In Memory of
U.S. Army Private First Class Sturgis, South Dakota
Meade County

November 11, 1931 -- August 12, 1950
Killed in Action in Pongam-ni, South Korea

William “Bill” Albert Vander Voort was born on November 11, 1931, to William and Ruby (Post) Vander Voort in Bijou Hills, Brule County, South Dakota. Because his father passed away when he was only three years of age, William was raised by his mother and stepfather, Garland Nelson. William attended school in Mitchell but the family later moved to Rapid City.

William Vander Voort enlisted in the service at Rapid City in April of 1949, and because he was underage, he needed his mother’s permission. Trained at Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Benning, Georgia, Pfc. Vander Voort came home for a furlough twice before he went to Camp Stoneman, California, and then overseas on June 25, 1950, with Company C, 5th Regimental Combat team, spending some time first in Hawaii and then on to Korea. He wrote home to his mother: “I’m OK. I can’t tell you where I’m at but we were nine days on the water. This is sure a hole. You won’t hear from me for a long time. Love, Bill.”

Less than one month after his arrival in Korea, Private First Class William Vander Voort was fighting near Pongam-ni, South Korea on August 12, 1950, when he was killed in action. First declared missing in action, it was later learned that William had sacrificed his life to save the life of anther soldier in his unit. A buddy wrote to William’s mother to give her more details about his death:

I guess you will feel somewhat surprised to hear from us but we are buddies of your son, William, who was in our platoon at the time of his death, and we would like for you to know that we thought and still think of William as a hero who has paid the price of war. He was killed on a mountain where we were being over-run by the enemy. He was in his fox hole, with one of his buddies, when a hand grenade fell into their hole. William made a lunge for the grenade, but before he could throw the grenade from his hole, it exploded and he was killed. He buddy was badly wounded and is now in a Tokyo army hospital in Japan.

The body of Pfc. William Albert Vander Voort was returned to the United States and buried in the American Legion section of the Graceland Cemetery in Mitchell.

William Albert Vander Voort had received the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

William’s mother, Ruby, remembered her son this way:

He was a nice boy. He was only 19. He didn’t drink or play cards. He saved his money. He wrote his mother regularly—wrote glowingly of his plans when he returned home. When he got out of the army, Bill would write, he was going to use his money to buy livestock. Bill longed for the life of a rancher in western South Dakota.

Losing her only son in Korea was something that Mrs. Nelson never recovered from. She felt responsible for his death because she had let him enlist, even though at the time there was no war going on. She also expressed anger that our forces were not prepared and lacked proper equipment although she felt US military leaders and the President led our nation to believe otherwise.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Trevor J. Locati and Mitchell Bradley, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota on May 21, 2004. Information was provided by the South Dakota National Guard Museum, American Battle Monuments Commission, an application for South Dakota Veterans Bonus, newspaper clippings, and grave marker photo by Mrs. Hansen. Profile approval by Arlie Nelson, cousin.