From the Great Plains to the Great War

Last Updated by Brian Gevik on
South Dakota National Guardsmen in 1917
South Dakota National Guard Museum

This 60-minute SDPB TV documentary offers a look at how South Dakotans served during the War to End All Wars, on the front lines and on the home front.

Highlights:

  • A handful of South Dakotans enlisted with the Canadian and other Allied forces even before the United States entered the conflict.
  • Many South Dakota men of age for military service volunteered. South Dakota was ranked tenth in the nation in terms of volunteers, which was 20 percent above the national average.
  • German-speaking South Dakotans faced discrimination of various kinds. Mennonite and Hutterite draftees who refused military service were imprisioned and abused. 
  • South Dakota troops were involved in most of the major battles on the Western front, beginning in the early summer of 1917.
  • Significant numbers of South Dakotans served together in the 147th field artillery and in the 89th and other divisions made of primarily of Midwesterners. 
  • Some women from South Dakota worked as nurses overseas and at home. Some worked in field hospitals very close to the front lines while others worked in convalescent clinics far from the fighting. Women also worked in administrative and clerical positions abroad and at home.
  • Some of South Dakota's World War I veterans achieved promience, one became infamous, but most returned to either renew or restart the lives they'd interrupted in the service of their country.