Last surviving WWII veteran of famous ND National Guard unit dies
BISMARCK – The last North Dakota National Guard World War II soldier known to be residing in North Dakota died in Bowman on April 3, just weeks shy of his 97th birthday.
The North Dakota National Guard said Douglas Burtell, who served in the famed 164th Infantry Regiment, was the last original member of the unit residing in North Dakota.
Burtell was only 16 years old when he joined the North Dakota National Guard in Fargo in late 1940. Assigned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Section of the Infantry Regiment he was trained to interpret aerial photographs, draw maps based on reconnaissance patrols, and analyze captured materials.
“I sadly note that our ranks have grown smaller by one with the passing of Doug Burtell,” said Vern Fetch, president of the 164th Infantry Association. “I remember fondly that Doug attended the final 164th Association reunion in Bismarck on Oct. 14, 2017. He will be greatly missed by our few remaining members, most of whom joined the 164th later in WWII or served during the Korean War.”
Burtell was one of 1,723 soldiers of the 164th Infantry Regiment that mobilized in February 1941 for a year of training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and 10 months later, the regiment would sail into history as the first U.S. Army unit to offensively engage the enemy when they landed at Guadalcanal on Oct. 13, 1942, to reinforce the 1st Marine Division.
His artwork helps tell the every day stories of the soldiers as they fought their way through islands in the South Pacific. Burtell was recently honored when the North Dakota adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, announced that one of his sketches would be featured on his new recognition coin. Other artwork by Burtell is etched in granite on the 164th Infantry Regiment Memorial located at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, his final resting place.
Burial will be at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery today at 3 p.m. The burial is open to the public.