guard.

March 30, 1943

On this date in SDNG history -  In perhaps one of the worst accidents for South Dakota National Guard Soldiers serving in World War II, 12 men from Company A, 109th Engineer Battalion, of Madison, were killed when one of their trucks exploded. A platoon was laying a minefield near Hadjeb-el-Aioun in Tunisia, North Africa, when a truck loaded with 450 mines exploded. A witness described the scene, "A tremendous explosion was heard and a great pillar of smoke mushroomed into the sky. It sounded like a mine, but appeared to be too far away. Sometime later we learned the terrible truth. One of our trucks…and an entire squad of 12 men from Company A were lost." The members of the squad were Sgt. Wayne Satre, Cpl. Robert Christensen, T/5 Roger Loesch, Pfc. Leland Ortmayer and eight others. According to the book South Dakota WWII, the cause of the explosion was unknown, but what was known was that the truck was standing still and the neutralized mines were being unloaded.

March 31, 1943

On this date in SDNG history – During World War II, Sgt. Carl J. Kline was killed in action near Hazeb el Aouin in Tunisia, North Africa.  Kline was one of 84 Soldiers ordered to active duty from Company D, 109th Engineer Battalion, of Hot Springs, two years earlier. He was the unit's first fatality.

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