Today we remember the end of WWI and honor veterans – Thank You!
The world before August 1914 was bustling, on the other hand, there existed an unsettling trend of imperialism and nationalism, backed by militarism and complex alliances. Although war broke out in August 1914, the United States didn’t enter the war until April 6, 1917. Overnight, the country shifted into war mode with an undermanned and under-equipped military.
President Wilson pushed Congress to enact the Selective Service Act of 1917 in May, which required all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for possible enrollment in the military. Within a few months over 10 million men had registered. By the end of the war 24 million men had registered with about 2.8 million selected to serve in the military.
Most Minnesota recruits went through induction and training at either Camp Dodge near Des Moines, IA, or Camp Cody in the desert near Deming, NM. These camps (often under construction and incomplete) introduced men from all walks of life to the fast pace and strict order of the military. Exercise and drill dominated their days until they were assigned to larger combat units and sent for further training at camps on the east coast before shipping off to Europe.
Quote from Peter Solheid’s Journal (of New Prague)
Basic – “There was hardship all the way. We got shot in our arms 3 times and vaccinated and so we stayed 3 weeks in O.B. and got our class and got transferred to the 91 Div 364 Inf. Absolutely all strange. It was on Saturday June 23, 1918 and there they put me in Co B and gave me all tools to fight with- a rifle with No 3453 and a bayonet.”
World War I was fought mostly in trenches; a system developed in the early months of the war in order to help troops escape the effects of new types of weapons being used—primarily machine guns and high-explosive artillery. While the killing power of weapons increased, the technology to enable quick movement and communication lagged far behind, making it difficult for troops to advance.
Trenches consisted of intricate systems of multiple lines with machine gun nests, dugouts, and bunkers to protect the occupants from the flying shrapnel and bullets above.
Life in the trenches was safer than life above ground, but a trench was often a horrible place. They were regularly inundated with water and mud, leaving troops vulnerable to trench foot and making it nearly impossible to keep anything clean. The trenches also stunk due to latrine overflows and the rotting of bodies from previous battles that had yet to be buried. These conditions proved perfect for the transmission of disease and infestations of lice, flies, and rats, which could grow to the size of cats.
Quote from Peter Solheid’s Journal (of New Prague)
Battle – “All at once a big shell landed in my squad of 8 men. I saw three fall over and at the same time I had two pieces of shrapnel hit me in the leg and one across my chest and 2 of my partners got it in the head and it was still dark.” “Let me tell you the Germans opened up on the bloody Americans. All the same the rest of the boys went forward with lead under smoke and the ground covered with wounded and dead soldiers and the eyes full of dirt and shoes full of blood.”
“Dead men all over and I was still in that hole 12 inches of water, wet like a cat, and surely I heard some bullets go by in the forenoon all alone. What should I do now? All alone in a shell hole in France on the Battle Field.”
On Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., the war came to an end and would forever be remembered as Armistice Day, or Veteran’s Day in America.
Official word of the signing of the Armistice came over the wire around 3:00 a.m. and spread around Scott County by the sound of shouting, car horns, factory whistles, and church bells. Citizens began to fill the streets and spontaneous celebrations occurred everywhere. Shakopee resident Julius Coller remembered that day as “the noisiest day the county ever knew.” Businesses were ordered closed at 2:00 p.m. so everyone could partake in the celebrations and parades. The Scott County Argus wrote that, “…anyone with a tin-can and a stick could start a parade.” Rallies were held in parks where patriotic speeches were given and effigies of the Kaiser were burnt. Celebrations continued well into the night.
Due to the complexities of demobilizing millions of troops, the first group of Scott County soldiers to return arrived in October 1919. They were greeted with a raucous parade that featured fourteen bands and dozens of veterans of America’s previous wars.
By the time the war was over, 116,516 U.S. men and women had made the ultimate sacrifice: 53,402 in combat and 63,114 of disease and other non-combat related incidents.
World War I Casualty List – Scott County
Killed in Action: Sgt. John F. Bohls, Shakopee; Pvt. Arthur H. Lemmer, Shakopee; Pvt. Walter J. Scherer, Eagle Creek;
Died of Wounds: Pvt. Charles Borack, New Prague; Pvt. Harry Mather, Shakopee
Died of Disease: Pvt. Erwin Fehlandt, Jordan; Pvt. Edward L. Preslicka, New Prague; Pvt. John W. Sticha, New Prague; Pvt. Frank Stradcutter, Belle Plaine; Pvt. Albert Svoboda, New Prague
Wounded: Pvt. Alvin P. Blan, New Prague, Pvt. Albert Bednar, New Prague; Pvt. Jerry Svoboda, New Prague
Buried in France: Pvt. Charles Borak, Sgt. John F. Bohls, Pvt. Harry Mather
After the war ended the world was a different place. Roughly 16 million soldiers and civilians died, much of Europe was ruined, either physically, economically, or politically and empires and systems which had lasted hundreds of years collapsed overnight, leaving power vacuums to be filled by revolutions and civil wars. American soldiers returned to a changed nation: an economic recession loomed, women were close to gaining the right to vote, and the sale of alcohol was about to be federally banned.