Mike Murphy


Written Memory


June 10, 2012


I was assigned to the 28AMMS at Ellsworth Air Force Base from 1971 to 1972. In the early afternoon of June 9, 1972 I drove from the base to Rapid City to take some photographs. I was at the park below the dam photographing some swans when it looked like it was going to start raining. I headed back to the base. When I heard the news that the dam had failed and Rapid City had flooded four of my friends and I headed out to see if we could be of any help. I parked my van on high ground and the five of us headed toward the flood waters. We "borrowed" a small boat that was drifting in the shallow water. We went from house to house looking for stranded people. I remember one house where three or four people were in a house with about a foot of water covering the floor. We got the people in the boat and crossed a street that was about waist deep in fast flowing water. It took a while for us to get the boat across the flooded street to dry ground. We drove the people to an area where they could get aid. After several more forays into the water we were to tired to even walk so we found a hill side where we could sit down and rest. After the sun rose we headed back to Ellsworth and only made it as far as the truck stop on the interstate east of town. We drank some coffee and had a bite to eat. Before getting back into the van we used a hose to wash all the mud off our clothing and boots. We were bone tired.

Many months later we were awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal. I am very proud of that medal. The pride comes not from a feeling of being a hero, that I am definitely not! It is pride in the amazing way our differences disappear in times of crisis and we are able to come together to help each other out. I never again saw any of the people we met that night. I hope better fortune found them.

Michael J. Murphy
MSgt USAF (Retired)



“Mike Murphy,” Flood of 1972, accessed September 28, 2022, https://1972flood.omeka.net/items/show/579.