Recently, the South Dakota Hall of Honor, which recognizes South Dakotans who received the Congressional Medal of Honor, was relocated to the first floor of the State Capitol. The display had previously been in the Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial Building, where it was not prominent to the public and was not handicapped-accessible.
The new display is worth seeing during a visit to the State Capitol. The display features the complete Medal of Honor citations for each recipient, and they describe truly remarkable acts of heroism and valor. Below is a list of South Dakota’s recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, with a hyperlink to the citation added to each recipient’s name and excerpts from the citations.
Charles D. Roberts – Spanish-American War. “Gallantly assisted in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines under heavy fire of the enemy.”
Willibald C. Bianchi – World War II. An excerpt: “When wounded early in the action by 2 bullets through the left hand, he did not stop for first aid but discarded his rifle and began firing a pistol.”
Joseph Jacob Foss – World War II. Foss also served as the 20th Governor of South Dakota from 1955-59. The Trail of Governors statue of Foss, which was unveiled this June, portrays Foss in his naval aviator uniform. It is on temporary display at the South Dakota National Guard Museum in Pierre, and will be permanently installed this fall near the Joe Foss Building on Capitol Avenue.
An excerpt from the Foss citation: “Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942, Capt. Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable.”
Arlo L. Olson – World War II. An excerpt: “Although 5 German soldiers threw handgrenades at him from a range of 5 yards, Capt. Olson dispatched them all, picked up a machine pistol and continued toward the enemy. Advancing to within 15 yards of the position he shot it out with the foe, killing 9 and seizing the post.”
Herbert A. Littleton – Korean War. An excerpt: “When an enemy hand grenade was thrown into his vantage point shortly after the arrival of the remainder of the team, he unhesitatingly hurled himself on the deadly missile, absorbing its full, shattering impact in his body.”
Woodrow W. Keeble – Korean War. An excerpt: “With complete disregard for his personal safety, Master Sergeant Keeble dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, Master Sergeant Keeble crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the heavy fire that the crew trained on him, Master Sergeant Keeble activated a grenade and threw it with great accuracy, successfully destroying the position. Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the enemy troops were now directing their firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a frantic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement, and skillfully neutralized the remaining enemy position.”
Patrick Henry Brady – Vietnam War. An excerpt: “The friendly ground force, pinned down by enemy fire, had been unable to reach and secure the landing zone. Although his aircraft had been badly damaged and his controls partially shot away during his initial entry into this area, he returned minutes later and rescued the remaining injured. Shortly thereafter, obtaining a replacement aircraft, Maj. Brady was requested to land in an enemy minefield where a platoon of American soldiers was trapped.”
Michael John Fitzmaurice – Vietnam War. The Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans Home in Hot Springs is named in his honor. An excerpt from his citation: “Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he hurled 2 of the charges out of the bunker. He then threw his flak vest and himself over the remaining charge. By this courageous act he absorbed the blast and shielded his fellow-soldiers. Although suffering from serious multiple wounds and partial loss of sight, he charged out of the bunker, and engaged the enemy until his rifle was damaged by the blast of an enemy hand grenade.”
Leo K. Thorsness – Vietnam War. Thorsness was a prisoner of war for nearly six years – among his fellow prisoners was future U.S. Senator John McCain. Thorsness ran for U.S. Senate in 1974, losing to incumbent George McGovern, and for U.S. House in 1978, losing the open seat very narrowly to Tom Daschle.
An excerpt from the Thorsness citation: “Upon being advised that 2 helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew’s position and that there were hostile MlGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lt. Col. Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew’s position.”