SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY ARMORY

Among a couple of monuments honoring Veterans is large granite pillar dedicated in 2000 to honor Army 1st Lieutenant Willibald “Bill” C. Bianchi. A native of New Ulm, MN, Bianchi graduated from SDSU majoring in animal science. He was an ROTC cadet and was commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant in 1940.

Bianchi was stationed in the Philippine Islands in February 1942 at the height of WWII. When the enemy was attempting to attack and wipe out his platoon, Bianchi led his men forward, barraging them with gunfire. He got shot twice in his left hand, and while avoiding first aid for his injuries, he took out an enemy-filled machinegun nest with grenades. He took two bullets to the chest, before he climbed on top of an American Army tank and continued to fire a machinegun toward the enemy. He was hit with a third bullet and toppled to the ground. After a short one-month period of recovery, he returned to active duty and was promoted to Captain.

Two months later, Bianchi was captured by the Japanese and was imprisoned with 75,000 other American Veterans and Filipino soldiers. They were imprisoned in several different Prisoners of War (POW) camps over the next three years. Once, the POWs were forced to walk a 65-mile Bataan Death March, with many dying on the way from starvation, dehydration, disease and mistreatment. Though Bianchi went through the same torture, he spurred his comrades on to endure and live.

While in the prison camps they had little food, no clean clothes, no medical supplies and no restrooms. When they weren’t forced to do hard labor, they were held captive in huts, where they slept on mud-soaked floors with no shelter from the frequent rains. Bianchi begged and bartered with their captors to get food for the prisoners, preventing hundreds of them from starving to death.

In 1945, while being a POW on an unmarked Japanese ship, Bianchi was killed after an American plane dropped a bomb on the ship. The plane’s crew was unaware the ship was filled with American POWs on board.

Five months later the Medal of Honor was presented by General Douglas Macarthur to Bianchi’s mother Carrie, in honor of her only son. This is the United States highest military award for acts of bravery. After the war, many Veterans wrote letters to his mom, expressing their gratitude as Bianchi’s actions kept them alive, and they owed their lives to him.

BROOKINGS, SD

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Stone Group Architects (SGA) is a proud supporter of our Veterans and Military Memorials. While we are strong supporters, SGA is independent from the memorials and does not claim responsibility of building or funding these memorials. SGA is a verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small business (SDVOSB) architectural firm, providing planning and design services to a variety of government clients.