3. Memories of Daddy – Off to War: WW1

 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.


3 thoughts on “3. Memories of Daddy – Off to War: WW1

  1. Sue Sauer

    Your sharing this bring WW I to life. Yes, it surely must have been a long, hard waiting time for your Mom. Thankfully, your Dad made it back. It’s good that he was able to share his memories. So many cannot, will not.

  2. Laurie Asahara

    Hi Bob: Your note was so touching that I forwarded it to my siblings. I had to smile reading about Grandpa Yonan approaching the tree crew with his shotgun! Grandpa knew that the large, old trees in front of the house were special. He found lots of arrow heads at the base of them and knew the Indians had met and gathered beneath them at one time.

    I tried to send this note to your email address (I just hit the reply button to your email), but it got sent back with an error message.

    You did send me the manuscript for your book exactly one year ago on Oct. 28, 2017! At that time, I read through till the part about the puppet shows, and skimmed the rest, meaning to get back to it later. But tonight I went back and read it all. I loved it. In my mind’s eye I remember your big white house and yard, and as you were describing it in the book, I remembered so much more about the farm, especially where the barn was and some of your bigger trees you mentioned.

    Your stories about the animals you encountered on the farm reminded me of Grandma Yonan’s wonderful story of Boliver the chicken. Did you know it? If not, I’ll have to tell you.

    It always breaks my heart thinking about my grandparents’ Ionia orchard, barns, and house, and I wonder how you feel now when your think of your grandfather’s farm in Ionia. My memories are so wonderful of the people and the place, and I miss them terribly, still to this day.

    Yes, as you said, wonderful people and wonderful memories.



    Hi Bob:

    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your posts. It is wonderful to read your stories of your father in WWI and his stint at the Mexico border. I didn’t know any of that. What a blessing it is that you have chronicled all the family information that you have. So much of my grandfather Yonan’s life will be left unknown, which is a shame. I had no idea that my father would get sick so suddenly and then perish so quickly. He had so much information on old Mac computers that he never retrieved when new operating systems were introduced and he upgraded to machines. I asked him to put all that information in a form that could be read by pcs or at least transfer it to current operating systems. Too bad most of it is gone.

    I also enjoy reading your stories because I find myself transported back to Ionia and relieve vivid mental images of your farm north of Grandpa Yonan’s farm and Grandpa Yonans orchard as well. It’s a comfort to me!

    Happy fall.


Comments are closed.