Visiting the Battleship South Dakota Memorial for the USS South Dakota BB 57

Battleship South Dakota Memorial, Sioux Falls, SD (All photos by Deb Watley)

Battleship South Dakota Memorial, Sioux Falls, SD (Photos by Deb Watley)

Last week a couple of my sons and I visited the Battleship South Dakota Memorial in Sioux Falls, SD (12th & Kiwanis Ave.). This state treasure is both a memorial and museum that showcases the WWII-era USS South Dakota (BB 57).

The ship was launched in June 1941, but still under construction when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. However, in August 1942, the battleship headed out to the South Pacific and was in battle within a couple of months.

During it’s WWII service, most of which was in the Pacific Theater, the USS South Dakota and it’s sailors were in so many battles and performed so well that it earned the most medals and awards of any other WWII American battleships.

The USS South Dakota was decommissioned after the war, and in the 1960s set for the scrapyard. But, a group of South Dakotans worked to save the ship. Although they weren’t able to save the whole thing, they were able to obtain parts of the ship that became the backbone for the memorial/museum in Sioux Falls. The museum also holds many photographs and mementoes donated by the ship’s sailors.

If you get a chance to go to the museum, watch the video which gives a good overview of the battleship and the memorial. And walk around the concrete outline of the ship to see some of her key pieces, like the mast, anchor, and one of her 16-inch guns.

USS South Dakota outline, anchor, museum, and mast.

USS South Dakota outline, anchor, museum, and mast–from the bow.

The Sodak had nine 16-inch guns. This was the only one saved for the memorial.

The Sodak had nine 16-inch guns. This was the only one saved for the memorial.

SD bell

Interesting facts about the USS South Dakota:

  • The Sioux Falls, SD, Washington High School band performed at the June 7, 1941, launching ceremony in New Jersey.
  • The USS South Dakota was also known as Battleship X, Old Nameless, and Sodak.
  • Twelve-year-old Calvin Graham, the youngest medal-earning service member of WWII, served on the Sodak. As late as WWII, it was still fairly common for underage kids to lie about their age and join the military. There may have been more than 1,000 underage kids in the service.
  • Ninety-five men died in action.
  • The ship hosted multiple sports teams, including its own baseball team.
The Sodak's baseball team played against other ships' teams, including the ?, on which the famous pro baseball player Bob Feller was part of.

The Sodak’s baseball team played against other ships’ teams, including the USS Alabama’s, on which the famous pro baseball player Bob Feller was a member.

  • The Sodak was the first American battleship to bombard a main Japanese island (July 14, 1945).
  • The Sodak had several Kingfisher aircraft that were used for scouting and sea rescues. Since there was no runway for the Kingfishers to take off from, these planes were catapulted off the ship’s  stern.
  • The model of the ship was built as a type of prototype in the 1930s, before construction on the actual ship began.
The model cost $50,000.

The model cost $50,000–during the 1930s.

For more info:

The Boy Who Became a WWII Veteran at 13 Years Old

USS South Dakota

Since we’ve just celebrated America’s Independence Day, here’s a big shout-out to all those men and women who have served and died for our country, and especially to the men from the USS South Dakota!

What WWII memorials have you visited?

2 comments

    • Deb Watley

      The museum was interesting, and I learned so much. I feel like I only know bits and pieces of WWII’s Pacific Theater, so the museum filled in a lot of my knowledge gaps.

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