By Rep. Kristi Noem
Grit. It’s that unshakable courage; that resolve to succeed; that hardiness which generations of South Dakotans have represented. It’s a trait we wear as a badge of honor in this state – a trait personified most intensely by the brave South Dakotans who serve in our military.
Grit is also what defined the USS South Dakota during World War II. This ship was a leader among leaders; the war’s most decorated battleship. During the Battle of Santa Cruz Island alone, it shot down 30 enemy aircraft and operationally disabled two enemy aircraft carriers to defend American assets. It would later engage in nine shore bombardments and shoot down 34 more enemy aircraft. The battleship, which was critical to America’s victory in the Pacific, was decommissioned in January 1947, although its storied reputation lives on today.
In early 2012, I joined Senator John Thune and then-Senator Tim Johnson in formally petitioning the U.S. Navy to name the next attack submarine the USS South Dakota, recognizing the accomplishments of that World War II battleship as well as the grit and determination of South Dakota veterans. Our request was granted, and this month, I’m honored to help celebrate the new submarine’s christening.
While I was unable to make it to the official event in Connecticut, I joined the celebration in Sioux Falls days before. There, we welcomed South Dakota veterans who had carried an American flag across the state, placing it in the saddlebag of a new Harley Davidson bike, custom-painted to honor the USS South Dakota. It was a powerful moment; one that reminded everyone there of the sacrifices made to defend the stars and stripes. I was proud to stand that day, with hand over heart, in honor of patriots and the American flag.
The christening of the USS South Dakota turns the page to another chapter in our state’s historic tradition of service. With a mission involving everything from conducting anti-submarine warfare to intelligence gathering, the boat’s been built to dominate the world’s coastal and deep waters.
More specifically, the USS South Dakota can hold an arsenal of Tomahawk missiles, each capable of hitting on-shore targets up to 1,240 miles away (more than three times the distance from Rapid City to Sioux Falls). And while the submarine is 10 feet longer than a football field, nearly as tall as a 12-story building, and equivalent in weight to 65 blue whales, it will move through the water with an unprecedented degree of stealth. It’s a silent protector to say the least, sophisticated enough to maintain America’s undersea supremacy throughout the 21st Century.
As the USS South Dakota submarine prepares to officially join America’s naval fleet in 2018, I ask that you join me in praying for its crew, their safety, and the missions they’re set to complete. I hope they will find inspiration in the USS South Dakota’s legacy as well as the grit, the unshakable courage, and the resolve to succeed that is found in South Dakota’s veterans.