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How many South Dakotans have died in war?

todayMay 27, 2024 2

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Over 2,800 South Dakotans have lost their lives during war, according to the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs (SDDA). 

“The freedoms that we enjoy today are paid for by the blood of the men and women who made brave sacrifices on our behalf,” Gov. Kristi Noem said Monday, May 27 at the Sioux Falls Memorial Day Service. 

Here’s a breakdown of those who lost their lives during World War I and II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

World War I

According to the South Dakota State Historical Society, 549 South Dakotans lost their lives during World War I. Death in American camps was the most common way to pass with 236 casualties, followed by 204 soldiers who died in action, 179 deaths overseas, 55 who died of wounds and nine unknown deaths.

Working out instead of grilling out on Memorial Day

Minnehaha County had the most casualties in World War 1, followed by Davison County with 29, Pennington County with 25 and Brookings County with 24. 

The South Dakota Historical Society Press reported that over 30,000 South Dakotans served during World War I.

World War II

According to the National Archives, 1,426 people from the South Dakota Army and 299 people from the South Dakota Navy died during World War II. 

A 1946 honor list for the South Dakota Army personnel who died during WW2 lists the casualties by county and how the soldier died. The list says 814 were killed in action, 377 died in non-battle and 117 died of wounds.

Minnehaha County again had the highest number of casualties with 124. Pennington County followed with 62 deaths, then Brown County at 55 and Beadle and Brookings County both with 50 deaths. 

The forward from the 1946 honor list calculated that South Dakota contributed .40 percent of the total number who entered the Army. 

“Of these men and women of South Dakota who went to war, 3.64 percent failed to return,” the forward reads. “This figure represents .47 percent of the Army’s total dead and missing.”

The SDDA says over 68,000 South Dakotans served in World War II. 

Korean War

The National Archives recorded 160 South Dakota military deaths during the Korean War. 

Five of those deaths were from the Air Force, five were from the Navy and 20 came from the Marine Corps.

According to The U.S. Army Center of Military History, 130 South Dakotans killed during the Korean War were in the Army. Neighboring states like Iowa saw 392 casualties for the Army, North Dakota had 147 deaths, Nebraska had 234 and Minnesota had 548 people die.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported that an estimated 26,000 South Dakotans enlisted to serve in the Korean War. 

Vietnam War 

According to the National Archives, South Dakota had 192 military casualties during the Vietnam War. 

Of those, 137 were enlisted in the Army, 32 in the Marine Corps, 12 in the Navy and 11 in the Air Force. 

In a 2021 KELOLAND News article, the SDDA said their number of deaths is higher at 209 because the state includes veterans who had been enlisted just before the war started.

The state’s total number of South Dakotans who served in the Vietnam War will also differ from the federal number because it includes the Vietnam era. 

KELOLAND News reported that the SDDA calculates 28,000 people served. The federal number is 21,595. 

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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