SPEARFISH – A ceremony honoring local war hero Herbert A. Littleton drew a crowd of family, friends, fellow veterans and community members Thursday morning in Spearfish.

A special unveiling revealed a monument that recognizes Littleton for his act of bravery in giving his life for his country – an act that earned him a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1951.

MG Phillip Killey, Adjutant General of South Dakota, spoke in high praise of Littleton saying, "The Medal of Honor is the greatest tribute of individual valor and self-sacrifice that is given."

He added, "It’s important we keep the spirit of the Medal of Honor alive. It represents the values of duty, honor and country that we want to leave with our children as we face the 21st century. These are the bedrock values that will carry them through."

He said, "The Medal stands for the potential that lives within each of us – the potential to change the world."

Gov. Bill Janklow also spoke at the memorial ceremony.

"I think it’s incredibly important that we never ever forget the unique people that gave their lives for this country."

Janklow related stories of Littleton – how he bragged to everyone about his girl back home, Barbara Taylor, and showed friends pictures of her at every opportunity.

"He was looking forward to marrying her when he got back home. He had plans to go to college and get an education so they could have a good life." Janklow further described Littleton, saying, "He was a person working on a Private 1st Class salary – you could almost call him a charitable worker. Yet he was saving money and sending it home to his beloved Barbie to buy a wedding dress."

He emphasized the importance of Littleton’s role with the forward observer team.

"He was the communication to the outside world. It was the radio man’s job to call in artillery when under attack. He not only saved the radio, he saved the group when he threw off the 65-pound radio before hurling himself on that grenade."

Janklow said there were so many things Littleton could have done instead.

"He could’ve turned and run, or he could have thrown himself on his side with the radio shielding him from the blast. But in an instant he made the decision that his friends were more important than he was. So if you ask, ‘How fast can a man move?’ … Fast enough to save his friends."

Janklow spoke as if for everyone in South Dakota, saying of Littleton, "We do more than appreciate you. We promise we will never forget you. When we talk about sacrifice and how difficult life’s paths are, we will pause to reflect on what tough times really are, and what sacrifice really is because you gave us the example."

He closed with the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps: "Semper fidelis (always faithful), my friend."

Littleton was 20 years old at the time of his death.

Friend of the family Mike Fish, remembers his friend Herbert. Like many who knew Littleton, Fish refers to his friend as Hal, and describes him as "an awfully good kid."

"I knew him before he went (to Korea)," Fish said. "I knew his older brothers really well, too."

Fish says he ran into Littleton just before the fatal attack.

"He was on the F.O. team for the artillery outfit. They would come up to the front lines for a month and then go back with the guns."

Fish remembers the night in 1951 saying, "There was about six inches of snow. We were together about two nights before he got killed."

Fish said he was across a draw – only about 50 yards from where Littleton was killed – and he remembers hearing the news. He said about 200 people were killed that night.

He said again, "Hal was a good, fun-loving kid. He saved his gun crew."

In an excerpt from "These Are Your Sons," a book written by Father Timothy Mullvany recounting the stories of Korean War heroes, Mullvany writes, "Here tonight in Korea where Marines sit around and talk, they remember the private who never had time to make corporal. But tonight, there is never a mention of rank or rating. Five stars on a man’s shoulder could not have been more gallantly graced than the single stripe Herbie wore on his jacket. In life he was Private First Class. In death, he went down as a man first class."

The memorial stands across from Spearfish City Park in honor of the local hero.


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