In Memory of
U.S. Army Master Sergeant Bridgewater, South Dakota
McCook County

August 27, 1930 – August 15, 1951
Died as Prisoner of War in Korea


Joseph John Solem was born in Bridgewater, South Dakota, on August 27, 1930, to Henry C. and Tossie (Kerr) Solem. Joseph had two brothers, Henry Rae and Robert. Joe graduated from Bridgewater High School in May of 1948.

Shortly after graduation and before he was eighteen, he enlisted in the Army. He entered active service on July 30, 1948, at Sioux Falls. He was sent overseas on August 3, 1950, as a part of the Headquarters Battery, 82nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division.

Master Sergeant Joseph John Solem was taken prisoner of war while fighting the enemy near Kunu-ri North Korea on December 1, 1950. On January 12, 1951, he wrote a letter to his parents stating that he “was in good health but that he was a prisoner of war in China.” His second letter, although undated, may have been later that spring because he wrote of weather nice enough for swimming and fishing. Because there was no further word from Joseph and his body was never recovered, the Adjutant General fixed his date of death as August 15, 1951, at Camp #1 in North Korea. The cause of death was listed as “pellagra” which is a vitamin deficiency caused by an inadequate diet that can cause organs to shut down if untreated.

Master Sergeant Solem was buried in either North Korea or China; Solem is also listed on the memorial at Punch Bowl, Hawaii. He was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” Device, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Kristi Marie Zebroski, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, May 25, 2004. Information for this entry was provided by South Dakota National Guard Museum, the American Battle Monuments Commission, Bridgewater Tribune, August 2, 1951 issue, and an application for a veteran’s bonus. Profile approved by Robert Solem, brother.