SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of U.S. Air Force Major

Stanley George Sprague

Rapid City, South Dakota, Pennington County

 August 8, 1930-September 12, 1966

Killed in Action in a Plane Crash in North Vietnam

Stanley George “Stan” Sprague was born August 8, 1930, in Rapid City, South Dakota, to Louise (Sutter) and Clarence Sprague. His father was a fireman at Ellsworth Air Force Base; his mother worked at Kepp’s Clothing Store. Stanley had a sister, Patricia. He graduated from Rapid City High School in 1948 and later graduated from University of Omaha in 1962. He married Barbara Nilson on March 12, 1956, in Fairbanks, Alaska. They had two sons, Steven and Mitchell Sprague. He enjoyed playing racquetball, handball, skiing, flying and most of all, his family, according to his sister, Pat.

In Rapid City, September 29, 1947, while still 17, Stanley George Sprague enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard, where he served as an automotive mechanic with the 216th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. After he graduated from Rapid City High School in 1948, he served his first term of enlistment and the reenlisted in 1950. However, Corporal Sprague was discharged to accept an appointment as an aviation cadet on July 18, 1952. In September of 1953 he earned pilot’s wings and a commission Bryan Air Force Base in Texas. He then served 14 years in the Air Force. While he was stationed at Ladd Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska, Stanley met his future wife, Barbara; they were later married in the base chapel. Then they were stationed at McGhee-Tyson AFB in Tennessee where their son, Steven, was born. After that the Sprague family was sent to Bunker AFB (now called Grissom AFB) in Indiana where their second son, Mitch, was born. According to newspaper accounts, Major Sprague flew “supersonic F-106 Delta Dart jet interceptors.” Sprague was sent over seas as a Major in the 14th Air Commando Wing, 602 Fighter Squadron on August 2, 1966. While Stanley was overseas, his family lived in Apple Valley in California.

Major Stanley George Sprague was on a mission over North Vietnam on September 12, 1966, when his plane was shot down. He was listed as missing in action and his family never received any more information. Although his body was not recovered at the time of his reported death, there was a memorial service for him at George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. His name was also on the wall of the missing at Punchbowl National Cemetery at Honolulu.

In September of 1990, North Vietnam turned over the remains of Major Sprague, as well as 19 other servicemen, to American authorities. Stanley’s son, Steve, was told that a positive identification had been made at the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu.

But the family still wasn’t sure because they had been told in 1966 that “there was no way the body could have been recovered from the plane,” and plus they had spent 24 years coming to terms with not having recovered a body. Ultimately “a full skeleton, except for bones broken probably in the crash,” helped convince them.

Major Stanley Sprague’s awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart. Five of his awards were posthumously presented “for heroism and conduct beyond the call of duty while on combat missions in Vietnam.”

There was a ceremony for Major Stanley Sprague at Travis Air Force Base on February 12, 1991, and he was buried with military honors at Victor Valley Memorial Park two days later. There is also a memorial stone for Major Sprague at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, South Dakota.

Stanley was preceded in death by his father who died in 1964. He was survived by his mother, who later died in the 1972 Rapid City flood, his wife, his sons, and his sister, Patricia Droubay.

I will remember Major Stanley George Sprague and the sacrifice he made for this country.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Megan Holman, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on September 29, 2005. Information was provided by the Rapid City Journal, issues September 14 and 15, 1966, and February, 1991, Vietnam Veterans Bonus application and Additional information provided by Charlie Piper, Hill City, Patricia Droubay, Novato, California, and Stanley’s widow, Barbara Sprague, Fort Bragg, California.


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