The Moody County Historical Society has published a new book dedicated to all county veterans who served during the Korean War Era, one of whom was killed in action. The book is a biographical sketch of 2nd Lt. Robert Thompson and is entitled: KIA IN KOREA: 2nd Lt. Robert K. Thompson Killed In Action 12 Feb 1951, Unforgettable Sacrifices In A Forgotten War. Thompson was survived by his wife, Doris, and one daughter, Vicki (Solem), who was born in December 1950, a little more than a month after he arrived in Korea. Doris remarried (Richard Julson) and raised two more children, Lani Ramsdell and Rob Julson.
During the last week of July this year Vicki, Lani and her husband Scott, Bill Ellingson, the author of the book, and his wife Janna, traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit the Korean War Memorial. The memorial has been in place since 1995, but a Wall of Remembrance listing the names of more than 36,000 Americans who died in the war was just finished and installed earlier this summer. As a Gold Star family member, Vicki was invited, along with guests of her choosing, to a special ceremony for dedication of the Wall.
The Introduction to the book states that, “Bob’s story begins with his early years, his family and his pre-adult life growing up in a small, rural town in southeastern South Dakota in the late 1930s and early 1940s . . . Bob’s future wife, Doris Stordahl, grew up on a farm . . . Her life as a child on the farm at that time, prior to rural electricity and running water, is envisioned along with grade school education at the one-room country school she attended.”
Flandreau native, Adam Oswald, an accomplished artist now living in Harrisburg, was asked to do a painting which was used for the cover of the book. He did so at no charge and donated the framed oil painting to the museum.
Bill Ellingson volunteered to write the book for the Historical Society. Ellingson has written several articles for the Society’s quarterly newsletter in recent years. When asked what motivated him to write this book, he said that, about ten years ago, he learned Vicki had letters Bob wrote to Doris from Korea. She described them as lengthy, descriptive of the harsh winter weather they were enduring, and heart- wrenching. Ellingson said Vicki generously agreed to let him read them and, ever since, he felt Bob’s story was one that needed to be told. As he put it in the introduction, “it’s not just a war story. It’s also a love story. And it’s not just his story. It is a version of a story having much in common with many other soldiers who fought in the Korean War.”
On the back of the book is reference to an award that the story behind the book received. Ellingson entered a short abstract of the contents of the book in South Dakota’s 2021 Veterans Story Contest and it won first place. Winners read their stories at the state’s annual Festival of Books last October. The title is “Wars Spawn Generations of Sacrifice.” Prior to its reading, the story was introduced by Colin Halloran, a nationally recognized author and Army veteran whose own memoir on his Afghanistan experience is an award winning publication. He said this contest entry “blends the personal with the historical, seamlessly integrating historical documents including letters, articles, and telegrams with a narration which compels the reader all the way through the story.”
Copies of the book can be purchased by contacting the Moody County Historical Society by phone or email, both of which can be obtained from its web site.