Senator John Thune
As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, families and businesses throughout the country will unfurl the stars and stripes and proudly display the American Flag in honor of our great nation. The importance of this waving symbol of liberty and justice is epitomized in the famous World War II photo depicting U.S. Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima, Japan. Stories such as this, depicting the patriotic heroism of our military, cause us to pause and reflect upon the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made and continue to make on behalf of our country.
I have had the honor of listening to many of our state’s great war heroes tell stories of battles won and fought, and some of my favorite stories are of the USS South Dakota, a famous World War II battleship that found great success throughout its career. Nicknamed ‘Old Incredible’, it played an active role in 15 major U. S. military operations, 50 air strikes, and the downing of over 64 Japanese aircraft. It was one of the fastest and most expensive ships of its time, and was truly feared in the Pacific. The USS South Dakota also took part in a number of historic World War II events. It was one of the first ships to bomb the Japanese homeland and was present at the Japanese surrender signing.
At the conclusion of its illustrious career, the USS South Dakota had traveled almost 250,000 miles – roughly the distance from the earth to the moon. It crossed the equator and the international dateline 30 times, as well as the Arctic Circle twice. This mighty battleship truly became a legend before it was even one year old. For its efforts, the USS South Dakota and its crew were awarded 13 battle stars by the United States Navy after less than five years at sea.
We are eternally grateful to the heroes of the USS South Dakota and their families for their contributions and sacrifice to our country. I invite all South Dakotans this Fourth of July to join me in honoring the service of our veterans and to keep the brave members of our military and their families in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to serve on our behalf.
Kimberley and I wish all South Dakotans a very happy and safe Independence Day.