The “2017 High School Essay Contest”, proudly sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center’, is HISTORY!

Lora Randa

Left to Right- Chad Postal, Lora Randa, Grade 10, Superior High School, Superior, WI , Lori Randa and John Gidley

The winners and honorable mentions have been selected. Congratulations! The field of entries was top notch! The contest was open to all High School students in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Center staff read and evaluated all of the essays and selected the top three entrants and three honorable mentions. The top essay will receive a Grand Prize of $250. A $50 cash prize will be awarded to the first and second runners up. A consolation prize will be awarded to three honorable mentions.

In a historic press conference on April 7th, 1954 President Eisenhower alluded to a “Falling of Dominos Principle” in which he explained the strategic importance of Vietnam in Southeast Asia. He related that if it fell into the hands of the Communists, soon after the rest of the region would fall. This announcement laid the foundation for the United States involvement in Vietnam. Looking back some sixty plus years, The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center asked students to write a short essay on whether the United States was effective in deterring the spread of Communism as a result of our presence in Southeast Asia?

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is proud to announce the following “2017 High School Essay Contest” winners:

Top Winning Essay-Lora Randa, Grade 10, Superior High School, Superior, WI

-First Runner-Up-Adrian Ferguson, Grade 11, Denfeld High School, Duluth, MN
-Second Runner-Up Keeli Gustafson, Grade 10 Denfeld High School, Duluth, MN

Honorable Mention:
-Nate Swanson, Grade 10, Denfeld High School, Duluth, MN
-Jake Seboe, Grade 10, Lincoln High School, Esko, MN

For almost two years, the American World War 1 soldier battled a bitter war in Europe.  He saw traumatic injuries and death on a scale seldom seen before.  Many veterans came home with limbs missing and physical scars.  Others suffered from a new psychological phenomenon referred to as “shell shock” and had a very difficult time adjusting to life in mainstream America.

The government did not ignore these damaged men, but looked to find a gratifying occupation for them.  Beekeeping was one answer.  It was considered a good option because the beekeeper typically works alone, at a slower pace, and has a major contribution to society through the products from the hive.  To this end, the Government developed vocational training for veterans in beekeeping to help them integrate back into society and earn a living.

Today, similar programs are still at work to partner veterans with beekeeping ventures.  One of these programs through the University of Minnesota offers free workshops to veterans to promote the benefits of beekeeping.

Edith Schultz

On Thursday, June 22nd the Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center will host Edith Schultz, 94, who will speak about her childhood in Poland and how her life was impacted by World War II.

Bong Center volunteer and oral history interviewer Clint Mattson will facilitate a conversation with Edith that will explore her life both before and after the outbreak of WWII. Her father went into hiding before eventually being drafted into the German Army. Edith and her mother moved throughout Europe in an effort to flee the chaos around them.

“It was a terrible time that January of 1945. My hometown was bombed by the Russians and trains going west were packed with people trying to flee. We were all escaping with our bare lives and had only what was on our backs”, said Schultz.

From Poland to Germany to Czechoslovakia, Edith finally wound up in a Russian POW camp at the end of the war.

Join us to hear more about her story as well as her life after the war when she married a U.S. soldier and moved to Wisconsin. She worked as a lab and x-ray technician for 30 years at Giesen Clinic in Superior. Later in life she became a competitive swimmer in the Senior Olympics and in April 2017 was inducted into the Wisconsin Senior Olympics Hall of Fame.

Join us on June 22nd at 6:30 p.m. to hear Edith’s fascinating life story.

Refreshments will be provided.

The Mission of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is to preserve and honor the memory of Major Bong and all veterans of World War II, as well as subsequent conflicts and to provide educational resources for the Twin Ports area community and beyond.

On June 9th the American Legion Post 435 will fly a flag of remembrance for Frank Benak.

Frank Vincent Benak was born in May 23, 1917 to Vincent and Barbara Benak in Berwyn Illinois. Vincent and Barbara had three sons, Frank, who was the oldest as well as James and
Joseph. He grew up helping his parents run their vegetable store in Chicago “Benak’s Fruit and Vegetable Store”. His parents withdrew him from school in the 9th grade because he
was such an asset. When Frank was a young adult, his Folks sold the store on a land contract and moved to Scottville Michigan to farm. They returned to Chicago twice to resume ownership and operation of the store. When Frank was 20 (1937) he and his family moved to Scottville For the final time. Frank continued to help his parents run the farm.

Frank pursued his education through a correspondence course and attained his GED. He loved the violin and was quite talented. He took lessons and occasionally played with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. He also worked at a local cheese Factory and then went to Auto-body school in Detroit
Michigan. He was working at a local auto-body shop when he received news of his draft.

Frank was inducted into the Army on May 8th, 1942 in Kalamazoo, Ml and was assigned to 128th Infantry Division. After training in Camp Livingston, Louisiana, he was shipped out For overseas duty in the Southwest Pacific. He was a member of the Cannon Company, 32nd Red Arrow Division. He was killed during patrol on the “Urbana Front”, volunteering For a dangerous mission that many of his group refused. He was listed as “Missing in Action”, his remains never recovered.

His family had strong hopes of finding him and searched Red Cross hospitals for years after his loss.

The government has just shared the details of his final days in 2016.

He is survived by his brother Joseph (Antoinette) Benak, South Range, Nephews Frank (Mary) Benak, George (Mary Jo) Benak, nieces Rose Benak Robinson, Boca Raton, FL and
Barbara (Patrick) Bergstrom, South Range, Mary (Richard) Becker, Jacksonville, FL as well as many great nieces and nephews. Other family members that have passed since his death include His parents, Vincent and Barbara, his brother James and sister-in-law Mildred, nephews Joseph Frank Benak (Viet Nam) and Edward Vincent Benak.

This Friday, June  2 The American Legion Post 435 will honor Sgt James Briggs with a Flag of Remembrance.

Sgt James D. Briggs

Jim received his draft papers in 1941 but was granted a one year exemption as he was providing
needed income for his mother and younger sibblings. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on
July 25, 1942 at Fort Sheridan, IL with basic training at Fort Bragg, NC. He recalled it being
very hot and crawling under live ammunition. He trained to be a paratrooper for 3 weeks before
being encouraged to join the Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (ESBR) made up of 8
companies of 200 men and 2 officers in each. They went by train to Camp Edwards. MA. His
company shipped out while he was in hospital 23 days being treated for pneumonia with sulfa
drugs (no antibiotics back then).

Eight new companies were formed (A-H) and he was in F company. Sev~ companies shipped
out to Europe while Cadre Company F went by train to Camp Carabelle, FL.where they trained to
operate landing craft (ducks). Eight companies were made up and his went to Monterey, CA
where he trained officers to operate landing craft on land and water. He also had three weeks
training in demolition before leaving San Francisco, P.O.E. on USS America and sailing 17 days
across the Pacific toward Australia, where they were diverted to Port Moresby in Papua, New
Guinea. The ship couldn’t get in so men and gear were transported by landing craft to shore
where they chopped the jungle away before they could set up camp.

One officer, Jim and his buddy with all the demolition equipment and supplies headed out on
landing craft, just the three men, where they spent three weeks cleaning up unexploded bombs
and land mines to make beaches ready for Marine landings. He told of setting charges and then
paddling down the shore line in a rubber dinghy a good distance before detonation. He received 7
stars for 7 nights of clean-up at Dutch New Guinea, and 4 arrowheads for 4 nights of cleaning
beaches at British New Guinea.

Back at Port Moresby he learned his company had crossed over the Owen Stanley Mountains, a
trek of 100 miles to the north. He volunteered as a sharp shooter on John F. Kennedy’s PT-109
with no idea Kennedy would be a future president of U.S. He also sat on the beach napping with
a pack of dynamite on his back when General MacArthur nudged him and stopped to talk ..
He was promoted to Sergeant in the Philippines and received the Philippine Liberation medal,
then was headed toward Japan when the treaty was signed. He spent several months in Japan and
received a medal for Army of Occupation in Japan. They left Japan in November and he
remembered having Thanksgiving dinner, crossing the International Dateline and having
Thanksgiving dinner again the next day. Their ship, USS Queen Mary was badly damaged in a
typhoon and had to be repaired in Hawaii with all men on board before sailing home. He was
honorably discharged Jan. 7, 1946 at Camp McCoy, WI.

Jim and three brothers served in WWII:. Pvt Ralph, killed by a land mine explosion on Anzio
beach, Italy; Cpl Charles, stationed in Hawaii; and Pvt John completed basic training, later to
enlist in U.S.A.F. as a career man.

After the war Jim blasted tunnels for the railroad into Taconite Harbor, worked for Bridge
Builders, then Earth Movers hauling heavy equipment, and then Builders Supply in Superior. Jim
embarked on his final journey June 7, 2007, and was interred at Veterans Cemetery at Spooner.

Washburn Essay Winners & Education  Outreach Coordinator John Gidley

Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is proud to announce the winners of the 2016-17 Middle School Essay contest. Students were asked to answer the question “How do the new technologies and inventions created during World War II affect or shape our lives today?”

“The response was overwhelming, all the students did a great job” said John Gidley, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Center. “It was so hard to narrow it down to just three winners.”
The winners were chosen from 100 essays that were submitted from Northern Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota. The winners received a $50 cash prize, 4 admissions to the Center and an “American’s Ace of Aces” book by General George C. Kenny.

2016-17 Middle School Essay Contest” winners are:
-Sorley Swanstrom-Arnold, Grade 8, Washburn Middle School, Washburn Wisconsin.
-Sarah Earing, Grade 7, Washburn Middle School, Washburn Wisconsin
-Sebastian Rosales, Grade 7, Washburn Middle School, Washburn Wisconsin

Honorable mentions are:
-Jack Broadmore, Grade 6, Ordean East Middle School, Duluth Minnesota
-Lily Wheeler, Grade 7, Washburn Middle School, Washburn Wisconsin
-Collin Krmpotich, Grade 7, NorthStar Community Charter School, Minong Wisconsin
-Meghan Dougherty, Grade 8, Washburn Middle School, Washburn Wisconsin

The Mission of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is to preserve and honor the memory of Major Bong and all veterans of World War II, as well as subsequent conflicts and to provide educational resources for the Twin Ports area community and beyond.

On May 25th the Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center will host local author Gerald Sandvick and his new book, World War II Shipbuilding in Duluth and Superior. It is the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series.

World War II hinged on the Allies having enough ships to both fight the enemy and to carry millions of tons of war goods across the world’s oceans. Shipyards on the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific Coasts built thousands of vessels, but America’s sometimes forgotten Fourth Coast, the Great Lakes, built hundreds of ships as well.

From 1940 to 1945, warships, cargo haulers, Coast Guard tenders, and fleet service auxiliaries of many types were launched from the Twin Ports. Half a dozen shipyards in Duluth-Superior produced more than 200 vessels of 10 main types, up to 338 feet long and 5,000 tons, all having to make close to a 2,400-mile journey to the ocean.

The shipyards grew from nearly nothing in 1939 to become industries employing thousands of men and women by 1945 and making a major contribution to the story of America in World War II.

Join us on May 25th at 6:30 p.m. in celebrating the book’s publication with an author program followed by a book signing.

Refreshments will be provided.
The Mission of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is to preserve and honor the memory of Major Bong and all veterans of World War II, as well as subsequent conflicts and to provide educational resources for the Twin Ports area community and beyond.

Muster of Troops Superior, Wisconsin,” image, 1917. University Archives, UW-Superior Special Collections; Superior, Wisconsin

On April 13th, the Richard I Bong Veterans Center will host Clyde Annala, who will review World War One, its cause, the conflict, and consequences while providing a look at life in the Twin Ports during this tumultuous time.
Clyde is a lifelong Northland resident, who joined the U.S. Army in 1968. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division, and a tour in Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division and 247th “Dustoff” Air Ambulance Detachment. After his service, he was a police officer for 26 years, retiring from the Duluth Police Department as a detective, sergeant, and tactical commander. He has been researching the Twin Ports during WW I for many years.


In addition to the program, we will be opening our brand new trench display. Visitors will have the opportunity to see a mock WWI trench that includes authentic Army equipment and uniforms. We invite you to come and witness the local stories of fallen WWI veterans and experience what it was like for them as they battled in the iconic trenches.

Refreshments will be provided. The program will start at 6:30 p.m.

The Mission of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is to preserve and honor the memory of Major Bong and all veterans of World War II, as well as subsequent conflicts and to provide educational resources for the Twin Ports area community and beyond.

Hayes Scriven

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center announces that Hayes Scriven has joined the Center as its new Executive Director. Scriven, a native of Nerstrand, Minnesota, started at the Center on March 6, replacing Robert Furhrman who had been at the reins for the last 10 years.

Scriven, a 2005 University of Minnesota Duluth graduate, spent his senior year at the center as an intern. He assisted in the development of the “Holidays on the Homefront” exhibit. After graduating, he spent the next 11 years at the Northfield Historical Society where he served as Executive Director.

“In the process of doing our due diligence on the hiring of a new Executive Director we reached out to a few local museum professionals in the area,” said Bong Center Chairman Terry Lundeberg. “Hayes name continued to pop up in conversations so we knew we wanted to bring him in for an interview.”

“During the interview process we knew immediately that Hayes was the individual we wanted and couldn’t wait to get him to Northland,” said Board Member Ryan Kern. “There is something to be said about the Bong Center when you can go out and recruit your ideal candidate and they see your vision and want to be a part of it.”

“I am extremely excited to be back in the Twin Ports area,” Scriven stated. “My wife and I have always said, if there was an opportunity to get back to Northland we would seriously considered it. We love it up here!” Scriven credits his time at the center as an intern for where is love of local history comes from. “When I was interning here I fell in love with the personal stories I was researching. I felt a connection and a better understanding for the area. I knew after that internship that I wanted to work in a small museum, to preserve and document local history.”

Under Scriven’s leadership, the Northfield Historical Society had been awarded nearly $450,000 through the Minnesota Historical Society’s Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant (“Legacy”) program. These grants facilitated the construction of an elevator and six ADA-compliant restrooms, and the installation of compact archival shelving — all at the society’s downtown Northfield Scriver Building. The grants also have allowed the Society to hire professional staff in order to complete several curatorial projects.

“I am very honored to be coming back to such a great organization. The Bong Center is a very important part of the Northland and I am very eager to help preserve and document the local military history.” “We have an amazing staff and board here and we are going to do great things!”

The Mission of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is to preserve and honor the memory of Major Bong and all veterans of World War II, as well as subsequent conflicts and to provide educational resources for the Twin Ports area community and beyond.

Saturday, February 25, 2017



Swing to the sounds of the big bands.  Music is provided by the Esko High School Jazz Band.  Dancing instructions compliments of Samantha Weller, UMD/Duluth Swing Dancing Club

Admission is $5.00 per person with a family cap of $25.00

Tickets sold at the door

Snacks and soda are available for purchase