Speakers in 2016


On January 9, US Army soldier Arnold W. Bergstrom of Rapid City talked about his ordeals as a tunnel rat in Vietnam's Cu Chi district:  "I served with the 65th Engineers in Vietnam as a demolition specialist.  I was attached to several Inventory and Mechanized Units throughout South Vietnam. As a Demo Specialist, I spent a lot of time crawling through tunnels, clearing foliage and destroying enemy cover. I am proud to have served my country and, knowing the risk and fears, I would do it all over."  Fellow tunnel rat Vince Korang of Rapid City also spoke to the supersized audience, many of whom were Vietnam veterans.  moreWikipediaRapid City Journal

On February 13, Major Dana Limbo, executive officer for the 881st Troop Command (SDNG, Sturgis) talked about his combat experiences as a Lieutenant when his unit, the 200th Engineer Company (Bridge) out of Pierre and Chamberlain, was deployed to Iraq in 2003-2004. The unit built a 305 meter bridge across the Tigris River.  They maintained the bridge for the entire one year deployment.  The unit had mortar attacks nearly daily. They also helped build and maintain a POW camp.  Photo: 200th mortar attack.  more (Duke Doering reports that "The soldiers of the 200th Engineer Company have seen death and the horrors of war.  The South Dakota National Guard unit was stationed in the middle of some of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the war.") Other National Guard memoirs

On March 12 George A. Larson (LTC USAF ret) presented on his newly published book South Dakota War Stories, which anthologizes many of our own writers, as well as historical documents relating to military in the Black Hills.  It is 640 pages. "I have been working on this book since 1994,and intensely for the last five years. It is finally done and printed."  Do you notice your name in the Table of Contents?  [Copies of this book will be around in a hundred years and more, but online collections of stories, such as this website, will disappear instantly as soon as the latest, ever-increasing webhost bill isn't paid.]

On April 9,
Ingrid Radke-Azvedo spoke about her experiences hiding in war-ravaged Berlin during the final days of the Third Reich.

Confirmation photo 1948.

Ingrid and her mother were trapped in Berlin when the Soviets invaded the city and hid in a cellar for many days. They were witness to the autrocities that the Soviet Army perpetrated on the citizens of Berlin, particularly the women in the city.  more

On May 14, P-51 Mustang fighter pilot Lt-Col John Gaston of Newcastle, Wyoming, accompanpied by daughter Harmony, offeedr a visual presentation covering his WW2 experiences flying out of Lesina, Italy (Foggia Airfield Complex) with the 325th Fighter Group (the "Checkertails") which had the yellow-and-black checker board design on their fighters' tails, part of the 15th Air Force. Gaston's A Pilot's Story was published in 2015:

"From an early age, a boy growing up on a farm in Dust Bowl Kansas during the Great Depression dreamed of flying. Hard work, dedication,and the hand of Divine Providence made that dream come true. From accelerated flight training during World War Two, through acareer in the service of his country, to a fifteen year career in corporate aviation -- here is the story of his lifelong love affair with flying." SDPB, more
Michael Matthesen (son of Cathy) also reenacted the character of WWII General George Patton in period dress at the beginning of the May meeting. He is 12 years old. Notice that the helmet has the Remagen Bridge emblem.  He was presented a framed photograph (with citation) of General Patton's Luxembourg grave by US Navy Ken Delfino, a river boat captain in Vietnam's Mekong Delta.  more

On June 11, US Navy CPT James A. Huff (ret) of Rapid City talked about being a Naval Air Intelligence Officer with P-3 Orion squadrons involved in anti-submarine warfare, drug ship interdiction, and intelligence gathering 1978-1981.
"We hunted Soviet submarines," he says. Alluding to the legendary Captain Ahab, "On these long patrols, looking for Soviet Submarines, I thought of the similarities between Herman Melvillle's Moby Dick and the Foxtrot Submarines...I acquired an obsession to find a Soviet diesel-electric submarine on the surface and photograph it.  This was a personal and quiet obsession that I shared with no one.  This class of submarine was named by
NATO as 'The Foxtrot,'" which "played a significant role in the Cuban Missle Crisis" of 1962, which cast a shadow for decades (four of the escort subs had nuclear-tipped torpedoes). Pushing the bourdaries of nuclear war, the "Soviet submarine captains on the Foxtrots had tounanimously agree to use the nuclear torpedoes if confronted by the U.S. Navy." SDASM Notice,  more

On July 9, Maj. Robert Liebman(USAF ret) of Rapid City visually presented his experience as a B-52 and B-1 flyer in the Cold War end-game years, the prospect of nuclear warfare as a participant, and other technical and cultural aspects.  more

On August 13, John Mollison of Sioux Falls talked about his long career as artist of military aircraft, as well as his accomplishments in video and television documentaries. He has studied US Navy and Sioux aviator Lt. Commander John Waldron, who died in his Douglas TPB Devastator (torpedo bomber) at the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, along with 30 others in the squadron he commanded on that fateful day.  more,  SDPB audio,  bio video

Mollison is currently focusing on mankind's all-time most dangerous weapon, the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and the missileers who were the combatants. “It’s the unexpected ‘Feel Good Story’ of the Century” (at least we hope so),”  Mollison says. “Two powers squared off to destroy all of civilization.  They could.  They would have.  But if they did, you wouldn’t be reading this...No group of American military veterans played a greater role in the Cold War than those who had their hands on the nuclear trigger.”  more

ON SEPTEMBER 10, USMC MAJOR ED McGAA, a Korean war veteran who flew F4B Phantom fighters in Vietnam, talked about his new book on global terrorism in the context of his Sioux upbringing on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  He flew 110 combat missions in the fighters, receiving 8 air medals and 2 Crosses of Gallantry. more, Table of Contents

On October 8, Rapid City architect Dick McConnell spoke about his Vietnam War experiences as a lieutenant in the Mekong Delta with the US Army's 9th Infantry Division(86th Engineer Bn).  Wounded by an RPG and airlifted to Japan, two weeks later he learned that all other members of his unit, about 30, had been ambushed and killed.  more

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Instead of the regular meeting format, on November 12, Bill Casper and Carol Johnson, as part of Operation Black Hills Cabin, organized a special focus on Afghanistan/Iraq veterans with 10-15 minute summaries from Erin Dreis (SDNG), Bob Liebman (USAF) and Branden Stackenwalt (Army), who served there after September 11, 2001.

In addition to Larry Zimmerman, South Dakota Secretary of Veterans Affairs, B-1 LTC Ryan Carignan, who currently serves as the 28th Operations Group Deputy Commander at Ellsworth, also talked about his recent combat missions against ISIS. posterRapid City Journal, SDPB's Dakota Midday

On December 10, SGT Mel W. Gunderson of Black Hawk talked about his combat in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, Landing Zone X-Ray, early in the Vietnam War, as part of the US Army 1st Cavalry Division, 1965-1966. He was with Joe Galloway who co-authored We Were Soldiers Once...and Young about the experience of surviving near annihilation as their unit landed in the middle of a vastly outnumbering enemy. video background1965 CBS film

Pearl Harbor surviors Steve Warren (US Navy) and Stan Lieberman (US Army) were both on Oahu on December 7, 1941.  Bill Casper presented a 75th Anniversary Commemorative Medal to each at the meeting.