Crew members return for USS South Dakota reunion

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A well-known memorial in Sioux Falls is receiving a 50th-anniversary celebration this weekend from visitors.

The USS South Dakota memorial brought back many sailors and Marines who served on the battleship during World War II.

The veterans that served in the South Pacific during World War II visited Sioux Falls this weekend to reflect on the life-changing events generations ago.

Five crew members who were on that ship came back for the reunion and are all still moving along well in their 90's.

The USS South Dakota was home to many and now former crew members look back at the time they spent on the vessel.

"It's an awesome looking ship when you see it for the first time and it's still an awesome ship as we remember it," Former crew member, Richard Hackley said.

"I look forward to getting together like this and it's a nice place. The museum is beautiful," Former crew member, Wally Pratt said.

One of the most decorated battleships at sea during the war is now a well-known memorial that has been recognized in Sioux falls for 50 years.

"I think it was a sad thing to break her up because she was probably one of the most famous ships in the war," Hackley said.

Hackley was a radar operator tracking down enemy battleships and aircraft. In the war, so much was going on it's hard for him to remember it all.

"It kind of all blends in. I don't know that specifically you have something that you remember," Hackley said.

Many veterans come back to Sioux Falls year after year to remember together. Each year the crowd slims as each veteran ages and although many were on the ship together they were too busy working to meet each other.

"We didn't make many friends on the ship because if you had time off the other guys were all busy so we never really got together. Most of us made our friends by coming to the reunion," Pratt said.

For Albert Schweitzer, he considered it somewhat of a business trip.

"It was like a cruise for me, government paid," Former crew member, Albert Schweitzer said.

Working as a drill instructor and helping shoot down the enemy he felt no fear.

"It wasn't scary I’ll tell you that because you don't think of it. You just do what you were trained to do and it's just automatic," Schweitzer said.

After the war, many of the vets went on to continue careers similar to what they were doing in the war. Others went back to school to broaden their education.