Medal of Honor Winners from South Dakota
I sometimes feel selfish that I never served in the military. My dad made a career of it in the Air National Guard after serving in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers served during and after World War II. Many of my friends have as well. I never did yet I live comfortably under the freedom they have provided. I never made any sacrifice at all while others paid small to ultimate sacrifices.
Whenever I feel this way I like to read the stories of the greatest heroes we have. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society website has the citation for every winner dating back to the award's inception. The stories often give me chills and leave me with an open mouth.
Being a small state, South Dakota does not have a lot of Medal of Honor winners. In fact only one was born and raised here while several spent the majority of their lives in the Rushmore State and a couple attended college here. The South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs cites nine Medal of Honor winners.
Captain Joe Foss - Most people, even if by accident, have heard of Joe Foss. He was born and raised in Sioux Falls, and our airport bears his name. It does because he won the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II, personally shooting down 26 Japanese fighters during the Guadalcanal Campaign between October 1942 and February 1943. He became the twentieth governor of South Dakota and was later the first commissioner of the American Football League.
Captain Foss was not the only Medal of Honor winner from South Dakota.
Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble was born in Waubay and was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, spending most of his life just across the border in North Dakota. He fought through some of the worst parts of World War II at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Leyte, and Mindinao. His unit was reactivated during the Korean War. He was wounded on four separate occasions on October 15, 17, 18, and 20 of 1951. His actions on October 20, when he single-handedly saved a pinned down platoon from machine gun fire. He survived the war and died in 1984. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008 by President George W. Bush.
Captain Arlo L. Olson was born in Iowa but moved to Toronto, South Dakota at the age of ten. He graduated from the University of South Dakota and was commissioned into the army. In October of 1943 he twice led amazing legendary attacks in Italy that could have each merited the nation's highest honor. He was later fatally wounded during reconnaissance near his unit's position and refused treatment until his men were cared for and died while being carried away on October 28, 1943. Captain Olson was laid to at Fort Snelling National Cemetary in Minneapolis.
Specialist Four Michael J. Fitzmaurice was born and raised in North Dakota. He enlisted in the army in Sioux Falls. During the Vietnam War as a member of the 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne, Fitzmaurice was in the middle of the Battle of Khe Sahn when three enemy explosive charges were thrown into his fox hole. He threw two of them out. He covered the third with a flak jacket and his own body to protect his friends. Fitzmaurice worked at the VA in Sioux Falls until retiring in 2011 but still volunteers at the hospital.
Captain Willibald C. Bianchi
General Patrick H. Brady
Private First Class Herbert A. Littleton
Captain Arlo L. Olson
Brigadier General Charles D. Roberts
Colonel Leo K. Thorsness