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Governor's Column: By Knowing and Telling Their Stories





 

            Office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard

500 E. Capitol Ave.

Pierre, S.D. 57501

605-773-3212

www.sd.gov

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, May 5, 2017

CONTACT:  Tony Venhuizen or Kelsey Pritchard at 605-773-3212

 

EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:  Please consider the following column from Gov. Dennis Daugaard. For an audio recording of the Governor’s weekly column, visit news.sd.gov/media.aspx and click on “Audio” under “Governor Dennis Daugaard.”

 

 

By Knowing and Telling Their Stories

 

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

 

Bill Bianchi may not have been born in South Dakota, but he became like an adopted son when in 1936 he began attending SDSU to earn an animal science degree. Bianchi kept busy in school playing football and participating in ROTC, and not long after graduating, Bianchi, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was sent to the Philippines to train new soldiers.

 

Today, Bianchi is known as a compassionate patriot who played a critical role in weakening the Japanese in the Battle of Toul Pocket.

 

On Feb. 3, 1942, Bianchi voluntarily led a group of soldiers with the mission of taking out two enemy machine gun nests. Early in the mission, he was shot twice in his left hand, forcing use of his handgun instead of his rifle. After he silenced one of the machine gun nests with grenades, Bianchi was wounded again by two more bullets to his chest. He somehow kept moving and managed to climb to the top of an American tank to man the gun. He fired at enemy strongholds until he was knocked off by a blast from a grenade.

 

Two months later, Bianchi was taken prisoner. He and other men being held were forced to make a brutal 65-mile trip on foot – a journey which became infamous as the Bataan Death March. They went from camp to camp – each one progressively worse than the last. Sleeping on the soaked floors of mud huts, many weakened, exhausted prisoners grew ill.

 

Throughout his imprisonment, Bianchi cared for other prisoners by bartering with their captors for food and medicine. He was put in charge of allocating the food portions, and he ensured everyone shared equally. He never gave himself a greater portion. When they were forced to march, Bianchi would walk up and down the line to encourage the other men and help with their burdens.

 

Bianchi never made it back to South Dakota or to his boyhood home in New Mexico. In January of 1945, when he had been held prisoner for two years and nine months, he was placed in an unmarked prison ship. Tragically, the vessel was destroyed by Allied troops, unaware Americans were onboard. Bianchi was 29 years old.

 

This Memorial Day week, we will commemorate Bianchi and the other South Dakotans who received the Medal of Honor by dedicating a new Hall of Honor in the Capitol Building in Pierre. Along with Bianchi, we will honor Patrick Brady, Michael Fitzmaurice, Joe Foss, Isaac Fry, Woodrow Keeble, Herbert Littleton, Arlo Olson, Charles Roberts and Leo Thorsness.

 

I invite you to visit the Hall of Honor when you are in Pierre. Originally located in the Soldiers and Sailors World War Memorial building, the display has been redesigned and relocated to the first floor of the State Capitol. Come see it for yourself. Read the incredible stories of each of these men and take a moment to reflect on the cost of freedom.

 

For it is by knowing and telling their stories that we can best honor their sacrifices.

 

 

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