School of Mines


Faculty and Staff

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City has had many faculty and staff with wartime military backgrounds, providing an important nucleus to the Black Hills Veterans Writing Group since its inception. 

Apologies for not including, at this point, the many heroic SDSMT students who have served in combat over the years, such as Navy Lieutenant Delbert Mont Gerlach of Rapid City who was killed on Iwo Jima while spotting artillery fire for the U. S. Marines.  His brother Charles died in 2013, along with his wife, in a car accident.

Loyd Brandt
was an electrician at SDSMT, living for years in the caretaker's "Miner's Shack" near the Old Gym. He was involved in intense Pacific action fighting in World War II, including invasions of Iwo Jima (was on Mt. Suribachi during flag-raising), Saipan, Tinian, Eniwetok, and Okinawa—55 islands before the war’s end. His story "Brothers in Arms" is written up in the July 1995 issue of Leatherneck magazine and a fall 2006 article in Militaria International Magazine.
Six of the seven Brandt brothers served as Marines at the same time in the Pacific. One, Herbert, was killed at Saipan.
His unit is written up in Swift, Silent, and Deadly. “On one reconnaissance landing in a rubber raft,” Loyd relates, “we found ourselves disoriented in the dark and smoke of what we thought was a lagoon, only to find ourselves floating directly under the thundering big guns of offshore Navy ships.”

Cyrus Cox
of the Electrical Engineering Department served as an electrician’s mate on Navy LCTs up and down the Solomons and Philippines, including Guadacanal and Bougainville. In concert with the carrier Hornet, the LCTs traveled mostly at night but still received harrassment from dive bombers and mortors from shore. He rode out two typhoons, but said that one of the hardest parts was going without sleep for so long. His unit’s story is written up in The Amphibians Are Coming! : Emergence of the 'Gator Navy and Its Revolutionary Landing Craft, 2 Volumes (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in WWII) and other books
by William L. McGee. Cy also highly recommends Thunder Below, the WWII submarine story of the USS Barb.

Former Tech President (1966-75) Brigadier General Harvey R. Fraser was the recipient of the 1999 General Patton Award. Fraser demonstrated leadership and bravery with the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion, United States Army, during critical battles to halt the German offensive in the Ardennes, during December 1944. His unit built the first pontoon bridge over the Rhine River next to the Ludendorff Railway Bridge at Remagen.  He died in 2013.

George Gladfelter, fresh from MIT in the early 1960s, worked on combat simulation programs at West Point during the Vietnam War, later inaugurating academic computing at SDSM&T, but now retired. He possesses many interesting anecdotes about the School of Mines' military past.

The late
Bob Hunt was a coach at SDSMT. In 1942, Bob enlisted in the United State Army Air Corps and served overseas as a bombardier navigator in a B-17 with the 15th Air Force out of Foggia, Italy. He was shot down over Austria in May of 1944 and was a prisoner of war from that time until April 1945. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. Bob was released from active duty December 1945 with a rank of First Lieutenant.

The late Darold "Dud" King served as SDSMT's athletics director and fought in the South Pacific. Fighting in the 2nd Marine Division during World War II, the decorated Dud survived bloody, hand-to-hand combat in several strategic battles, including Tarawa and Saipan. According to George Gladfelter, Dud was once set to attend a conference elsewhere in South Dakota, but no state car was available, except President Frasier’s personal car, which he took. Beset by a blizzard, the Army National Guard was called to remove snow from the parking lot of the motel Dud was staying at. Noticing the general’s star on the license plate of Dud’s car, the Guard made every effort to liberate his car first. Amused, Dud made no effort to disavow these Guard soldiers of his lesser status in the military chain of command.

George Moe was political science professor emeritus at SDSMT who fought in the Battle of the Bulge (later in Korea). In 1938 he joined the US Army. After two years at the Army Prep School at Fort Snelling, MN, he received a Presidential appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, where he earned his B.S. in June 1943. He laid his life on the line during World War II when, as a tank company commander (3rd Infantry, 4th AD) he fought with Gen. George Patton's Third Army and was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.
Five years later, in the Korean Conflict, he was pinned down by the Chinese from November to December in the Chosin Reservoir. In these battles he procured two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars, plus other medals. He also served as a paratrooper in the Green Berets.
He served as a special agent in the CIC (today's CIA) U.S. Counterintelligence. ("Some had problems keeping their mouths shut so they didn't last long but that never bothered me.") He received his Diploma from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, in order to become an Associate Professor in the German Department at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, 1955-1959. Also, in 1959, he was granted his M.A. from the University of Maryland. In Hamburg, Germany, 1959-1961, he represented the US Army at the German Federal Army Staff College; then he was transferred to the American Embassy in Bonn, Germany, where he served in MAAG-Federal Republic of Germany.
There he became a certified translator of the German language. In 1964 he retired from active service as a Lt. Col. to pursue his doctoral degree in International Relations at American University. With his PhD in hand, in 1966 he joined the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology as Professor and Head of the Department of Languages and Social Sciences.

Bob Moore
, former Registrar at SDSMT, flew B-17s during WWII, completing over 25 missions.

Brad Morgan,
professor emeritus in the Humanities Department (1982-2004) graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where he stood next to Mario Savio during his famous speech launching the Free Speech Movement in 1964.  With the war raging in Vietnam, Brad went from this campus hotbed to Fort Lewis, WA, for US Army Basic and Advanced Infantry Training.  When his US Army brother Ron was killed in combat during the Vietnam War, Brad was sidetracked to Germany where his mission was to hold back the Soviet Armies from invading central Europe.

West Point and MIT graduate Thomas K. Oliver, emeritus professor in the Electrical Engineering Department, was shot down in his B-24 over Serbia on May 6, 1944. Twenty-one at the time, with a painful shin, Oliver was picked up by pro-Allied Chetnik guerrillas (Mihailovic's anti-communist Serbians) and immediately taken to a picnic featuring a sheep’s head. He declined the eyeball delicacy and that evening was treated to hot goat’s milk with scum all over it at a peasant’s house. Meanwhile, his parents received a telegram, which Tom still has, informing them that their son was missing in action. Tom and his father, a general in the 5th Armored Division during World War I, later received chevalier or knighthood status from the the Grand Duke of Luxembourg for their part in the liberation of that county. He received the Legion of Merit for sending a message under difficult circumstances that got 250 of his comrades back to Italy.

Ed Osier of the Mining Engineering Department during the 1950s and 1960s served in Army Artillery units in the South Pacific during WWII, witnessing mortar duels between islands. He also knew about the “student wars” at SDSMT during the 1960s when Smelter Hill was blown up, throwing fragments even across St. Joe Street. Ed was in the Old Met building at the time of the blast, testing the engineering brilliance of one Sir Thomas Crapper, but soon appearing in the hallway in less-than-flattering disarray.

Dale “Butch” Skillman
of Rapid City teaches mechanical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, a block from the Kansas City Street home where he grew up.  Skillman admits he "barely graduated" from Rapid City High School in 1964 and then spent a couple years in college focusing mainly on "bridge and cribbage and raising hell." But Skillman also fell in love with Margaret Emme, and he realized that creating a family required a change in direction.  Skillman enlisted in the Army in 1966. "I didn't do it for Mom and apple pie; I did it for Butch and Margaret," he said.

He also volunteered for airborne training and Officers Candidate School, and in 1968, like Sughrue, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.  Skillman was a "forward observer," calling in artillery strikes. He spent the next 3-1/2 months in almost daily contact with the enemy.  At dusk on one "very hot day," his unit set up a "night defensive perimeter" in a graveyard. Skillman had just opened a can of Copenhagen snuff, when a mortar round landed 2 feet away, knocking him backwards. Then, another landed even closer. "I was sitting down, or I'd have been dead," he said.

Still, he was peppered head to toe with more than 60 pieces of shrapnel, including a piece that pierced his chin. "It felt like somebody was trying to take my head off with a baseball bat," he said. Skillman spent 3-1/2 months in a hospital in Japan. He recovered well enough to complete Special Forces training, but when his enlistment was up, he left the Army with "the resources and maturity to go to school."  For Skillman, a dozen other life experiences put the trauma of Vietnam in perspective. He doesn't regret enlisting. "On balance, I'd have to say it was a good investment." (from RCJ article)

Lester W. Snyder of the Mechanical Engineering Department from 1959 to 1984 was educated at MIT, Louisiana Tech, and Carnegie Tech. He entered the military in 1943 and was a radar-navigator in a B-29 in the Pacific and later served in Korea, where he flew over 50 missions in B-26 Douglas Invaders. “A Most Exciting Mission for Durkee’s Crew” relates his crew’s account of a WWII bombing mission over Tokyo and a harrowing escape to a recently captured Iwo Jima aboard a badly shot up bomber which had burned for a time after exploding. Wallace “Nick” Durkee was the Aircraft Commander.  Snyder was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

Charles Thielen is professor emeritus of history at SDSMT who fought in the Korean War. At one point, this Marine’s unit was overrun, a mortar wiping out everyone at his position except for him and another, who were both bayoneted as they pretended to be dead. “Sometimes under fire we had to line up wounded Marines in the snow overnight. You could tell the ones still alive in the morning. They were the ones without frost buildup on their faces.”

Please let us know about other faculty/staff who should be included here—or if additional details are known about those listed above.
Of interest, too, would be info about those who served in WWI and other wars before WWII.  It would be good to start a list of students who served in combat as well.


SDSMT and World War I

The school celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first graduating class in 1913. Although only four graduated in 1913, a crowd of 500 assembled at the Elks Theater to hear Governor Byrne's address, in which he said, "The School of Mines has not grown as fast as expected in the last 25 years, but it has justified its existence."

World War I detachment takes a class in radio

he teen years of the twentieth century were turbulent throughout the world. On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was shot and killed by a young Serbian nationalist at Sarajevo in the Austrian province of Bosnia. Within six weeks of the assassination, the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary and the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France and Russia were engaged in an armed conflict that would soon engulf the rest of Europe and much of the world in the Great War. Few Americans were sure what the European conflict was all about, and they didn't conceive that national or economic interest might force them into the war. Life went on as before in the United States, although it was becoming evident that the conflict involved more than the shooting of an unknown nobleman in a far-off country.

Rapid City still revolved around the mining industry, The Mining Experiment Station that was established at the School of Mines in 1903 finally received appropriations from the legislature in 1915. The station assayed and analyzed ores and mineral materials for prospectors and other groups and investigated the processes of ore treatment. School professors often spoke to mining groups, and the newspaper still carried detailed accounts of mining operations in the Black Hills.

Area newspapers also carried accounts of the fighting in Europe and the revolution taking place in Mexico, and by 1916, American troops were in Mexico. It was a year that heralded a discouraging time for the school. A "considerable number" of students, members of Company I, were called to Camp Hagman, the state mobilization camp at Redfield, and later to the Rio Grande country, which cut significantly into the number of upperclassmen enrolled and the number of graduates.

Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916. His supporters shouted, "He kept us out of war"-but headlines of the time reflected the shakiness of the world situation. "Teutons are Drawing Near to Bucharest", and "Villa Now Has Control of Chicuahua City" were proclaimed in the December 1, 1916, issue of the Rapid City Journal, along with the announcement that prohibition was approved in South Dakota by 11,505 votes. [40]

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. School of Mines faculty early expressed their willingness to do anything possible to help the war effort, and offered the institution and its facilities for service. President O'Harra received questionnaires and then personal inspection of buildings, grounds and equipment by members of the War Department followed. Contracts were issued for training of detachments, with the first and second contract calling for the training of 120 men each, and the long-term contract through June 30, 1919, for 200 men every two months. Requirements included housing, feeding and instruction in either mining or radio. The Board of Regents expedited the necessary requirements and the men in the detachments were inducted into the service as vocational students.

In the midst of the training, the dreaded Spanish influenza struck at the Mines. On the evening of September 28, 1918, several men became ill. The entire company was examined and 15 were sent to the hospital.. By noon the next day, 23 men were in the hospital, while more continued to fall ill. No medical corps personnel were on campus, so an appeal for nurses was made to the Red Cross in Rapid City. The response was immediate, and several nurses spent many weeks on campus caring for the sick.

After six days, all but 15 or 16 of the young recruits were flu victims. The nurses, along with Lieutenant Milford and Dr. F. W. Minty of Rapid City were kept busy around the clock caring for the 150 sick men. Rapid City residents showered them with food and flowers. When word spread that jelly was needed, the response was so generous that even after all were recuperated, there was still jelly to spare.

The flu epidemic lasted about three weeks. Twenty-three cases advanced into pneumonia, and five patients died. Wrote one of the survivors, "To care for 150 men single handed was some job, and we wish to hand it to Doctor Milford for being the best that ever handled a case of the 'flu'. Out of 23 cases of pneumonia, he pulled through all but five, making a splendid record for himself."

Once the epidemic was over, the focus was again on the War. The War Department developed among colleges, technical schools and universities an organization called the Students' Army Training Corps (SATC), and a unit was authorized at the School of Mines. The SATC was originally intended only for collegiate students, but was later modified to include those taking vocational training. The SATC was in operation at the school by October 19, 1918.

The academic year had been scheduled to begin September 19, but it was postponed until October 1 to prepare for the SATC. A frame mess hall with kitchen annex was quickly erected. In the beginning the men were housed in the Main Building. Later a two-story barrack was built for offices and housing purposes. Support came from all quarters. Local carpenters postponed their own work to erect the buildings as quickly as possible. For training, the mining operations developed shafts and tunnels in Smelter Hill with materials provided by the Rapid City Lime and Cement Company. Hard rock drilling took place at the Northwestern Stone Quarry near the city .Several mining companies contributed needed items, and the Golden Reward Mining Company loaned several thousand dollars worth of heavy machinery and tools. The Homestake Company gave several of their best air drills and other equipment, and the Northwestern Stone Quarry Company loaned a truck for hauling heavy materials and for transporting the soldiers.

The young men were given every possible accommodation. The library was open to them, a piano and graphophone were available, and indoor games were provided. Outdoor athletics were enjoyed, and a 20-piece band was organized. Professor John McLearie of the English Department was chairman [41]for the Black Hills district of the Army and Navy Y. M. C. A. , and as such was instrumental in providing the comfort and entertainment available.

When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, six officers and many soldiers-in-training were at the school. The War was not over, since terms of peace had yet to be finalized, but fighting on the major fronts had ceased at last. American losses totaled 48,000 killed in battle, 2,900 missing in action, and 56,000 dead of disease. Losses from other nations were staggering--Russia counted 1,700,000 battle deaths, Germany lost 1,800,000 men, France 1,385,000, Britain 947,000, and Austria-Hungary 1,200,000. The "war to end all wars" had come close to wiping out an entire generation.

On the home front, O'Harra saw the War as a turning point for the school. "The coming of the training detachments and later the organization of the SATC unit brought new life and energy to practically every phase of the institution's work and gave, in large measure, impetus to the development of engineering study such as the institution had never before known," he wrote.

The army barracks were removed. The mess hall was revamped into a temporary dining and recreation hall to accommodate the growing number of students interested in engineering. A period of growth had indeed begun. [43]

from Stymiest, Ruth Anne. Centennial: An Illustrated History 1985-1995