11/12/2008 – News
Volume 125, Number
Shaver is survivor of famed battle on Guadalcanal during WWII
BY RICHARD PETERSON
Veterans Day was established so Americans can pay respect to the veterans whose service has kept our nation free. Some did more than others and some gave everything.
In addition to the men on the front lines there were others who provided them with necessary supplies such as food, clothing and ammunition. Benson County native Kenneth Shaver, who now lives in Devils Lake, was one of those.
He was a member of the famed North Dakota National Guard 164th Infantry Regiment which distinguished itself on Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the South Pacific during World War II.
Shaver, who will be 90 on June 18, is a hale and hearty fellow with a strong voice who doesn’t give a hint of his advanced age. He lives by himself in a small and comfortable home in Devils Lake and keeps himself busy with his hobby of leatherwork.
He was born a few miles west of Esmond and his family later moved into Esmond. After he finished the first grade in Esmond, his mother died and he went to live with an uncle in Iowa. He and an older brother returned to Esmond and he finished the third grade there.
His father became the Benson County Highway Superintendent and Ken attended the 4th through 8th grade at Minnewaukan. Then his father bought 40 acres south of Devils Lake and he attended two years of high school in Devils Lake. "After that I went to work for farmers in the area and that was the end of my education," he recalls.
At the age of 22, he joined the National Guard in the fall of 1941 and went to Louisiana for basic training. "We left Camp Grafton and drove trucks without heaters to Louisiana. It was 15 below when we left. That was one cold trip until we got to Missouri," he says. They slept in schoolhouses and armories on the way. The trucks had to be started several times at night so they would be ready to go in the morning. At that time the 164th had approximately 1,800 personnel. Full strength was about 4,000 personnel. "I don’t think we ever got to full strength," Shaver says.
On Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The very next day the 164th headed out for the West Coast. They spent five or six days at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Calif. and then were spread all along the northern border to guard critical bridges and other infrastructure from Montana to the state of Washington. In April the 164th was regrouped in California and loaded onto a steamship, the President Coolidge, bound for Australia. They spent five days in Australia before embarking on three Dutch boats which had previously been livestock carriers. The livestock carriers took them to New Caledonia and from there they landed on Guadalcanal October 13, 1942.
Guadalcanal had been taken by the 1st Marine Division and the 164th was sent to reinforce the Marines because the Japanese had landed on the island and were desperately trying to retake it. The battle was already underway when the 164th landed. Included in the battle were rifles, snipers, anti-aircraft guns, mortars, artillery, fighter planes, bombers and the big guns of the ships on both sides.
The very day the 164th landed, Henderson Field, the airstrip on the island, was bombed by Japanese planes and the 164th suffered its first casualty.
Henderson Field, the airstrip, was considered crucial to the war effort, so the Japanese bombed it on almost a daily basis. The bomb craters were simply filled in after each bombing raid and the airstrip resumed operation.
After the war was over Shaver read an article in Time Magazine that told of men of the 164th going to a small island about 35 miles from Guadalcanal to recruit laborers to fill in the bomb craters.
The men sent there came across natives having a feast. The natives were willing to come to do the work, but only after they had finished their feast, which consisted of 10 wives of a vanquished rival chieftain.
Shaver was the regimental ammunition sergeant, so it was his job to see to it the soldiers got the ammunition they needed. "That first month they bombed and strafed us during the day with their airplanes and at night the artillery let loose on us," Shaver remembers. No place was safe. Certainly not in an area where ammunition was stockpiled and bombs were falling. In fact, his immediate superior, Captain George R. Newgard, the regimental munitions officer, was killed when a bomb struck him three days after they landed on Guadalcanal.
Shaver said the 164th had brought a lot of ammunition with them when they landed and there was never a shortage of ammunition, except in small pockets for brief periods of time.
By the time the Japanese were cleared off Guadalcanal in February of 1943, the 164th suffered 150 officers and men killed, 360 wounded and 853 were evacuated. That was the toll from only one battle of the war. During WWII the 164th spent nearly 600 days in combat and 325 men were killed in action, while 1,192 were wounded. The Japanese fared far worse. Their dead numbered in the many thousands and they were buried in mass graves.
When the fighting ended most of the soldiers had lost about 20 pounds and many suffered from malaria. During the fighting only those with temperatures above 101 degrees were relieved of combat duty.
The 164th Infantry was given the nickname "The 164th Marines" for their bitter fight against the Japanese in the Battle for Henderson Field and the Battle of the Matanikau on the island and was the first US Army unit to take offensive action during World War II.
When the fighting was done there, Shaver was sent to the Fiji Islands. By that time he was the regimental supply sergeant, responsible for more than just ammunition.
He noticed big piles of lumber on the beaches. He found out the lumber was placed between 55-gallon barrels of gasoline in the holds of ships and the lumber was simply discarded when the ships discharged their cargo. Shaver made a small boat out of the lumber. With a native of the Fijis he went out in the bay and threw dynamite in the water. This stunned fish, which were scooped up and put on hooks and thrown out as shark bait. The sharks were used to bombs going off in the water and they knew there would be stunned fish, so they came to investigate. When a shark bit at one of the fish on the hooks everybody braced for a ride because the shark would pull the little boat in all directions. "That was good fishing," Shaver said.
The 164th proceeded to mop up various islands from Bougainville northeast to the Philippines. When he reached the Philippines, Shaver was notified he was being rotated to the US. That was good news for him because the 164th was scheduled to be included in the invasion of Japan.
On the way home the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and the war ended. A week after landing on US soil, Shaver was a civilian, but only temporarily.
After the war he again joined the National Guard and was called up during the Korean War. He spent a year at Camp Rucker, Alabama as part of the Army’s training cadre before being discharged as a master sergeant in 1952.
When he returned to Devils Lake he went to work as a plumber for Neil Klemetsrud. He went on to a plumbing job in Grand Forks and got into pipefitting. He was a pipefitter at powerhouses, refineries, paper mills and other industrial sites from North Dakota to the West Coast and Minnesota and South Dakota. He worked on the many missile sites when they were installed in North Dakota. He retired at the age of 65 and returned to Devils Lake. He lived in Wisconsin until his wife, June (Petersen) died in 1999. He lived with a son in Minneapolis, Minn. until returning to Devils Lake in 2005.
His wife was also a Benson County native, having lived in Mission Township before her marriage. They had four sons and a daughter. He has nine grandchildren.
When asked if he ever thought while he was on Guadalcanal that he would have nine grandchildren, he replied, "No. At the time I didn’t think I was going to come out of the war alive."
But he did, along with quite a few other veterans. One other Benson County veteran of the Battle for Henderson Field is Hank Violett of Leeds. There may be others, but Violett is the only one Shaver knows about.
Today Shaver lives a relatively quiet life, unlike his military experiences which were dominated by bombs and artillery shells.
Master Sergeant Kenneth Shaver about 1952.
Ken Shaver relaxes in his easy chair with a book of clippings about World War II. Shaver joined the Gunnerud-Dietrich American Legion Post 86 of Minnewaukan this summer.
King of the Hill
Significant moisture last week, followed by nearly a foot of heavy wet snow created travel problems for people in the area. Farmers are dismayed because fields are saturated and the snow creates insulation, resulting in slush and mud underneath. Little corn has been harvested, and fears are that the ground will not freeze solid, making it almost impossible for combines to traverse the fields.
Devils Lake rose about four inches last week. But there’s always a bright side. Chldren enjoyed playing "King of the Hill" in all towns where snow has been piled after removing it from the streets. This monster snow pile in Leeds was enjoyed by many youngsters. (Photo by Jan Lee)
New commissioner elected; Obama carries Benson 2-1
Voters went to the polls November 4 to elect federal, state and district officials and pass judgment on four statewide measures and one county measure. Approximately 320,000 people cast ballots in North Dakota, about 64 percent of eligible voters. In Benson County 2,402 ballots were cast.
All vote totals in this article are unofficial. A few absentee ballots which were postmarked before the election and arrived after the election remain to be counted. Percentages may not add up to 100 percent because of rounding and write-in votes.
For president Benson County voters cast 1,566 ballots for Obama and 772 were cast for McCain. There were 21 for Nader, 6 for Baldwin, 5 for Barr and 11 were write-ins for others. Statewide McCain received
168,522 and Obama received 141,112.
Benson County voters favored incumbent Democrat Earl Pomeroy 1,789 (76 percent) over his Republican challenger, Duane Sand, who received 547 (23 percent). Statewide Pomeroy received 194,175 (62 percent) to Sand’s 118,519 (38 percent).
For governor Benson County voters gave Republican incumbent John Hoeven 1,466 votes (62 percent), while his challenger, Democrat Tim Mathern received 847 (36 percent). Statewide Hoeven received 234,527 votes (74 percent) and Mathern received 74,144 (24 percent).
For state auditor Benson County voters gave Republican incumbent Robert Peterson 1,000 votes (44 percent) and his Democratic challenger, Daryl Splichal received 1,270 (56 percent). Statewide Peterson received 179,542 (61 percent) and Splichal received 116,060 (39 percent).
For state treasurer Benson County voters gave incumbent Republican Kelly Schmidt 951 votes (42 percent) and her Democratic challenger, Mitch Vance received 1,297 (57 percent). Statewide Schmidt received 180,467 (61 percent) and Vance received 113,215 (Continued from Front Page) (39 percent).
For insurance commissioner Benson County voters gave Republican incumbent Adam Hamm 734 votes (32 percent) and his Democratic challenger, Jasper Schneider received 1,529 (67 percent). Statewide the vote totals were 150,710 (50.30 percent) for Hamm and 148,929 (49.70 percent) for Schneider. A recount is possible in this race.
For public service commissioner incumbent Republican Brian Kalk received 766 (34 percent) votes in Benson County, while his Democratic challenger, Cheryl Bergian received 1,464 (65 percent). Statewide the vote was 155,902 (53 percent) for Kalk and 137,442 (47 percent) for Bergian.
For superintendent of public instruction incumbent Wayne Sanstead received 1,425 votes (65 percent) in Benson County and his challenger Max Laird received 766 votes (35 percent). Statewide the vote was 158,776 (55 percent) for Sanstead and 128,194 (45 percent) for Laird.
Running unopposed for the supreme court were Mary Maring and Daniel Crothers. They each received about 1,900 votes in Benson County and more than a quarter million each statewide.
Also running unopposed were District Judges Michael Studevant of Bottineau and Donovan Foughty of Devils Lake. Both received about 1,900 votes in Benson County and were re-elected in their districts.
Running unopposed for county commissioner representing the 2nd district was Jason Lee. He received 1,918 votes (95 percent). There were 100 write-in votes.
An upset happened in the 4th district when incumbent Dwain Brown of Sheyenne was unseated by Davey Davidson of Fort Totten. Brown received 936 votes (43 percent) to Davidson’s 1,254 (57 percent). Davidson will take office in January. Running unopposed for county recorder was Rhoda Pfeifer, who received 1,982 votes. There were 16 write-ins.
Incumbent soil conservation district supervisor Ardon Herman did not file for re-election to that position. He received 19 write-in votes.
Kenneth Lunde received 16 write-in votes. Benson County voters were pretty much in tune with sentiment on the measures statewide with one exception.
Measure 3 which sets up a committee to administer tobacco settlement funds to promote tobacco prevention passed statewide 162,477 to 138,778. Benson County voters narrowly defeated the measure 1,112 to 1,104.
Measure 1 which would have set up a trust fund with oil money was defeated statewide 192,835 (64 percent) to 108,455 (36 percent). Benson County voters agreed 1,538 (69 percent) to 695 (31 percent).
Measure 2 which would have cut income taxes was defeated statewide 210,253 (70 percent) to 91,182 (30 percent). Benson County voters agreed 1,647 (73 percent) to 604 (27 percent).
Measure 4, which puts the Workers Compensation Insurance under control of the governor, passed statewide 162,477 (67 percent) to 138,778 (33 percent). In Benson County voters passed the measure
1,359 (63 percent) to 811 (37 percent).
The county measure which relieves the county of the responsibility of providing housing for the sheriff was approved 1,410 (63 percent) to 836 (37 percent).
Reuben Liechty of Jamestown has been named Realtor Emeritus by the National Association of Realtors for having served 40 years as a realtor. Liechty is the first Jamestown realtor to receive emeritus status. Presenting the award is Jill Beck, executive vice president of the ND Realtors Association. Liechty received a real estate brokers license in 1965 and was a broker for Realty Exchange in Jamestown. In 1973 he established Reuben Liechty & Company. During his time as a realtor, he served in several state offices as well as president of the ND Association of Realtors and in 1973 was chosen North Dakota Realtor of the Year.
STARS performance slated at Sheyenne Nov. 29-30
STARS (Student Theatre and Recreation in Sheyenne) is sponsoring a student comedy play, "Stocking Stuffers" to raise money for the LYO (Lutheran Youth Organization) of SOAM (Sheyenne Oberon Area Ministry) which is going to New Orleans next summer for a national convention. It is also co-sponsored by Sheyenne Summer Recreation.
Pastor Sharron Lucas of SOAM says "This will be a golden opportunity for our young church members to see a different part of our country and interact with the hundreds of other students coming from all across our nation. They will also be involved with learning more about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."
Rehearsals under the direction of Charlotte Franks-Erickson have been underway for weeks and there will be two performances at Ostby Hall in Sheyenne. The Saturday, Nov. 29 performance will be a dinner theatre with dinner at 5:30 p.m. and the play at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 30 there will be a performance at 2 p.m.
Tickets for the dinner theatre are $10 for adults and $5 for high school seniors and younger. Tickets for Sunday’s performance are $5 for adults and $3 for high school seniors and younger. Advance tickets will be sold.
The cast is composed of a fifth grader through an 11th grader and eight of the 10 cast members ironically have all had Charlotte Franks-Erickson as their kindergarten teacher and now as their play director.
The Minnewaukan School recently received a $2,500 donation from the ND Telephone Company (NDTC) for a hardwood floor to replace the tile floor in the school gym. Rodney Hoffmeyer, left, NDTC customer service manager, presents the NDTC Dollars in Motion donation to Dave Ambers, president of the Minnewaukan School Board. Donations such as the one to the Minnewaukan School are awarded every month from the NDTC Dollars In Motion program. As an investment in the future, NDTC has historically supported programs and projects that encourage youth, enhance communities and promote education. To request an application form for the NDTC Dollars In Motion program contact NDTC at 701-662-1100 or 1-800-880-4213.
Members of the Maddock AS Gibbens FFA Chapter and their advisor are pictured at the National FFA Convention. Left to right are Advisor Gary Wald, Preston Gilderhus, Tyler Sears, Andy Backstrom, Beau Buehler, Levi Slater, Alexis Buckmier and Kaidi Kenner. At the convention the Maddock FFA chapter received the National Chapter Award. Levi Slater and Beau Buehler accepted the award on behalf of the chapter.
Trick or treat
The Indian Health Services of Fort Totten invited the Warwick Pre-K and first grades to the clinic to trick or treat. In line to talk with the witch (aka Colette Byrum) and Deb Jetty, who was handing out treat bags, are kindergarteners Jayla Guy, Cole Smith and Winter Bigtrack. On her way out the door is Gina Demarce.
Students of month
Students of the month for October at the Warwick School are, left to right, kindergartener Winter Bigtrack, fifth grader Rainell Hobson and second grader Angel Georgeson.
October perfect attendance from Pre-K through sixth grade at the Warwick School are pictured, left to right, front row: Cole Smith, Tabatha Joramo, Riley Jo Cavanaugh, Jayla Guy, Marlin Demarce, Glenna Rue, Kylen Guy, Ava Redfox, James Charboneau, Jackson Delorme, Kory Georgeson and Mallory Demarce. Middle row: Sage Bertsch, Bill Brown, Jordan Bertsch, Markki Shaw, Amber Redfox, Destiny Lozensky, Jourdain Smith, David Mandan, Jayryl Guy, Gary Feather, Julia Hill, Seanna Georgeson, Klint Georgeson and Shastene Lambert. Back row: Jose Guy, Tobias McKay, Lichelle Richotte, Meggan Joramo, Virginia Fassett, Danielle Owlboy, Samantha Owlboy, Jace Baker, Shania Georgeson, Katelyn Omen and Elementary Principal Steve Jacobson.
First grader Alea Manley gets ready to bump a volleyball during a recent volleyball clinic held at the Leeds School. Standing directly behind her are Kearyn Nelsen, Kylee Hansen, Kim Nelsen and Reganne Ritterman.
During a recent car seat checkup event, child passenger safety technician, Shelley Aabrekke of Minnewaukan educated two local children about the importance of buckling up.
It started with one mother asking if her daughter could bring treats to share with her classmates at the Halloween party on October 31.
Warwick kindergarten teacher Mrs. Erickson replied, "Of course. I’m sending a note home about what we’ll be doing that day and will include that anyone who wants to send a little something extra may do so. I’ll be bringing sandwiches."
Twelve of the 23 students came to school that day with huge boxes of chips, homemade cupcakes, large bags of candy, bags of miniature candy bars, popcorn balls, pop and juice. Needless to say the sandwiches were not very popular.
Pictured with their treats, from left to right and top to bottom, are Jayla Guy, Julian Hill. Nathan Cavanaugh, Xavier Brown, Keyen Omen, Ava Redfox, Tabatha Joramo, Mackenzie Robertson, Ryan Leaf, Kalista Jackson, Taniya Redfox, Ethan Jerome, Marlin Demarce, Cole Smith, Gina Demarce, Winter Bigtrack, Mark Shaw, Jaztin Hunt, Aaron Green and Justin Steinhaus.