On February 11th, LTC Lester Snyder talked about his harrowing WWII experiences as navigator/bombardier aboard a B-29 as it made bombing runs from Tinian Island to Tokyo. Once, his crippled bomber, shot to pieces and aflame, barely made it to the just-captured island of Iwo Jima. Snyder went on to fight in the Korean War and later became professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Read quick excerpt
On March 10th, LTC Tom Oliver talked about his experiences as a B-24 pilot in World War 2. A West Point graduate, he was also the son of an army general. Oliver will talk about being shot down over German-held Yugoslavia, right into the hands of partisans with whom he engaged in escape-and-evasion tactics until his repatriation with American forces.
Oliver later became professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
Oliver was joined by Lt. Justin Cassidy, USAF munitions flight commander, now at EAFB, who reflected on his recent deployment to South West Asia.
On April 14th, LTC Chuck Childs visually presented his experiences during World War 2 as a B-17 pilot in the European Theater with 37 combat missions, earning 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism.
"I could see omens of the war's end almost every day in the blue southern sky when, flying provocatively low, the bombers of the American Fifteenth Air Force crossed the Alps from their Italian bases to attack German industrial targets," said Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments
I Flew the Big One: B-17, Queen of the Skies and A Combat Diary of Thirty-Seven Missions through Hell are his books about that experience. Childs went on to fly in the Berlin Airlift and later fought in the Korean War. more
May 12th, US Army Air Corps veteran S/Sgt. Victor Weidensee talked about his World War II service in the Phillippines(1944-1945) as part of a special-operations guerrilla unit behind Japanese lines.
In 1945, he was an eyewitness to the destruction at Hiroshima and the extensive bomb damage to other Japanese cities. He served under Walter "Bud" Mahurin,fighter pilot ace in Europe and later a POW in the Korean War. Weidensee remembers daily life with the Philippine people, as well as an LST ride from Leyte to Luzon in a hurricane.
A Gettysburg, South Dakota, native who enlisted in 1942, Weidensee now lives in Rapid City and is a retired music professor from Black Hills State University. He has recently written up his wartime story. more
Also at the May 12 meeting, we also heard from Col. Dale Friend, a US Army battalion commander during the Vietnam War, who led troops into jungle combat as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He talked about entering the Army at age 15 when a judge gave the then-delinquent boy a choice between incarceration or enlisting in the military.
On June 9th, USMC veteran Alan B. Walker talked about his combat experiences in the Vietnam War. Walker is the author of Every Warrior Has His Own Song. He was born and raised on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in Nebraska. His father was an Omaha Indian, and his mother, Winifred P. Hatchett, was a granddaughter of William Hatchett, one of the original 75 braves who served as scout for the U.S. Army in 1863. Read excerpt. more
On July 14th, US Army veteran Peter J. Dalberg talked about his experience during the Battle of the Bulge and crossing the Luedendorff Railway Bridge at Remagen. Dahlberg has just finished his autobiography about growing up on a North Dakota farm and entering the military during World War II. more excerpt
On August 11th, US Army National Guard Maj. Gregory Darlow offered a visual presentation of his experiences as Company Commander during the war in Iraq, where his focus was on route clearance and the removal of IEDs.
He was also interview on the "Dakota Midday" radio show at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. listen
Now a Mobilization Plans Specialist, he was then a 1LT in Company A, 153rd Engineer Battalion headquarted in eastern South Dakota. The unit was deployed to Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. "A very interesting and harrowing story," according to Duke Doering. more
On September 8th, CMSgt.Richard Lake (USAF ret) of Rapid City talked about his experiences during the Vietnam War as a tail gunner on a B-52. "When I first got to Ellsworth in 1972, there was an old, highly experienced IP in the training flight that always ended the crew briefing on mission planning day with: 'In the event of an incident on takeoff, we’ll all exit the aircraft, assemble upwind, and get our stories straight'. This is my story." more
On October 13th, Col. Dale Friend(US Army ret) of Rapid City talked about Operation Junction City, which was the largest U.S. airborne operation since Operation Market Garden in World War II. The Tet Offensive ended on that day. Friend led the assault into combat.
The combat jump on February 22, 1967, was conducted by one reinforced Combat Battalion (2nd Battalion 503rd) of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Friend says that “845 of us made the jump in war zone D close to the Cambodian Border.”
When not leading soldiers into jungle combat, then Captain Friend was stationed at a base camp in Bien Hoa. “You’d go out for about a month and then go back to base camp for three or four days and get your act together.” more
We heard that day too from Lt. Col. Jim Schmitendorf (USAF ret) who devoted his thoughts to a conservative assessment of the Constitution after his retirement. His recently published bookLex Ferenda: A Constitution Modernization with Tea Party Bullets reminds us that the hundreds of years intervening between the 1770s and today, with a need to acknowledge the changes America has witnessed.
There are many topics in the US Constitution that Schmitendorf wants people to put back on the table for further discussion. An engineering graduate of the Air Force Institute of Technology, this Piedmont author and Vietnam veteran piloted aircraft, worked on the Minuteman Missle system, and finally taught in the electrical engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
On November 10th, Andreas Gronemann talked about his family's history during World War II and the Afrika Korps, the unit his grandfather served in.Gronemann hopes to compile his photographs and family letters into a memoir. He had lots of photos of his grandfather Fritz--and of his family's life in post-war Berlin. His wife Heidi and two daughters were with him.
Under General Erwin Rommel, the Afrika Korps became legendary as American and British tanks squared off against the German panzers and the Italian military. The cities and countries from the battles are often the same ones that appear in nightly news today.
Gronemann came to America from Berlin, and now lives in Rapid City, where he spends time restoring American Jeeps from World War II. more
On December 8, Capt. Kim Morey (USAF ret) talked about his experiences in B-52s and Operation Linebacker 2 during the Vietnam War. Morey has since designed the Missile Display at EAFB's SD Air and Space Museum. more
(Jack Fellow's "Linebacker II: The High Road to Hanoi")