South Dakota National Guard, Ellsworth AFB come together for 1972 flood anniversary
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The evening of the 1972 Flood, National Guard officials had called an emergency meeting and before it was even over, the decision had been made.
“People were pulling into the camp, requesting all kinds of things.” Retired National Guardsman Duke Doering said. “And so, more guardsmen were going to be needed, they could see that. So they got on tv and the radio stations and called all National Guard back to Camp Rapid.”
With their vehicles blocking off roads that were impossible for regular cars to get by, men went on foot in groups of three with ropes and flashlights searching for survivors and saved many lives in the aftermath.
However, it wasn’t just the guard responding to the disaster.
Ellsworth Air Force Base also offered their support that day.
“The base provided a number, just countless services to the community,” Historian for the 28th Bomb Wing John Moyes said. “Potable water, laundry services, meals. People were accepted on base and put up on base. People were accepted into the houses of base personnel.”
According to first-hand accounts provided by Moyes, nearly 6,000 pounds of meat alone were supplied by both the base and local organizations along with thousands of articles of clothing for displaced residents and vehicles for transportation.
Ellsworth also sent out rescue crews to help with ongoing searches for survivors.
Of the crews, six men died while patrolling the area. Some of whom had come to help on their own accord.
And 50 years later, the contributions made continue to help maintain both the base and guard’s importance to the community.
“I think history escapes people because it becomes irrelevant,” Moyes explained. “And one of the things I think recounting things like this does is reestablishes relevance.”