WORLD WAR I – A BRIEF SUMMARY OF SERVICE
by Missy Frink
[Editor’s Note: In late January 2008, another milestone was reached at the Archives & Records Center with the completion of an index to Gasconade County’s World War I Military Service Records. Information included in the index was drawn from The Soldiers’ Service Record and documents titled “Biography and Service Record”, which were completed by the discharged soldier or the next of kin. It must be noted that it is unlikely that 100% of the servicemen completed this document and returned it for filing at the courthouse. Missy Frink compiled the index and upon its completion wrote the article that follows.]
It has been ninety-one years since the United States officially entered World War I in April of 1917. Few remember the young men who went off to fight, filled with hope, ideals and, no doubt, fear. Over 300 young men from Gasconade County answered the call to arms according to county records. Some volunteered and some were drafted. We don’t know much about them. What were their dreams, their hopes, their ambitions? Were they handsome and outgoing with brown eyes and crooked smiles? Or were they shy and soft spoken?
There are few families who have photos of these young men who went off to fight. Most would be fighting German soldiers from the very land their parents or grandparents had left to come to America.
Surprisingly, according to our records, all of these young men were native born Americans. When asked their nationality most wrote “American”. Two proudly wrote “native born American”. A few wrote “German American” or “Irish American” and a few responded “white”. Most of the servicemen in our records were born in Gasconade County. Their level of education ranged from grammar school to university. Their occupations were also varied. Physicians, jewelers, farmers, shoe workers, machinists, clerks, students, teachers, laborers, railroad workers, blacksmiths, auto mechanics, bankers, bakers and riverboat pilots were among those who served. Forty-two were married.
The record of their service indicates that many saw fierce fighting at Verdun, Château Thierry, Meuse Argonne and Belleau Wood, to name a few. They endured grim life in the trenches and twenty-one reported being gassed or wounded. One man suffered gunshot wounds to both hands in the same battle. Quite a few brothers and many cousins served in the War. John and Minnie Gawer sent three sons, Edward, Deda and Theodore, off to war. Theodore was killed in action during a battle in Argonne, July 25, 1918.
--Gasconade County Historical Society Newsletter
Volume 21, Number 1, Spring 2008