Decatur County

Oscar Lee Van Winkle




Oscar Lee Van Winkle, 20, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. O. C. Van Winkle of near Davis City. He is a first class gunner and was on the famous U. S. S. South Dakota. He is now at Natchictoches, Louisiana, taking sixteen months of technical schooling to become a naval air pilot. The U. S. S. South Dakota was recently disclosed as the famous battleship which shot down 32 planes in one engagement and then sank three Japanese cruisers. The navy in disclosing which ship was credited with such fine work, stated the identity was kept secret for nearly a year because she was the first ship of a new class bearing new armament and with greatly increased fire power. She was as the Battleship X until the disclosure was made.

At one time Van Winkle and his buddy were the only ones left on the deck after one of the battles. “We kept at our guns,” he stated. The big score made by the South Dakota battleship was the night of November 14, 1943, when under the command of Capt. Thomas L. Gatch, now Rear Admiral Gatch, judge advocate general of the Navy, off the point of Savo island in the Solomons. She was prowling in search of enemy shipping when the three cruisers came into sight. The first salvo from the South Dakota set ablaze one of the cruisers.

Before the other enemy warships could get within range, the South Dakota had sunk them all with her big 16-inch guns. Earlier she had slugged her way through a heavy air attack shooting down 32 planes.

Source: Decatur County Women's Auxilary WWII Scrapbook; Submission by Decatur County Historical Museum, Leon IA, Sara Rose Joan LeFleur, June of 2016