South Dakota in World War One - An Airman's Story

Last Updated by Brian Gevik on

So this farm kid from Toronto, South Dakota grows up, goes to college and ends up with a journalism degree from the University of South Dakota. He gets a job at a Sioux Falls newspaper.

The thing is, it's 1917. The guy quits his newspaper job and enlists in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, America's fledgling air force. There's a shortage of pilots so he figures he'll be made an officer sooner than later. He admits he doesn't know anything about flying but is told not to worry about it. "Well," they tell him, "nobody else does either." He's 21.

world war one uniform

world war one uniform

Fred C. Christopherson in 1918Fred C. Christopherson, 1918

world war one uniform

world war one airman's helmet

The Army sends him to California for pilot training. He learns to fly some of the first aircraft ever designed and built to carry big, heavy bombs. He goes to Texas for more training, then goes to New York City to wait for a ship. In 1918, he sails to England for still more training. Once there, he learns to fly England's biggest, heaviest and most dangerous bomber.

handley-page bomberA Handley-Page bomber ca. 1918

And then, Armistice. He celebrates like everybody else and goes home.

He goes back to being a journalist and after a couple of interim jobs, he's hired as an editor at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. He works there for 33 years, finally retiring in 1961 as the paper's executive editor. Along the way he's praised as a terrific journalist, philanthropist, and all-around civic leader. He's one of the first to be inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. His name was Fred C. Christopherson. 

Fred C. ChristophersonFred C. Christopherson

world war one uniform

Christopherson's officer's uniform, which looks as sharp and crisp as it likely did a hundred years ago, was donated by family to the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls. It is on display in a World War One exhibit at the Museum in Sioux Falls. The museum is located at 6th and Main.

Icon Read a biography of Fred Christopherson (310.5 KB)  written by his great nephew, Stan Christopherson, and published by the Center for Western Studies at Augustana College.

In the Moment with Lori Walsh

Listen to Stan Christopherson interviewed about the life and service of his great-uncle.


Related: South Dakota in World War One - A Soldier's Story

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