Vern Kraemer with his beloved J-3 Cub.
Capt. Todd Epp
Public Affairs Officer
South Dakota Wing
SOUTH DAKOTA — World War II subchaser and South Dakota aviation legend Luverne “Vern” Kraemer has passed away. He was 95.
Kraemer, who died June 20 in Rapid City, was the last known subchaser in South Dakota.
Trained as a blacksmith by his father as a young man in Nemo in the Black Hills of South Dakota, aviation proved to be Kraemer’s lifelong passion.
While he was working at as a mechanic on B-29s in Wichita, Kan., Civil Air Patrol asked Kraemer to serve as a subchaser and search for German U-boats stalking East Coast shipping. Flying out of Patrol Base No. 1 in Atlantic City, N.J., he was a pilot, observer and mechanic.
“Vern served his country unselfishly to help protect the oil tankers that were so often being torpedoed by German subs,” said Col. John Seten, South Dakota Wing commander. “Vern and the other sub chasers displayed true heroic spirit during a time when the country needed them the most.
“It is unimaginable what Vern and the other pilots must have gone through while performing the subchasing missions.”
After the end of subchaser missions, Kraemer continued to fly CAP liaison missions and pulled targets for aerial gunnery training.
He would go on to become a South Dakota aviation pioneer and legend. He once stowed aboard an airliner headed to Alaska. He constructed the first homebuilt airplane in South Dakota, which is now on display in the Rapid City Regional Airport Terminal. He was an early member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, with member number 72.
Kraemer was also inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame and received numerous state, national and international awards as an aviator and aircraft mechanic.
In 2011 and 2012, Cadet Col. William Small of the South Dakota Wing’s Lookout Mountain Composite Squadron wrote a series of articles detailing Kraemer’s exploits for the South Dakota Wing Roundup magazine.