U.S.S. South Dakota was Home to 12-Year-Old Navy Serviceman Calvin Graham.
It was the most decorated battleship of World War II.
Weighing 35,000 long tons, it was 680 feet long and could move through the water at about 32 miles per hour. At any given time it would have 2,364 officers and men aboard.
And one boy.
The U.S.S. South Dakota played one of the most vital and important parts of World War II. Many of us have visited the battleship's Memorial right here in Sioux Falls. But there are many that don't know 12 year old Calvin Graham (Pictured Above) served honorably on this might vessel. And no, not as a stowaway, but as a member of the United States Navy.
A native of Texas, Calvin was just 12 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy on August 15, 1942. The United States had been plunged into war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the previous December and patriotism in America was at a fever pitch. It wasn't all that unusual for young men (boys, really) to lie about their age to help defend their country. It wasn't uncommon to discover that some of our servicemen were 16, maybe 17.
But 12? Yes, 12.
A product of a broken home, Calvin joined the Navy and was assigned to the Battleship U.S.S. South Dakota. Based out of Pearl Harbor, Calvin participated in the battle of Santa Cruz and the battle of Guadalcanal while on the South Dakota. Calvin received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart (he received fragmentation wounds during the battles). All of this happened before Calvin Graham was a teenager.
Calvin's mother eventually revealed his age and he was released from the Navy in 1943. And so ended the military career of one Calvin Graham.
Except it didn't.
In 1948 Calvin joined the United States Marine Corps. He was 17 and served about three years.
Read the whole story about the late Calvin Graham, and read the incredible story of the U.S.S. South Dakota. And if you haven't visited the Battleship Memorial in Sioux Falls at 12th and Kiwanis, do so soon.
And imagine a 12-year-old Navy Seaman on the deck of the most decorated Battleship of World War II.