Susan Reinhiller hasn't been teaching at Dickinson High School very long, but she's already hard at work bringing her passion for history to her students—and that passion will be aided thanks to a scholarship she received to participate in an online class "Legacies of World War I."
As the calendar rolls towards the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, it's important to teach the importance of a conflict so often overshadowed by the mushroom clouds of its progeny.
"This is the big year. November 11th—the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—is a very important date," Reinhiller said. "The reality of it was that World War II overshadowed WWI but the world we live in is more influenced in WWI and in post-WWI, the Treaty of Versailles."
Without the first World War, and the conditions under which it ended, there wouldn't have been a second World War—the whole of history could've been greatly different.
With the centennial close at hand, Reinhiller wants to look at the Great War in a newer, clearer context. The traditional way of summarizing the war simply doesn't apply anymore, according to materials Reinhiller found in the online class. She spoke of a presentation by Michael Neiberg, who has written a book on WWI, and what he said about the broadly accepted causes of the conflict.
"World War I is always taught using MAIN, that the causes of World War I are militarism, alliances, imperialism and nationalism," Reinhiller said. "In his book, he kind of throws that off and says 'that isn't the circumstances that preceded World War I.'"
Reinhiller's webinars explore various aspects of the war, starting with the spark which ignited it and covering topics such as the role played by women, African-Americans, the U.S. homefront and the legacy of the war itself. This project is a partnership between the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and National History Day—North Dakota's chapter of National History Day specifically chose Reinhiller.
"I am very humbled ... this is something I like to do, I love to learn and I want to teach it right," she said. "I believe that as I am a teacher, I also want to be a student. This was an opportunity for me and I was just fortunate to be chosen."
According to a press release, this program is part of an educational partnership with the WWI Commission, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, National History Day, and the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
"As part of the commemoration of the centennial of The Great War, National History Day is proud to partner with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to help teachers delve into the history of this global event," National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn said in the release. "Reinhiller will learn about specific aspects of the war she can take back to the classroom to ensure this piece of global history is not forgotten."
Reinhiller described herself as a proponent of project-based learning. She said she thinks that students, and people in general, retain more from experiences than simple lecture or memorization. She said she also intends to draw in North Dakota's own local history, from the contributions of its legislators in the post-war era to the isolationist and patriotic conflicts happening within its Russian, German demographics.
"Many Germans from Russia didn't speak English in 1917, 18 ... and they feel compelled to maybe go over the top with their patriotism. The war was not popular in the United States ... (Woodrow) Wilson won his second election on 'he kept us out of war,'" Reinhiller said. "North Dakota had a very strong isolationist sentiment."
Gerald Nye, a senator from North Dakota at that time, would famously go after the "merchants of death" or arms manufacturers and businesses that profited during the war, Reinhiller said—he was a powerful voice in anti-war efforts afterward as well.
Reinhiller has been at Dickinson High for about a month now, and is a newcomer to Dickinson. She taught previously at Standing Rock Community High School.
National History Day is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than a half-million students in conducting original research on historical topics of interest.
Official WWI Events Poster
Below is the poster for the WWI Lecture Series with all dates, locations and times. To download a high-resolution version for sharing or hanging, please click here.
Governor Burgum Signs Proclamation for Remembrance Day
Governor Doug Burgum signed a proclamation declaring November 11th, 2018, as World War I Remembrance Day in North Dakota. Citizens are also encouraged to ring bells at 11 a.m. on November 11th in remembrance of all North Dakotans who served in The Great War.
World War I Centennial Echoing Words, Stark Images
Reprinted with permission from North Dakota Living Magazine
This autumn, North Dakotans join the worldwide solemn salute to the great sacrifices made during World War I (WWI), which ended 100 years ago. In North Dakota, this WWI centennial observance has spanned 2017-18. Gov. Doug Burgum issued a proclamation designating April 6, 2017, as World War I Day in North Dakota, as April 6, 1917, marked the entry of the United States into WWI 100 years ago.
WWI started in Europe in the summer of 1914, with the assassination of the Austria-Hungary archduke. That nation aligned with Germany in commencing warfare against Allied Powers, principally including the Russian Empire, French Republic and Great Britain. Germany’s persistent attacks on United States ocean vessels and threats to U.S. territorial integrity prompted the U.S. to enter WWI in April 1917. The “Great War” ended on Nov. 11, 1918.
To coordinate the state’s focus on the WWI centennial, the North Dakota World War One Centennial Commission has been established. The commission has been educating the public about the course of the war as it affected North Dakota; honoring the heroism and sacrifice of Americans and the 30,000 North Dakotans serving in the war; and conducting several programs commemorating the WWI centennial.
“The veterans of World War I were American heroes,” says Darrell Dorgan, chairman of the commission, which is made up of 30 North Dakota public officials, history scholars and community leaders. Dorgan points out that 117,000 American soldiers died during WWI service; 1,300 of these casualties were North Dakotans.
“Today, a century after they entered the trenches, their sacrifices have been largely forgotten. That is why nationally, and in North Dakota, we are marking the centennial,” he continued.
This state – comparable in other states – is helping the United States World War I Centennial Commission conduct a nationwide campaign of education and tribute for the sacrifices and achievements of WWI.
This autumn, through Nov. 11, the state commission, with local supporters, will be participating in local forums, where WWI and North Dakota will be examined. (See our events page for schedule of forums.)
Letters from the Great War
The North Dakota WWI Commission, the North Dakota Newspaper Association and history students at the University of Mary, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Stuart, undertook State Historical Society archives research, locating letters written from WWI soldiers to family and friends in North Dakota.
Nearly 100 of these letters have been transcribed for publication and made available to newspapers and news outlets. Each letter, in its own way, documents authentic firsthand observations of what actually happened in the many venues where this war was fought. Three are presented below.
Note: Captain Charles L. Rouse wrote a letter to an unknown recipient on Sept. 25, 1918, from somewhere in France. It was published in the Crosby Journal, Divide County, Oct. 25, 1918; following is a portion of that letter:
It has been quite some time since I have written you, but I haven’t had scarcely a bit of mail from the states since the first part of July.
On July 18 my Division took part in the big attack. We advanced directly on Soissons in the Marne and the second day out I got hit in the leg with a machine gun bullet. I went back to the First Aid Station and then went back to the line that night. The third day out, July 20, I got gassed and then went to a Base Hospital in Nantes. I stayed there a few weeks and was then sent to where I am now, a Depot Division, marked class B, which means I shall be here a few months until I am restored to class A and fit for duty at the front.
Am feeling fine now and as good as ever except for a few burns which aren’t healed up yet from the gas. You know, when this mustard gas strikes anything wet it forms sulphuric acid and the result is you get quite a burn.
So after being shifted from one station to another so often after coming from a hospital, one’s mail is lost in the crowd. I must have a bunch of it some place, which will be turning up right soon.
You see some great sights going over the top, as well as feeling some queer sensations. It’s hell all right but quite interesting and I’ll have some great tales to tell you when it’s all over. And the way everyone is walloping the Hun it looks mighty promising. But there will still be some good fighting…
Note: This letter was written by J.H. Jones from a battlefield in France. It was published in the Manning News, Dunn County, Oct. 24, 1918; following is portion of that letter:
On the Battlefield, France
September 21, 1918
Yours received and was sure glad to hear from you.
We have been in another big drive as you doubtless have seen by the papers and have won another big strip of ground held by the Hun for four years. At present I am leaning against a cannon we captured. We sure did get lots of guns and ammunition and about 20,000 prisoners.
We advanced about 8 miles here and are only about 20 miles from Metz. Have been moving day and night, in rain, hail, and cold mud, knee deep at times. Found lots of dead Germans and Yanks while the ambulances carried lots of poor devils to the hospital. It was sure an awful drive and the reward was well earned.
We have at last stopped for a little rest in dugouts and trenches formerly held by the Hun for more than four years. Everyone is on nettles and talks of nothing but the big victory. There were at least 200,000 here. We hit them on five sectors of a forty mile front and beat them bad. The barrage was opened at one A.M. and the boys went over the top at five A.M.
The guns were 3, 3 1-2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 16, and 20 inch and machine guns. Rifles and everything you can think of was used. Oh, it was terrible but we will yet make them glad to agree to a U.S. Peace.
The Wagoners, Tank, Truck, Auto, Ambulance, Ammunition, and Infantry trams were on the move day and night with us. We had no sleep for days, and eats were scarce, but it was endured with the consolation that we were winning one of the greatest battles of the war.
Sure hope everything is fine and dandy over there, and that a fine crop will be made and that the war will soon be at an end…
Note:Ernest Angliss wrote three short letters from France to his dad, mother, and sister. The letters were published in the Dickinson Press, Stark County, Oct. 10, 1918; presented here is the letter to his mother.
On active service Over Here,
September 17, 1918
My Dear Little Mother:
Well, Sweetheart, it has been quite awhile since I wrote last, but you will by the papers the reasons of it – you will read of the big drive under command of our great general. I saw Harold Poor a few days ago. He had just returned from the hospital, but was looking first rate. Did you get the Hun belt buckle and watch? Well mother dear, there is a German helmet on the road for you; I sent it yesterday and took it to the postoffice myself, so it is on its way to you. I carried it on my motorcycle so it is muddy and will need some cleaning. You will see where the shrapnel bullets struck it by the dents. The red paint spots are camouflage. It is about as good a helmet as I could pick up. The boys made great fun of me for carrying it around, but I told them plump and plain, “My mother wants one and believe me she is going to get it.” Where I was hit by the Ford ambulance on my hand, the bone budged up and has never gone down, so there is a bump there now. Well mother dear, I must ring off; will write soon again. With heaps of love to you.
Just - Ernest
ND WWI Centennial Committee Wins Forest Service Award
The North Dakota Forest Service has selected the North Dakota WWI Centennial Committee to receive the 2018 "Tree Celebration of the Year" award. The award recognizes individuals, organizations, and agencies who contribute in an outstanding way to forestry activities in North Dakota.
The WWI Centennial Committee joined forces with the Forest Service to plant thousands of seedlings, beginning on Arbor Day, in honor of World War 1 veterans. The planting was a continuation of a program that began 100 years ago when thousands of trees were planted across the state to honor veterans of "The Great War."
Many of those trees were marked with plaques when planted, and many still exist. Trees from 100 years ago have been identified at NDSU, Minot State University, and on the State Capitol Grounds in Bismarck.
We begin our series of lectures across North Dakota in October and seedlings will be given out at some of those events. We hope to see you there!
Bells To Ring Across State On November 11
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WWI COMMISSION ANNOUNCES 'BELLS OF PEACE' ON ARMISTICE CENTENNIAL
Nationwide Bell-Tolling on November 11, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. will honor the 116,516 American men & women who died in WWI
WASHINGTON DC: The World War One Centennial Commission, along with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, the Society of the Honor Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, today announced BELLS OF PEACE: A WORLD WAR ONE REMEMBRANCE.
BELLS OF PEACE is a collaborative program, whereby American citizens and organizations, across the entire country, are invited to toll bells in their communities twenty-one times on Sunday, November 11, 2018, at 11:00 a.m.local time.
Conceived and designed in collaboration with the nation’s veterans of service with the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the bell tolling provides a solemn reminder of the sacrifice and service of veterans of World War I and all veterans.
Bells will be tolled in communities across the nation, in places of worship, schools, town halls, public carillons, and cemeteries, to mark the centennial of the Armistice that brought an end to hostilities, in what Americans fervently hoped had been “The War to End All Wars.”
This nationwide program is designed to honor those American men and women who served one hundred years ago, during World War One. The war ended by an armistice agreement between the warring countries at 11 a.m. on November 11th, 1918.
The World War I Centennial Commission has created a page on its website:
where people can find information and tools to conduct the bell tolling and to meaningfully commemorate the service of their local World War One veterans.
World War One took place between July 1914 and November 1918 and was one of the deadliest conflicts in world history. Over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war. The Unites States officially entered the war on April 6th, 1917. Some 4.7 million Americans stepped forward to serve in uniform during the war, 2 million of them were deployed overseas to fight, and 116,516 of them never made it home.
The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission was established by Congress in 2013 to provide education programs, public outreach, and commemorative events regarding the American involvement in the war. The Centennial Commission was also authorized by Congress to create a new national-level memorial in the nation's capital, to honor the men and women who served. Information on the new National World War One Memorial can be found at www.ww1cc.org/memorial
The American Legion was founded by three World War One veterans in 1919, as a veteran support organization made up of former and current U.S. military members. Throughout its history, The Legion has been committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in America’s communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and support for servicemembers and veterans.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars was founded in 1899 to support all honorably-discharged servicemembers, from any military branch, who served the U.S. in wars, campaigns, expeditions, on foreign soil, or hostile waters. The VFW grew rapidly after World War One, with hundreds of thousands of eligible veterans returning from the war. Today, it stands with the American Legion as the two largest veteran service organizations in the world.
While it is a Congressional Commission, the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission operates largely through private donation. The founding sponsor for the Centennial Commission was the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, in Chicago. The leading sponsor for the Centennial Commission is the Starr Foundation, based in Washington DC. Other major supporters include the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, the Bloomberg Foundation, and the General Motors Foundation,
NATIONAL WWI MEMORIAL FOR DC GETS BLESSING TO MOVE FORWARD
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
19 JUNE 2018
NATIONAL WWI MEMORIAL FOR DC GETS BLESSING TO MOVE FORWARD
Project to honor America's WWI Veterans gains unanimous endorsement by U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
WASHINGTON DC: The effort to build a new National World War I Memorial in Washington DC gained a major endorsement today, from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA).
The support was a unanimous vote of approval for the updated design-concept for the Memorial. This vote came as part of a status-update presentation by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission's memorial project team.
This presentation was a scheduled part of regulatory reviews of the memorial's design concept by oversight agencies, which include the CFA, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC).
The main presenters were project landscape architect David Rubin, along with Centennial Commission Chair Terry Hamby and Commissioner Dr. Libby O'Connell.
The briefers gave updates to the overall vision for the memorial, and discussed different variations, which can be developed further, through future meetings with oversight organizations.
Reaction to the presentation reflected optimism toward the memorial project. CFA Commissioner Edward D. Dunson, Jr. stated "I applaud the design effort that the memorial team brought forward. I feel prepared to go forward with the schemes that you have presented”.
The design process for the new memorial has closely followed the design-concept drawings that were unanimously approved by the CFA, NCPC, and NPS last year.
The World War I Centennial Commission leadership was pleased by the progress made at the CFA presentation. WWI Centennial Commission Chair Terry Hamby stated “We will continue to push forward in this effort. Our veterans deserve our best effort, and we owe it to them”.
WW1CC Commissioner O'Connell agreed “there were differences of opinion, today, to be sure, but we found great areas to agree upon, and to work forward from.”
The audience for the event was standing-room-only. Attendees included high-profile former officials, senior representatives from major veteran service organizations, noted historians, and members of the art community. Among them were former U.S. Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator John Warner, former U.S Ambassador, and U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, retired U.S. Army Major General Christopher Leins, and dozens of other volunteers and project supporters.
Those attendees were joined in spirit by several hundred people across the country who wrote letters to the CFA, voicing their support for the memorial to honor these World War I veterans.
Since Congress designated DC's Pershing Park as the site of the new National World War I Memorial in 2014, the Centennial Commission has been collaborating with federal regulatory agencies to design an integrated park and memorial, honoring the more than four million American men and women who served in World War I.
The Centennial Commission is creating the National World War I Memorial through private donation. Founding sponsor for the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, in Chicago. Other major supporters include the Starr Foundation, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, The Richard Lounsbery Foundation, General Motors, Huntington Ingalls Industries, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, and The American Legion.
The Commission plans to complete the design and construction of the WWI Memorial at Pershing Park in 2020.
For more information about the Memorial project and to donate to the Memorial design and construction, visit www.ww1cc.org/memorial.
The AMVets float in the 4th of July parade and celebration in Mandan, North Dakota.
Arbor Day Celebration - May 2018
Earlier this year, on May 4, the North Dakota World War I Centennial Committee joined forces with North Dakota Forestry Department to celebrate Arbor Day. A Tree was planted on the North Dakota Capitol grounds in honor of WWI veterans. Thousands more will be planted statewide in their honor.
Searching for North Dakota’s WWI Memorials
As part of the centennial remembrance of World War I, two North Dakotans are busy combing the state for monuments, parks, memorial buildings, and plaques that honor those who served in World War I. Susan Wefald of Bismarck is searching for those memorials dedicated between 1918 and 1941 and Robert Greene of Arvilla is participating as he works to locate all veterans’ memorials in the state.
In 2015, Wefald started hunting for World War One Memorials. In January of that year, she read a magazine article about Mark Levitch of Washington, DC, who was conducting a nationwide search for World War monuments. Levitch is project director of the national World War I Memorial Inventory Project. The article reported that he was hoping to find a person or organization in each state willing to help him locate the monuments and memorials. Wefald contacted Levitch and volunteered for the work in North Dakota.
Two years later, Wefald has identified 45 buildings, parks, monuments, memorials, and plaques in North Dakota built between 1918 and 1941 and dedicated to WWI veterans. As she continues her search, she welcomes tips from the public. “I have had a wonderful time learning the stories of these memorials by reading old newspaper articles, interviewing community citizens, and reading old guidebooks to the state,” she commented. “I have also enjoyed traveling across the state to visit these important monuments.”
During her search she realized that North Dakota had a World War I monument that dates to May of 1918 located in Minot’s Rose Hill Memorial Park. That was unusual because most monuments were dedicated after Armistice Day on November 11, 1918. In the case of this monument, the Girls Military Squad of Minot had raised funds and erected it on Memorial Day 1918. Levitch believes that this monument appears to be the first permanent memorial in the nation dedicated to local soldiers who died in the war. “I was thrilled to know that this beautiful 1918 marble monument erected by Minot women was so important,” said Wefald.
Wefald turns over all information she finds to both the North Dakota Historical Society and the national World War I Inventory Project. Information about the World War I memorials and monuments is located at the State Historical Society of North Dakota’s website.
Although Wefald’s emphasis has been to locate only memorials dedicated exclusively to World War I veterans, Robert Greene has been touring the state identifying monuments dedicated to North Dakota veterans who have died in any war. Greene has taken on this project on behalf of the American Legion.
“Almost every town and city in the state has a veteran’s monument of some kind,” said Greene. “I have found monuments dedicated to Civil War soldiers as well as those dedicated to the War on Terror.” He has collected information on more than 200 veterans’ monuments in North Dakota.
Greene and Wefald share information with each other, as both serve on the North Dakota World War One Centennial Committee. “We are both committed,” said Wefald, “to preserving these public monuments which celebrate the contributions made by men and women in service of our country.”
Among the WWI monuments and memorials that the two have identified are courthouses and public halls in Belfield, Bismarck, Bottineau, Cando, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Flaxton, Kenmare, Linton, Mandan, Minnewaukan, Minot, Mohall, Mott, New England, Noonan, Rolette, Rugby, Stanley, and Towner.
Monuments and plaques exist at Williston, Wahpeton, Pembina, Steele, Minot, Northwood, Leeds, Lisbon, Hankinson, Drayton, Drake, Carrington, Amidon, and at the bridge between Bismarck-Mandan. Other memorials include parks at Grand Rapids and Spiritwood Lake, the 1927 University of North Dakota memorial football stadium, the Jamestown College gymnasium, and the Liberty Memorial Building and its nearby French boxcar on the capitol grounds at Bismarck.
Liberty Memorial Building
A Real Live Hornet’s Nest
Anton Peterson’s WWI War Diary
Edited by Susan Wefald
Excerpts from Corporal Anton Peterson’s diary while he was waiting to return home after WWI. Although most soldiers wrote home, letters were censored, containing little about their war experiences. Peterson’s diary, however, contains vivid accounts of battles, travel, and army food.
Peterson was 30 when he joined the National Guard in Fargo in 1917. He served overseas from December 1917, to July 1919 and. was recognized for gallantry in action and especially meritorious service.
The complete diary is in the State Historical Society Archives.
On Dec. 14 (1917), we got orders to sail for France. This is when the boys first began to think of home and the good times they used to have. We loaded on the Vaterland at twelve o’clock that day and sailed about seven o’clock on the morning of the 15th. We all yelled good bye to the Statue of Liberty and hoped that it would not be long before we would return to it.
Jan 3 --We entrained for La Courtine France. We were put in cattle cars, forty men in a car and the cars were about half as large as the ones in U.S. Of course it was not so bad, half of us could sit down and take a rest while the other half stood up and kicked their feet to keep warm.
After dark, Corporal Hamilton got out and stole a stove which we rigged up, and it sure helped us to keep warm. Of course, the ones next to the stove got all the heat. Cpl. H. also hooked a ten-gallon jug of whiskey. Benson and I got a box of chocolate containing 200 bars. We ate candy and drank whiskey until we were hardly able to take care of ourselves. We arrived in La Courtine on January 4, after a hard, disagreeable trip.
After travelling 4 days in a box car] we landed at Huddlecourt and we sure were a hungry bunch of boys. Shortly after we lit we got dinner and everybody ate until they could hardly walk. We shaved, washed, and brushed up. Well, we began to feel better now. The next day we were all ordered to have our hair cut… The first time we fell in, it was snap out of it, shape it up. You are not in the National Guard now, you are in the regular army.
On the 15th we started for the trenches. We had two blankets, one suit of underwear, our toilet articles, reserve rations, and one hundred rounds of ammunition. We had some load. It rained and the roads were sleet. It was hard hiking and some of the boys had to be taken in on the ambulance. I was all in but the last five kilometers I hiked on my nerve.
[January 22—March 7 – Ansinville] Our company stayed in this town one week, we went up to the lines every nite and worked on the trenches. I saw Mervin Armstrong one day and he had the experience of sticking his head over the Parapet and letting a German sniper take a crack at it. The ball went thru his helmet but did not hurt him.
Our company went into the front lines one nite, and it sure was cold, wet, and disagreeable. We had to wade in water knee deep before we reached our position, and I tell you it was no fun to stand on post all nite soaked to the skin. Tobacco was very scarce, and the chow was worse.
About six o'clock that morning our artillery put over a barrage on the Germans. Pvt Fascena and I were on an outpost, and we were almost frozen stiff, but when the barrage quit, I was as warm as if I had been next to our big heater on a cold winter day. Leave it to me, there were a good many of the boys who [thought] the same as I did, and that was the world had come to an end. The heavens were all red from the flares of the guns, and our trenches and the German trenches were only seventy five yards apart… A few of the shells fell in our lines, but no one was killed.
We slept in barns and old houses which had been shot to pieces. We always got one day rest after being relieved from the lines. Some-times we would not get as far back as Ansenville after being relieved. We would have to stop at Scherprey, a small town all shot to pieces. Fritz [the Germans] would always throw over a few gas shells at nite in this town so that we could not sleep.
On the night of March the seventh we were relieved… We got paid a few days after we got here [Traveray] and eggs were quite plentiful here. L.D Johnson and I bought two dozen eggs, cheese, butter, bread and jam and went down to the creek and had a good big feed.
On the sixth of May Fritz put over a six-hour heavy gas attack. The casualties were very heavy in our battalion. C Co. casualties were about seventy-five percent…The next day a report came out that we were going to be relieved, as we did not have men enough to hold the lines. However, we were not relieved. We stayed on the front lines for twenty-one days without being relieved. We could not get enough water to shave with, and I guess that if the Germans had come over, we would not have needed to fire a single shot because we all looked so tough that we would have scared the devil.
June fourteenth we moved to the front lines at Grievennes. This is where a wealthy Frenchman had his park and chateau, but it did not look like a park now. It was all shot to pieces and the ground was covered with dead Germans… It stunk so that lots of the boys went to the hospital with influenza.
[July 18] On the second day we ran into a real live hornet's nest. We lost quite heavy here. Our Major gave us orders to retreat and we did. We fell back about four hundred yards and took up another position. About eleven o'clock we went forward again, but in vain. We did not fall back this time, but they held us so that we could not break their lines. Our tanks were all out of commission by this time so we had to depend on our hand grenades and rifles to do the work. We had advanced so fast that our artillery was of very little good. We flopped in the wheat which was waist high and took what little cover we could find. The squad I was in was still together and not a single one wounded. The seven of us lay down in a squad column about ten feet apart. The balls were dropping all around us…
[Early September 1918] They got us packed into box cars about thirty five strong in each car, threw in a box of hard bread and a case of corned beef in each car and started out. We were on the road five days and nites before we were unloaded. When we were unloaded that eve we had fifteen kilos to hike to reach battalion headquarters. Here we got some hot coffee and slept wherever we could find a place to flop.
The next morning was Sept. 6th. I found my company. They were camped in some woods close to Verdun. It was raining, and everybody had pitched pup-tents. I crawled in with L.D. Johnson and his squad. We stayed there for a few days and then we got orders to make another hit on the Huns. The nite of Sept. 11th we started for the lines. We hiked all nite in the rain and mud and got into position before day-break the next morning. We thought we were in position, but we were not because everybody was lost.
The 10th of November we started to hike towards the rear. We heard that the guns were to stop at eleven o’clock the next day, but we did not believe it. Everybody thought we were making a flank movement….We camped with our company that nite and occasionally there was a gun which would fire. When we would hear a gun fire everybody would say, “Now do you believe that peace has come?”
[November 13, 1918] We camped in some woods near Verdun and during the night there was a continual celebration…. All a fellow could see for miles that night was skyrockets being sent into the air, and all kinds of them. Of course this was stuff which had been captured from the Germans. Now we were allowed to smoke and built fires after dark, the first time since we came over here, that is when we were near the lines. It sure looked funny to see fires on every hill, in the woods and all over….
We learned that we were going to hike into Germany and form our lines there, stay there a short time, and then sail for the U.S. You can imagine how the boys of the 1st Division felt to hear this news because they had been the first over and wanted to be the first back.
Susan Wefald was the first woman to serve on the North Dakota Public Service Commission (1993-2008). Now retired, she has authored two books, plays violin in the Bismarck Mandan Symphony, and enjoys serving on non-profit boards.
Great War Witnesses Startling Birth of New Deities
By Joseph T. Stuart
It de-secularized the state and, instead of religion, made politics the highest expression of human values. The mobilization of entire societies during the Great War dramatically increased expectations for state involvement in the lives of people. Powerful political religions that claimed absolute adherence arose out of the political vacuum left behind by the collapse of four empires in Russia, Italy, Germany, and Turkey.
For example, through the Russian Revolution, Lenin rose to power in Russia. He created a brutal regime that posed as the ultimate arbiter of value and meaning – killing or exiling dissenters. “The war has left throughout Europe a mood of disillusionment and despair which calls aloud for a new religion,” the British agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote after touring Russia in 1920. “Bolshevism has supplied the new religion.”
Mussolini and his followers also derived meaning and purpose from their wartime experience. In 1932 he wrote that fascism is a “spiritual attitude” and the fascist state a “spiritual society” outside of which no values exist. “Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist state – a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values – interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people,” he noted.
In Germany, Adolf Hitler resolved to go into politics as a continuation of his wartime experience of unified national purpose. Hitler believed that a people needed a common faith. Writing to him in 1926, Josef Goebbels, future minister of propaganda, wrote, “You gave a name to the suffering of an entire generation who were yearning for real men, for meaningful tasks. …What you uttered is the catechism of a new political credo amid the desperation of a collapsing, godless world. …A god gave you the strength to voice our suffering.” Nazism de-secularized the state by giving it the ultimate spiritual meaning. It joined church and state, so to speak, into one, powerful force.
In this way, the Great War witnessed one of the most startling births of new deities in the history of the world – those of Class (Communism), State (Fascism), and Race (Nazism) for which people killed.
These new European deities inspired parallel political-religious movements around the world – such as nationalism in Turkey and the backlash seen today as Islamic terrorism tries to restore the Caliphate after it disappeared there immediately after the Great War.
China is another example. To inspire Chinese nationalism, western-educated Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, appealed in 1921 to American President Wilson’s idea of the “self-determination of nations. But a rival movement would ultimately take over China in 1949 – the Chinese Communist Party, directly inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Chinese Communist political religion reached its height under Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution, complete with rituals, morality, a sacred text, the deification of Mao, and the inculcation of a sense of profound belonging and undivided allegiance. The Great War paved the way to that totalitarian transformation of the world’s most populous country.
In the U.S., the war helped clarify America’s political faith. University of North Dakota student William Greenleaf wrote at war’s end about America as “the composite of the world’s best ideals, the promise of the world’s future.” Progressive clergy gave the upheaval a transcendent meaning by interpreting it as a total war for righteousness. America, as the world’s political messiah, would make the world “safe for democracy,” as President Wilson put it. Ever since most American presidents have shared his redemptive goals in foreign policy.
In France, a nationalist movement supported Catholicism as the state religion and gained immense prestige, despite its eventual condemnation by the Vatican. Socialism, in the form of the Labour Party, was the real draw in Britain after the Great War. One British historian noted in 1932 that socialism elicited religious emotion through its appeal to social salvation. “The type of man who a century ago would have been a revivalist or even the founder of a new sect, today devotes himself to social and political propaganda. And this gives Socialism a spiritual power which the older political parties did not possess…”
In all these ways, the Great War created a tremendous impetus toward the de-secularization of the state, towards making politics the source of all values. That alone justifies the characterization of the Great War as the “original sin” of the Twentieth Century.
Joseph T. Stuart, Ph.D., is associate professor of history at the University of Mary in Bismarck.
Dr. Quain: A Hero to Nurses and Savior of Soldiers
By Joseph T. Stuart
Although the U.S. did not enter the Great War until 1917, a number of Bismarck residents left to serve in the conflict before then, fighting alongside British troops or as nurses with Canadian forces. The story of Dr. E.P. Quain is particularly fascinating because he witnessed both the beginning and the end of the conflict.
A cultured gentleman born in Sweden, Quain arrived in Bismarck in 1899 and three years later started the renowned Quain and Ramstad Clinic – now Sanford Clinic. Some of the North Dakota nurses who served in the war received through Quain’s clinic, said one, “a most wonderful training, one that any nurse would prize.” A nurse from the eastern U.S. told Wanda Dreger, a Bismarck nurse, that “If he is one of your surgeons from your hospital, I am envious of you.”
As soon as the U.S. declared war, Quain went to Washington to offer his services. Returning to Bismarck, he organized a mobile surgical section with volunteer Bismarck nurses under his command and equipped largely by local organizations. Connected to a base hospital in France, Quain – a hero to the nurses – led his unit to the front lines of battle.
One nurse who served with him remembered thousands of patients passing through the hospital and the front so near she could hear the continuous roaring of guns. “Yet there was a feeling of satisfaction to those who flung themselves into the work of binding the wounds and alleviating suffering humanity as nobly as did those nurses,” she wrote.
Three years before, Quain had toured medical clinics throughout Europe and found himself stuck in London as the war broke out in the summer of 1914. In an interview upon finally returning home to Bismarck in September, he told of fellow Americans fleeing the Continent to London to escape the conflict. The Londoners treated the forlorn American travelers with great kindness, opening hotels for them. Dr. Quain witnessed the huge crowds of people cheering in the streets at the outbreak of war, unaware of the years of misery ahead.
In his 1914 interview, Quain told the Bismarck Tribune of the high type of civilization achieved by Germany. “Their cities are beautiful, with clean streets, fine buildings, great, airy parks, and their hospital buildings are models. Germany was making wonderful progress industrially; everybody was happy, busy, prosperous. Now, in Germany, and over all Europe, this prosperity has given way to terrible uncertainty, business establishments are ruined, homes are wrecked, thousands and tens of thousands of widows and orphans must appeal to a nation already strained in every fibre.”
Europe stood at the height of prosperity and global dominance in 1914. The period before the war has been remembered as the Golden Age, the Gilded Age, or the Belle Epoque. It was an era of peace, prosperity, and artistic and technological innovation.
However, the seemingly endless slaughter of the Great War destroyed the faith of Europeans in their own values. It ended an age, and Dr. Quain saw it happen – both at the outbreak and at the exhausted end in the Armistice of 1918, as his surgical section worked to clean up the mess.
Joseph T. Stuart, Ph.D., is associate professor of history at the University of Mary in Bismarck.
ND Rhodes Scholar Was an Eyewitness to History
By Tracy Potter
North Dakota’s sixth Rhodes Scholar was David Nelson of Mayville, who went off to Oxford in September 1914. The world the 23-year-old Nelson was entering was changed forever the previous June as Otto Von Bismarck had predicted, “out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”
Oxford was abuzz over Germany’s occupation of neutral Belgium, and resultant humanitarian crisis. Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium inspired students internationally to coordinate delivery of necessities to Belgium. Oxford led the way, and David Nelson joined in.
He wrote his parents from neutral Rotterdam December 6, 1914. “I hope N.D., which is prospering because of this war, will be generous in her aid to the Belgians.… One meets people of all the warring nations in Holland; it is the most interesting spot in Europe at present.”
Nelson crossed into Belgium that week. German officers were “uniformly courteous” and “pay for all they get” at cafes. He was impressed at the lightness of the occupiers’ boot on public life. “Germans, as a rule, treat us very finely. They even stretch the rules in our favor now and then.”
Over the course of two years, Nelson’s attitude about the Germans would change dramatically.
Doing well by doing good, the Rhodes Scholar determined Münchener was the last word in beer. The work was as gratifying. A Belgian told him “We have had many kind words from others; they have said many encouraging things to us, but you Americans have done things.” In Spa, he heard a speech by the burgomaster, the town band playing “Yankee Doodle,” and chants of “Vive L’Amerique” from the crowd.
Nelson returned briefly to Oxford in October 1915, but the war proved too seductive. Five weeks into his term he wrote home that he was thinking about delivering clothing to Dunkirk and might spend Christmas helping the American Hospital in Paris. That turned into a much longer commitment. He joined the American Ambulance Field Service, volunteers aiding wounded French and British soldiers.
Nelson was assigned a converted Ford, in service since the First Battle of the Marne. Work meant keeping his ambulance operating and driving casualties from front-line aid stations to forward field hospitals over roads filled with treacherous potholes from shelling. Driving at night was the worst. Lights were forbidden to avoid unwonted attention from artillery and aircraft. Often roads were clogged with troops and ambulances needed to crawl along, trying not to drive into the ditch.
Nelson came to resent German actions. In a 1916 letter to his mother, he mentioned the torpedoing of a passenger boat from England to France. "Another example of Germany's benevolent regard for neutrals. Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish ships are being sunk every week without warning…."
"To most of the people at home who are so far away from the war it appears, I suppose, as a detached affair; it does not affect them personally, and they consider Europe mad to be killing off its best men in a useless struggle. Here it is necessary to get to solid ground, …. Now if you are a moral person, you must take sides … you have an interest and a very real interest in seeing the cause of right and justice triumph. To me, it is clear beyond a doubt that the great preponderance of right is on the Allied side, and therefore my sympathies and any help I can give are for them."
In 1917, America joined the war, and Nelson was at Fort Snelling becoming a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery. Eight additional months in Divisional Intelligence School, and he pined to return to the war. The Army had other plans. Nelson was posted to the General Staff in Washington, D.C., and there he stayed until the Armistice.
Nelson returned to Paris as an attaché to the postwar Peace Conference where he was an eyewitness to history. From the Hôtel de Crillon, Nelson saw “the entry of President Wilson into Paris. Every street and square along the line of march was packed with people. French soldiers were lined up three deep the whole distance to control the crowds and keep the way clear. I have never seen so dense a mass as was gathered on the Place de la Concorde...
"Everyone says that the reception which the President received surpasses any which has been seen in Paris... The midinettes decided that it was a rare opportunity to obtain American oversees caps; they would surround any Americans they might see and unless you were wary your cap was gone. The Americans usually retaliate by stealing a kiss. It was amusing to see the large number of bareheaded Americans; I imagine that half of Paris was supplied with American caps.”
David Nelson thought his experiences in WWI had prepared him for life without Oxford. He tried investment banking in New York but chairing Luther College’s English Department and a girl from Decorah held his interest the rest of his days. Their son, John, compiled and edited the Letter and Diaries of David T. Nelson 1914-1919.
Tracy Potter, Bismarck, travels widely with Laura Anhalt and writes in retirement from a career in heritage tourism. He is the author of “Sheheke: Mandan Indian Diplomat” and “Steamboats in Dakota Territory.”
Flu Pandemic Raged in ND and Worldwide
By Stephen McDonough
Without a doubt, the most tragic acute infectious disease epidemic ever to hit North Dakota was the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.
The Pandemic raged worldwide during the last year of World War I and came at a time when many physicians and nurses were out of state in military service. The epidemic struck with such devastating force that the entire health care system was rapidly overwhelmed.
Many examples of courage and self-sacrifice occurred as North Dakotans attempted to care for thousands of severely ill friends and neighbors.
The strain of virus causing the outbreak is thought to be one called H1N1. It was identified years later when it was recovered from an Alaskan who died in 1918 and whose corpse was preserved when it was buried in permafrost. This strain has the ability to rapidly infect lung tissue which results in overwhelming inflammation and pneumonia. Young adults were especially susceptible, and many children became orphans when one or both of their parents died suddenly.
The epidemic was called “The Spanish Flu” although the pandemic did not start in Spain. But it received considerable notoriety when Spain was one of the early countries affected.
North Dakota reported 1,378 deaths although the true number was likely between 3,000 and 5,000.
Adding to the misery was the fact that the state led the nation with the greatest percentage of nurses (20 percent) enrolled in military service. In addition, nearly one in three North Dakota physicians also served. That meant there weren’t enough health care providers to care for the sick.
These providers were not immune from the virus -- two doctors and four nurses died from it in military service, and three doctors and 14 nurses died in the state. Florence Kimball, a 1913 graduate of Lisbon High School and a registered nurse serving overseas with the military, died of influenza at age 24 on Oct. 20, 1918, and is buried in France. The Lisbon American Legion Post is named in her honor.
Many young North Dakota men enlisted during the war and the Student Army Training Corps in Grand Forks was home to 423 men. Influenza infected two-thirds of the cadets with 29 dying, six on one terribly day. Dr. James Grassick, North Dakota’s most famed physician, was called on to assist with their care which he did at age 68.
A review of the state’s newspapers of the time shows some of the horror produced by Spanish Flu. The Fargo Forum reported on Oct. 26, 1918, that “Ten days ago the family of A.J. Anderson was happy and in the bloom of health. Today the mother and two sons lie side-by-side in Riverside Cemetery, and the third son lies still in death, all victims of the Spanish Influenza. Ester, aged 11 years, who is still in the hospital with the disease, and the father survive.”
Bill Krueger, Sr., of Plymouth Township in Grand Forks County was one who escaped infection. He served his neighbors well, carrying groceries in his Model A Ford from the town of Niagara to those out in the township. His brother, Fred, and nephew, Freddie, were not so lucky. Both died the same day. Since so many of his neighbors were bedridden, it became necessary for Bill to ready the bodies of his brother and nephew for their burial. “I never did anything so hard in all my life,” he said, “as to prepare my own brother for his final departure.”
Business and life, in general, slowed to a halt during the epidemic’s peak. Schools and theaters closed and streets were deserted. As the outbreak waned, activity returned to normal, but many families were forever altered with children and parents in mourning.
Today, the world is periodically challenged with influenza pandemics, and the potential remains for the emergence of a new and deadly strain. Every year, vaccine manufacturers race to prepare the right influenza vaccine just in time to prepare for the annual fall outbreak. Hopefully, North Dakota will never have to experience an epidemic anything close to the one at the end of World War One.
Dr. Stephen McDonough is a pediatrician at Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck and is formerly the chief medical officer at the North Dakota Health Department.
The mission of the North Dakota World War One Centennial Commission (NDWW1CC) is to raise awareness of and give meaning to the events of a hundred years ago, using educational experiences and programming for all ages. The Commission will use the Centennial as a timely and essential opportunity to educate the country’s citizens about the causes, courses, and consequences of the war in North Dakota; to honor the heroism and sacrifice of those Americans who served in our state; and to commemorate through public programs and initiatives the centennial of this global event.
NDWW1CC seeks the participation of academic institutions and faculty in the development of educational programming, broadcasting, print and digital media as it pertains to North Dakota. Appointments are given by the current North Dakota committee members.
Steve Andrist – North Dakota Newspaper Association
Claudia Berg – State historical Society of North Dakota
Dr. Al Berger – History Department, UND History Program
Dr. Carole Barrett – Historian/Author
Kevin Carvell – Historian/Author
Dr. John Cox – NDSU Historian/Author
Robert Greene – American Legion Historian
Calvin Grinnell – Native American Historian/Author
Larretta Hall – United Tribes, Bismarck
Mark Halvorson – State Historical Society of North Dakota
Barbara Handy-Marcello – North Dakota Studies Historian, State Historical Society of North Dakota
Erik Holland – Curator of Education, State Historical Society of North Dakota
Neil Howe – North Dakota Studies Coordinator, State Historical Society of North Dakota
Dr. Gordon Iseminger – History Professor, UND
Tom Isern – NDSU Historian/Writer
Dr. Joseph Jastrzembski – History Program, Minot State University
“To commemorate for all time the U.S. Missing in Action of the Great War; to assemble and make public the most complete and accurate accounting of the U.S. Missing in Action of the Great War; to attempt to gather back ground information and photographs of all of the U.S. Missing in Action of the Great War; to attempt when and where possible to locate and identify the final resting place of the U.S. Missing in Action of the Great War and to petition those, when appropriate, for the ways and means necessary to recognize and officially identify recovered U.S. Missing in Action remains or grave locations from the Great War, or to otherwise commemorate discovered or identified U.S. Missing in Action of the Great War.”
Help Us Find Them
Doughboy MIA is an ongoing program of the United States Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars. A volunteer team, including both American and European members, has performed extensive research in a variety of archives and resources to assemble more accurate and refined lists of Americans missing during the war. Doughboy MIA research has already eliminated duplicate names, and identified known individual service members who have been left off of memorials or otherwise not acknowledged. Doughboy MIA researchers have also analyzed possible battlefield recovery cases that could be pursued if resources were available. Your donation to the Foundation to support Doughboy MIA will help this work continue and expand.
Show the missing Doughboys that you have not forgotten