The USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial has sat at the corner of 12th St. and Kiwanis for as long as I can remember, and it wasn’t until today that I actually stepped foot inside… that is a mistake that I will not soon live down. Sitting right here in our glorious city is a memorial to one of the brightest stars of United States Navy History! The USS South Dakota was the most decorated battleship of World War II, in its short 4 years of service serving time in both theatres, engaging enemies from the smallest of aircraft, to the mightiest of destroyers, to the ultra-fortified Japanese mainland. The USS So.Dak. saw such great success that the Dept. of Navy refused to release its name to media outlets. Due to such secrecy the USS South Dakota became known around the country as, “Battleship X.” Such a glorious battleship deserves a glorious memorial, and the USS South Dakota has just that, right on the corner of two main thoroughfares of our fantastic city.
The parts of the memorial we all see every time we drive past are very impressive. The 16″ gun still strikes an intimidating pose on its silent perch, the original chain and anchor snake along the grassy deck of the memorial ship, radar, antiaircraft, and other electronic equipment round out the “operational” look of the memorial; giving the appearance that it could rise from the soil and take sail to whatever maritime battle calls, at a moment’s notice! Other displays outside tell of the seaman that gave their lives for our freedom, aboard the ship, they tell of the over 240,000 miles the ship sailed – securing the waters around it all of the way, they tell of the 13 battle stars and other service medals were added to the ships decoration. But the real treasure lies inside:
100’s of pictures line the interior walls, from christening, to battle times, to recreational sport on the service deck, to decommissioning, to memorial – all available to the interested viewer. There are many original pieces on display with their own story to tell. A scale model of the ship held my kiddos attention for quite some time as each 1/4″ of the model perfectly resembles every 1′ of the real ship. The teak deck boards of the ship line the ceiling, the surrendered flag of the last Japanese destroyer in action in the pacific theatre hangs in the corner, firsthand accounts of battles and glory are displayed all around. Whether you have an interest in South Dakota, WWII, or even just naval history you are a kid in a candy store at the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial. If you have kiddos that go gaga over planes and boats, you will be their hero for bringing them through. And most importantly if you are an American and you enjoy your freedoms and liberties you will be caught up in the spirit of the bravery and sacrifice that this ship and the sailors aboard showed forth time and time again. Don’t just drive on by, take a moment and check out the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial right her in Sioux Falls, at the corner of 12th St. and Kiwanis Ave.!
The story of “Battleship X” on video: