Victor Swallow: When the Air Force bomber crashed at Pine Ridge

The Badlands in South Dakota are seen under the Milky Way. During World War II, the federal government took land from the Oglala Sioux Tribe by eminent domain and established a military training range in the Badlands. Photo: Tsai Project

Remembering when the Airforce Bomber crashed at Red Shirt Table
By Victor D. Swallow
Native Sun News Today Columnist

I wanted to write this story about World War II veterans because we as a society never honored and showed our appreciation to these veterans as individuals and their families who supported them. I am going to write about several different thoughts concerning; World War II, and the bombing area on the reservation, an account of a B-17 plane crash on a training mission, and also mention some War Veterans that I knew and or knew of.

My family lived about three miles from the west side border of the bombing area and eight to ten miles where they were bombing. I was five years old and older when I remembered the bombers flying over the area.

You could see the bombs being dropped from the airplanes and hear the explosions. The fighter planes would fly high up and dive down and shoot their 50 caliber guns in rapid fire. Dad called the bigger bullets 20 millimeters or canons which sound like “Boom boom” when they fired. I heard the grownups talking about Japanese prison camps and how the Japanese prisoners might escape.

Every sound I would hear in the night I was sure it was one of those Japanese prisoners that had escaped. I was really scared! Later during my first year in Boarding School in Pine Ridge, before they showed a movie they would give updates on the war.

The crash of the B-17 is my dad John Swallows account of what happened. He belonged to a Cattlemen Association and he was out riding checking on his cattle. He was going home riding up the Eastside of Red Shirt Table when a bomber flew overhead sputtering smoking and flying lower than normal.

As it flew East past Blindman’s Table he saw a man parachute out before it went out of sight. He heard an explosion and saw smoke and rode towards where he last saw the plane. When dad got to the crash site there was other riders there. Soon after they found the man that bailed out. He had slammed into the side of a hill and he was dead.

Dad said he thought the plane was to low when he jumped out. Bauly No Neck pulled the man’s shirt over his head out of respect. It was a somber scene for the riders. My cousin Bob Two Bulls was nine years old when this happened. He said his father, Pete Two Bulls got some sage and chewed it to help him deal with what happened. Cousin Bob also remembered it happened in 1944. I remembered a lot of military vehicles around the reservation. I asked cousin Bob and he said it was nine ambulances, it seemed like there was other vehicles as well.

To get to the Airbase they would have to go around Buffalo Gap because there was no bridge to cross the Cheyenne River at Red Shirt.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Remembering when the Airforce Bomber crashed at Red Shirt Table

(Victor D. Swallow was born in 1939, Oglala Lakota, U. S. Navy Veteran, 50 year member of Bricklayers Union, Optimistic realist and fair. Victor can be reached at his daughter’s email address at vikkilovestodance@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News