This Week In South Dakota 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 duke.doering@us.army.mil.

On this date in SDNG history:

May 1, 1943

A major German stronghold, Hill 609 in Northern Tunisia, was captured in an attack led by the National Guard's 34th Infantry Division and its 109th Engineer Battalion.

"Hill 609 will forever grace the annals of the 34th Division as one of its most glorious achievements," stated the division commander.

During the planning in April, the leadership had decided that tanks could be most helpful in the attack, and the 109th Engineers were detailed to find the best route of approach to the mountain.

Two platoons of Company B, from Hot Springs, cleared mines and made roads to the south of the hill. Under the cover of darkness, Lt. Crichton's platoon of Company C, from Sturgis, prepared a wadi (swamp) crossing for the tanks at the very foot of Hill 609. This was a dangerous job hampered by artillery fire.

Lt. Crichton was especially grateful for the poor quality of the enemy artillery rounds as a dud round landed just a few feet from him. (SD in WW II, page 145, by the WWII History Commission)

May 2, 1991

The 1742nd Transportation Company was in King Khalid Military City (KKMC), Saudi Arabia. They had moved there on April 27, and continued to haul 20 and 40-foot sea vans to the consolidation point at KKMC.

In late April, Capt. Scott Jensen and 1st Sgt. Leroy Benson had met with Brig. Gen. Robert McFarlin from the 2nd Corps Support Command and were asked to speak about driving safety and received a certificate honoring the unit for its safe driving record. The certificate was for the unit logging over 500,000 miles without any reportable accidents was a remarkable unit accomplishment considering the conditions and local traffic.

By the time their tour was completed, these 1742nd drivers had tallied more than 850,000 accident-free miles. (Capt. Scott Jensen, in Dakota's Desert Storm)

May 3, 1959

Former President Harry S Truman, who was a National Guard captain commanding Battery D, 129th Field Artillery from Missouri during World War I, is the honored guest at the dedication of the new National Guard Association "Memorial" on Capitol Hill.

Maj. Don Holliday was tasked with coordinating the South Dakota National Guard contingent to attend the dedication. Holliday said, "We took a representative from each Battalion, Group Headquarters and the Air National Guard. We met in Sioux Falls and the South Dakota Air National Guard flew us in on the C-47."

The Association, organized in 1879, is a private organization with membership restricted to National Guard officers (active and retired), and represents Guard political and financial interests to members of Congress on actions prohibited by federal law for the Guard Bureau to pursue.

To share information with its membership in 1947 the Association began publishing The National Guardsman (today National Guard) magazine. Over the years, it has taken upon itself the secondary mission of telling the Guard's history through the "National Guard Memorial Museum" which is open free of charge to the public.

May 4, 1942

The 22 officers and 579 enlisted men of the 109th Engineer Battalion sailed on the ship MEXICO from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Belfast, Ireland.

The convoy departed this date and traveled in a dense fog in mine infested waters on May 4 and 5, and then had relatively smooth sailing for the rest of the trip. The convoy anchored in Belfast Harbor on May 12.

The troops were moved by train to Camp Killadeas, Ireland, which was a beautiful spot. The 109th Engineers trained there until they entered combat in North Africa, one company on Nov. 8, 1942, and the remainder in January 1943.

After the war, at a reunion of the 109th Engineer Battalion World War II veterans, Corporal Joe Ginsbach, who spent more than 500 days in the combat zone, was asked what scared him the most in the war.

Ginsbach said, "the troops ships had huge, heavy stainless steel tables in the center of the bays where the troops ate and slept. One night, on the MEXICO, the seas became quite stormy, and lots of waves. I was sleeping when that darn stainless steel table tipped over in the middle of the night. That was the most scared I was during World War II."

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