Final 164th Infantry soldier known for documenting history

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 7:21 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you can imagine the worth of the efforts of a North Dakota National Guard member who spent his time in World War II documenting history.

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

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

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

“Our Country needed us,” said Burtell.

He lied to recruiters, saying he was 18 to get sworn in.

“The war, you don’t forget any of it. It’s just something that is ingrained into your brain,” said Burtell.

It is ingrained into Burtell’s brain, and sheets of paper.

“A lot of it had to do with making artwork, making maps, working with aerial photographs,’ said Burtell.

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

“We have many of them in our home, my kids have some, and it’s a really good feeling to know these things were documented,” said Barb Burtell, Doug’s daughter.

Burtell’s art is displayed around North Dakota, and the National Guard continues to use his pieces of work.

“Can you see here? It’s one of your drawings Doug,” said Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard.

Dohrmann, 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, to you,” said Dohrmann.

Doug’s service came to an end in 1945, and this year he turns 97-years-old. “You’re the last 164th in North Dakota,” said Barb.

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

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

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