Last soldier of the 164th Infantry known to have documented history


BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you can imagine the worth of the efforts of a member of the North Dakota National Guard who spent his time documenting history during World War II.

Doug Burtell served in the 164th Infantry Regiment, one of North Dakota’s most recognized units.

Burtell’s wartime images are etched across the state and in the history books, and he’s still around.

The Casselton native joined the National Guard when he was just 16 years old.

“Our country needed us,” Burtell said.

He lied to recruiters, saying he was 18 to be sworn.

“The war, you don’t forget anything about it. It’s just something that’s ingrained in your brain,” Burtell said.

It’s embedded in Burtell’s brain and in sheets of paper.

“It has a lot to do with creating artwork, creating maps, working with aerial photography,” Burtell said.

Burtell documented American soldiers as they invaded Guadalcanal and went to war with the Japanese.

“We have a lot of these in our house, my kids have a few, and it’s a really good feeling to know that these things have been documented,” said Barb Burtell, Doug’s daughter.

Burtell’s art is exhibited in North Dakota, and the National Guard continues to use his works.

“Can you see here? This is one of your Doug designs,” said Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard.

Dohrmann, has created a new Commanders coin in honor of Doug.

“I’m handing you a coin, but your daughter is going to present you with the first coin, with your artwork on it,” Dohrmann said.

Doug’s service ended in 1945 and this year he turns 97. “You’re the last 164th in North Dakota,” Barb said.

“I am? I am the last?…I didn’t know that,” Burtell said.

Doug Burtell served 625 days in combat and earned a Purple Heart in the Philippines.

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