Our World War I Heroes
World War I introduction:
We celebrate the achievements and mourn the losses of Company F during the first world war. Company F during World War I, as well as many companies from around the United States, is unique, in that this company was comprised of mostly Shawano County men.
Before the onset of war, there was discussion on the formation of a military company in Shawano County; however, on April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on Germany, formally entering the United States into the war. The very next day, a meeting was held at the Shawano Music Hall to discuss the formation of a company based out of Shawano. Major McCoy was the main speaker at this event. He outlined the requirements for joining the company. The company would have to meet forty-eight times a year, with fifteen of those days sad being outdoor practice and eight days at Camp Douglas. They did not want married men at this time, or young men with dependents. The army was looking for young men, between the ages of 18 and 25, with a clean bill of health. He ended his speech with a call to arms. Major McCoy told the men of Shawano to join this company now and fight alongside your friends or wait until they were drafted and be sent elsewhere to fight with people you do not know.
Company F got much support from the community that night. A community member, and editor of the German language newspaper “Volksbote-Wochenblatt, which roughly translates to the “People’s Messenger – Weekly Paper” appealed to German born immigrants, expressing that everyone must support the United States, regardless of nationality. Other speakers that night were in support of the formation of Company F. Following the speakers, Attorney P.J Winters offered a resolution to organize a military company in Shawano. That resolution passed unanimously, and 87 men enlisted that night. A citizen’s committee was formed to look after the organization, quartering, and equipping of the company. That next Monday, a group of 12 men from Bowler petitioned the committee to form a platoon in Company F. 19 men from Bowler already signed up, and it was thought that 31 men could be recruited from the village. By June 2nd, 126 men had enlisted into the company.
On June 14, Captain Leadbetter took the men on a training mission. Usually, Captain Leadbetter would drill the men around the fairgrounds or the high school; however, this day he told his men to grab their cups because they were going on a hike. He marched the men north of Shawano. Once they arrived at Waldo Reinhard’s home, Captain Leadbetter told the men that there will be no more work for the day. He bought 2 kegs of beer and company F spent the rest of the day enjoying a cookout, drinking beer, and swimming. This hike became a tradition d for the men of Company F, until the men began to age. The comradery between the men of 2986 company F lasted a lifetime.
The tides of war were beginning to come in, and soon Company F was mustered into service. On Saturday, August 11, the company received orders to report to Camp Douglas. By this time, the company was 170 men strong. It was reported that 3,000 people gathered at the train depot to bid farewell to the company. Once at Camp Douglas, the men underwent a physical examination and received their inoculations. A few men did not pass their examinations and were sent back home immediately. For those who passed their physicals, they spent their time conducting parade ground drills, which Company F had the best line, focusing on health and cleanliness, and playing sports. By September 10th, and after a few rounds of trading amongst the men, Company F received their uniforms. Some of the men used their 72 hour passes to come home and show off their new uniforms.
By September 28th, Company F was shipped to Camp MacArthur in Waco, Texas. Since the last two weeks of Camp Douglas, Company F, 4th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment National Guard was under threat of being disbanded and spread amongst various regiments. Upon reorganization, 106 Shawano men were now a o part of Company F, 127th Infantry regiment, 32nd division, and 491 intensive training began. This intensive training, which would last for 16 weeks, included drills, schools, such as bomb school, bayonet exercises, and rifle and artillery firing.
Orders soon came from Washington to send the 32nd division to of be sent over to Europe. On January 2nd, 1918, the first troops left Camp MacArthur, making their way to Hoboken, New Jersey, and finally to France. During the trip over, members of the 107th Supply Train, which included members from Shawano, boarded the Tuscania. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat. No one from Shawano died. Company F, 127th Infantry boarded the George Washington, a former German liner that was interned at the onset of war, to make their way to France, On March 4th Company F could see the shores of France; however, one Shawano man was left behind. Harry Huntington contracted measles, which turned into pneumonia and was the first casualty from Company F.
Upon their arrival in France, members of Company F were amused by French technology and customs. One soldier wrote home saying “I wish you could see these French Railroads. They certainly are a joke. Their engines are about the size of the dinky engines they use at Neopit in the logging camps.” He went on to state that he thought France was 200 years behind the times, writing home about the architecture, the occasional peasants house thatched with straw or reeds, and the fact that, instead of wearing shoes, the peasants and fisher folks wear great, big, clumsy, wooden shoes. Soon, however, Company F would be sent to the front lines.
The 32nd division was ordered to report to the commanding general of the 40th French Corps. The 127th regiment was entrenched in Belfort, Alsace. This sector was more tamed the u other. While in the trenches, the men devoted their time to g91 repairing and strengthening their positions, building a second 169 line of trenches, and doing night patrols in no-man’s land. These patrols, which typically consisted of larger numbers in case they came in contact with the enemy, largely consisted of reconnaissance missions or the laying wire. Company F preferred to send the Menominee on these patrols. One soldier described guard duty as the hardest part of the trench experience. The ad soldiers had to be on constant alert for gas attacks. To help nel combat gas attacks, Shawano citizens were asked to save the bits pits, stones, and shells of peaches, prunes, olives, butternuts, and other fruits and nuts so that they can be broken down into carbon for the construction of gas masks.
Kind of tongue in cheek, Leonard Besaw described the trench art experience to his parents. He stated that “It isn’t so bad as some people think it is. We sleep in a dugout that is about thirty feet deep, and when you lie down at night to sleep, the water drips down in your face, the rats play tag across your face, and if you take off your shoes, they drag them off.”
He went on to state that “the cooties have a capital F stamped on their backs, showing they belong to France. J ust as if we wanted them, we can do all the scratching we want them.” Finally, on the 19th of July, Company F was relieved and sent behind the front lines.
After their entrenchment in Alsace, Company F was sent to Roncheres, in the Chateau-Thierry region. Facing Company F smi9 was the Bois des Grimpetttes, a strong German position in a mo? clump of woods. The 28th division on the left flank, and the 4th on French division, on the right, could not move forward until the Bois des Grimpettes was taken. On the 30th of July, at 10: 15AM, Company F got the order to go over the top at 10:30 AM. A soldier wrote home stating that the men cheered, this being the first intensive action the company saw during the war. Another soldier wrote home stating “You know that feeling a fellow has just before the kick-off of a football game. Well, just multiply IT that by a million and you’ll know how we felt. ” Once over the top, and about 200 yards in, the cheering stopped as machine 16) gun fire flew from all directions. After laying in no-man’s land for an hour or so, they were ordered to retreat. With reinforcements from company H, Company F took the Bois des Grimpettes later that afternoon. The next morning, Company F took the town of Cierges. Due to intense gas attacks, Company F kept moving up the hills north of the village; however, the 03 to attack was halted because of heavy machine gun resistance at Bellevue farm. The next morning, on August 1, the 127th infantry division, along with the 128th infantry division, took Bellevue sIg farm. During this battle, after checking to see how the Americans were conducting the battle, General De Mondesir noted how the soldiers took all the strong positions, and exclaimed “Oui, Oui, Les soldats terribles, tres bien, treis bein” which translates to Yes, Yes, the terrible soldiers. Very good. Very Good. The name “Les Terribles” stuck with the 32nd division. The most losses from Company F during this campaign came when the 127th infantry took the village of Fismes. Overall, 19 Shawano men were killed in this campaign. On August 6th, the 28th division relieved the 32nd division. However, this would not be the last fighting that Company F would see. Is Company F would fight in Juvigny and Kriemhilde Stellung.
Finally, on November 11, 1918, at 11:11 AM, the war was over. For Company F and the allied powers were victorious. Company F now made their way to Germany, and on Friday, December 13, the 32nd division crossed the Rhine River into Germany. Company F spent some time in Germany before heading home. By May 2109 15th, most troops have made their way to Brest, France and boarded their ships home.
Words cannot begin to describe the sacrifices that the young men of Company F, the City of Shawano, and Shawano County have made for our country. Knowing the gruesome nature of this largely European war, these men heard the call of duty and left their family and friends to defend their country and enter a truly global war. Some men sacrificed it all for their country, for which we are deeply indebted. Others made it back home and helped make our communities what they are today.
Let’s bring to life 5 individuals who have risked their lives for our country.