Understanding The USS South Dakota Crest


The USS South Dakota will be commissioned this weekend in Connecticut, but for now we’re taking a look at what the symbol on the submarine means! The ship’s crest was designed by students and adults from across South Dakota, and each piece has significance for the state.

When you look at the USS South Dakota crest, there are a few features that stick out and are probably self explanatory.

Right away you notice the coyotes, front and center! Coyotes are the state animal for South Dakota, and a symbol used by Native American tribes.

Another bold feature on the crest is Mount Rushmore. Of course being the Rushmore state, that has a prominent spot in the center.

Hanging down the sides of the crest are pheasant feathers, representing the state bird.

Now, here are a few things you may not have noticed!

Right next to those pheasant feathers are actually rattlesnake tails. Rattlesnakes represent stealth and fast attack reaction, which the new submarine is designed for in combat.

Up around Mount Rushmore, is the outline of the sun. This is the same design used on the original South Dakota flag back in 1909.

And while you’re looking at the points of the sun, you may notice they form teeth shapes. The entire crest is designed to look like the mouth of a dinosaur to represent Sue; the largest and most complete t-rex skeleton found in South Dakota.

Finally, a few symbols you may see but not really understand.

There are 13 stars above Mount Rushmore, symbolizing the 13 battles the USS South Dakota fought in during World War II.

Above the stars are two fish. Those are actually called submarine “dolphins”. This warfare insignia is given to submariners who complete the qualification process. It’s a requirement for submarine service.

Last, the latin motto across the bottom, translated means “under the sea we rule”.

Remember, you can also watch the USS South Dakota Commission Ceremony on KELOLAND.com at 10:00 a.m. CT on Saturday. 

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