3. Memories of Daddy – Off to War: WW1
Leland/Bob/Daddy enlisted in the Army National Guard in Ionia, Michigan, February 7, 1916. More than 9,000,000 men turned out to register for the draft and join the military, and often were met with bands and cheering crowds. Going to war was “glamorous.” Mom told me that if a young man did not volunteer, he might get yellow paint splashed on his front door and porch.
The picture at right is Daddy with Ferne Howe before he left for the Mexican border. They were married in 1921, two years after his return from the war. It must have been hard on Mom for him to be gone for three years, and she not knowing if he would return.
England and France had been at war with Germany since 1914 without America being involved. Anticipating America’s entry in the war the National Guard was sent to the Mexican border on the pretense of catching Pancho Villa, a notorious Mexican bandit.
Daddy said it was to get them ready for combat. Villa killed more than 30 Americans in a pair of attacks in 1916. That drew the deployment of a US military expedition into Mexico, but Villa eluded capture during the 11-month manhunt.
Daddy’s only story from that time was when they put a giant Bull Snake in a guy’s sleeping bag because the guy was afraid of snakes.
Daddy was shipped to Brest, France, and was assigned to the 126th Infantry, Headquarters Co. as a medic, and playing tuba in the band.
He first was in combat at Alsace France, and was in the final and biggest battle of the war at Meuse-Argonne. (Meuse is a river, Argonne a forest) At Argonne, the allied forces attacked through rough, hilly, heavily forested terrain with 260,000 men on a 30 mile line. They were opposed by 40 German divisions, estimated to be a total of 600,00 men. In six weeks, the American forces lost 26,277 men killed, and 95,786 wounded
Daddy was discharged from the army May 23, 1919, at Camp Custer, near Battle Creek Michigan.
Even after age 90, Daddy could rattle off the names of places in Germany where they went. He told the story of a German biplane flying over with the man in the back throwing grenades down. Shrapnel hit Daddy’s leg; he would show us the big scar. He was awarded the Purple Heart.