Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remembering Glenn Jones

Lots of changes came to America after the conclusion of World War I.  Even though the United States was only involved in “The Great War” for a short time at the conclusion of the conflict, the effects on the country were great.
            When the German leaders signed the armistice on November 11, 1918, the actual fighting ceased, but it also ushered in a contentious time of “making peace” after the war.  American President Woodrow Wilson had laid out a plan for the post-war world in his “Fourteen Points” speech to Congress in January 1918.  Wilson sought to do away with practices that could lead countries into war – such as abolishing secret diplomacy and having treaties be “open covenants openly arrived at”.  President Wilson also advocated for the creation of a “League of Nations” to preserve peace and insure justice for all.
            When the Paris Peace Conference began after the war ended, Wilson was an active participant and became the first American President to travel to Europe.  Although the leaders of the victorious Allies (Great Britain, France and Italy most notably) sought retribution from and punishment for Germany and the other Central Powers, Wilson petitioned at the Paris conference for justice and lasting world peace.  To this end, the formation of a “League of Nations” became a part of the Versailles Treaty.
            In America, the country had to realign the nation’s economy and social order from a wartime footing back to what it was before the 1917 entrance into the war.  Often, it is hard to go back to where you were before – especially on a national scale.  Indeed, some of the American troops stationed in France and the Western Front did not return to their homeland.  Instead, several thousand American soldiers joined with British, French and Japanese forces in fighting in Russia’s Great Civil War from 1918-1920.  The military invasion that invaded Russia was supposed to stop the Communists from taking control there, but the venture proved unsuccessful.
            Back in America, the Russian venture stoked fears that Communists might come after the United States next and fostered a time of mass hysteria known as the “Red Scare”.  Government agencies were created to look everywhere for “Commies” and any disruption were blamed on the “Reds”.  And there were plenty of disruptions in the United States after World War I.
            Labor strife was rampant in America as the country shifted back to a peacetime economy after the war.  During the war, higher wages and benefits had kept the workers of American factories working long and hard to support military and other wartime needs.  Workers did not want to loose what they had which led to strikes across the country.  The police went on strike in Boston and the National Guard was called out to maintain order.  A failed strike against U.S. Steel left 18 workers dead in bloody confrontations.
Racial friction also intensified after the war ended.  During the year after the Armistice, 70 African-Americans were lynched in the United States, including 10 Black soldiers in uniform.  A six-day race riot in Chicago in the summer of 1919 left 38 dead.
  A reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan appeared in America in the 1920s.  The newer KKK was anti-black, anti-foreigner, and anti-Catholic in philosophy and was no longer just an organization of the American South.  The new Klan spread into the Midwest and even the Kickapoo Valley.  (Check my earlier two writings of the “Local History Notebook” published in September 2016 where the KKK in La Farge is discussed.  These can also be found on my history blog.)  
The observance of Memorial Day also changed after World War I.  In 1868, General John Logan had issued an order that May 30th should be set aside as a day of remembrance for those soldiers who had died in America’s Civil War.  The order by General Logan specifically called “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades”.  Forty years later, America was still celebrating “Decoration Day” at the end of May, but now had a new group of fallen soldiers to remember.  New names were added to the honor roll of fallen warriors that were read in the cemeteries of La Farge.
Soon after the war ended, young men in the military began to return to their hometowns.  Most of the earliest to return were still stationed in training camps in the United States awaiting ships for the crossing to Europe.  By early 1919, some of the men who had been on the Western Front were also returning to the Kickapoo Valley.  One of the boys from La Farge never came back.
Glenn Jones was the son of Reverend D. G. Jones and his wife.  Reverend Jones was the minister for the church at Potts Corners and the family lived on Weister Creek.  Glenn attended high school in La Farge as a “boarding” student (rural students at that time were not part of the school district in La Farge and had to pay tuition to attend.  Many of them boarded in the village while attending school.), beginning in 1912.  He can be seen in the front row of that iconic photograph of the 1912 LHS Football Team, staring with wide eyes from beneath his leather helmet.  Glenn also participated in other sports while attending school in La Farge.  He was an active and well-liked student.
In his Senior year at LHS, Glenn Jones participated in the local LHS oratory contest and was a member of the cast of the LHS Senior Class Play performed for the community at the Opera House on Main Street of La Farge.  A month later, at the end of May 1916, Glenn joined fifteen of his Senior classmates for the La Farge High School graduation ceremonies, also held at the Opera House.
A few weeks after that commencement ceremony in 1916, there was this item in the “Local News” section of the La Farge Enterprise newspaper, “Glen Jones, Floyd Rittenhouse and Layton Perkins were Yuba callers Saturday.”  It is supposed that some young ladies of Yuba may have been the impetus for the visit.
Later, Reverend Jones and his family left the La Farge area where he preached at other churches in Wisconsin.  Glenn probably went with his family when they moved, but he may have remained in La Farge.  When America entered the war in the Spring of 1918, Glenn Jones joined the military.  He trained at Camp Grant, a huge American military training facility located near Rockford, Illinois.  Glenn Jones was a member of the 47th Infantry, Company E, which was formed in May 1917 and organized in June at Syracuse, New York.  The unit was fighting on the front lines of the Western Front in France by July 1918.  In the six months of his time in the service, Glenn Jones attained the rank of corporal.
In the October 10, 1918 issue of the Enterprise, mention of the La Farge lad was made in the “Local News” column, “A report has been circulated that Glenn Jones had been killed in France.  At this writing confirmation of this report has not been received.”  Several months went by, including the Armistice signing to end the war, before La Farge’s newspaper could get the confirmation about Glenn Jones.
“Mr and Mrs Geo. Burnard received a card Wednesday from Rev. D. G. Jones of Pardeeville, which stated that their son Glenn was killed in France sometime between the 3rd and 13th of August.  The report had reached them sometime ago that he was missing but nothing definite was learned until this time.  The sad news of Glenn’s death is a severe blow to his parents and relatives and they have the deepest sympathy of their many friends in this village.” – from the La Farge Enterprise, “Local News” section, January 2, 1919 issue.
The United States lost 50,280 men in World War I including La Farge’s Glenn Jones.  Glenn Jones was killed in action on August 7, 1918 while cleaning out a nest of machine gunners with hand grenades in the Argonne Forest region.  He was wounded with a shot to the leg and died before he could be evacuated.  The body of Glenn Jones was buried in a military cemetery in France alongside his fallen American comrades.

The body of Glenn Jones was later returned to the United States on August 4, 1921 and was buried with full military honors at the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia.  The La Farge V.F.W. Post 9075 was named after Corporal David Glenn Jones to honor La Farge’s only World War I veteran killed in action. 


This year America is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States entering The Great War.  That catastrophic conflict had been raging in Europe since the summer of 1914, starting shortly after the assassination of Austria - Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo.  The Central Powers in the conflict included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Turkish Empire.  The Allies were comprised of Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, several Balkan nations, Russia, and Great Britain.
            For three years, the United States tried to remain neutral and stay out of The Great War.  President Woodrow Wilson even ran for re-election in 1916 on a campaign theme of “He Kept Us Out of War!”  In that 1916 election, Wilson was returned to the White House by the narrowest of margins, winning over New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes by a tally of 277-254 in the Electoral College.
            However, within a month after his inauguration, President Wilson went before Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany.  Wilson said, “The world must be made safe for democracy”.  April 6, 1917 was the date when America joined in the conflict.  America soon undertook preparations to join the Allies in what we now know as World War I.  The country called for men to join the American military and that call soon reached the Kickapoo Valley and La Farge.
            In researching through copies of La Farge’s newspaper from that time, the La Farge Enterprise, I was startled by how many young men went into the various branches of military service.  Of course, Congress passed a Selective Service Act in May 1917. A month later, nearly three-quarter of a million names of men were selected in a draft to serve in the military.  Many men had already volunteered for service, including dozens from La Farge.  Women joined the Nurses Corps of the Army and Navy as well as taking administrative jobs with the government.  Many young ladies from La Farge left town to help with the war effort.
            By May 1918, the men of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) were fighting on the front lines in France.  The influx of American soldiers into the bloody trench warfare of the Western Front during that summer of 1918 saved the day for the Allies.  Young men from La Farge were there in France during the summer and fall of that year as the tide turned against Germany.
            The La Farge Enterprise published letters from local lads who were in military service in every weekly issue during that time.  Some of the letters were from men stationed at various military training bases in the United States.  But other letters sent back home by local lads were from the front lines and are astonishing in their stark descriptions of the horrors of war.
            George Steinmetz, a 1917 graduate of La Farge High School, wrote of his experiences in the war in a letter published in the Enterprise in early October 1918.  George wrote:
            Somewhere in France – July 28, 1918
            Dearest of Folks at home: - I don’t know just when I wrote you last, but think it was less than a week ago.  I have a hard time keeping track of time any more.  We are so busy trying to keep up with the Dutchmen that we have no time for much else.
            I am tired and sleepy, but otherwise I am feeling fine.
            There are four of us in a little dugout about six feet square and the roof high enough for me to bump my head when I sit up.  We usually fix a place like this to sleep in and to duck into when we are not firing, but are being fired at.  This happens occasionally.  We all despised digging until after our first hard battle, and after that we were all perfectly willing to dig in.  Not because it is more comfortable but a great deal safer.  Whenever we get a chance to fire though every one of us are out and working for one doesn’t notice being fired at when he can fire back.  If we keep them running like they are now the war will soon be over.
            Gee, how I should like to eat at home Christmas.
            George Steinmetz then goes on in his letter to boast how his battery unit is one of the best in the AEF as determined by their combat experiences.  He writes that both French and American “high authorities” had praised his unit’s fighting skills.  Steinmetz concludes his letter to his family by writing, “I will close today.  Do write often.  I know you do but I don’t get them regular.  With lots of love to all at home every one of you.  Your own boy, George”
            Another letter sent home and published in the same issue of the Enterprise was from Glenn Blakley, who had been wounded in fighting on the Western Front.  Blakley wrote two letters home, one to his parents and another to his brother, Delbert Blakley, letting them know about his battle wounds and reassuring them about his health.  Glenn Blakley wrote,
            France, August 7, 1918
Dear Folks at Home:  Am stopping on my way back to the base hospital for a day or so, so will write a few lines to let you know that I am o.k. and as you can tell by the writing haven’t lost all of my arms, legs and my head.
            I got it Monday morning in the left hand with a piece of shrapnel and a very small piece of it in my right knee, but that one will be well in a week at least.  My hand will get o.k. too as I have had my operation on it and still have all my fingers.  Guess there is a couple of little bones broken but as you know my broken bones always heal o.k.
            I will be sent on down to some base hospital within a day or two and can then tell you what hospital I am at and give you my new address so I can get mail again.  Guess it will be sent on to me anyway but of course there will be some delay.
            I will try to tell you somewhere near where I was if the censor does not cut it out.  I was on the front that was between Soissions and Chateau-Thierry but of course it was back of both of these towns at that time for, as you will remember we had captured both of those towns long before that date.
            Am going to close for today but will write when I get where I can give you my address.  Love to all and drop Kampfs and Aunt Francis a line and tell them.
 I am, your son, Glenn.
            At the end of Glenn Blakley’s letter to his parents, mention is also made of another letter written to his brother Delbert and dated August 12, 1918.  In that letter, Glenn wrote, “that the center was shot out of his left hand and that the two center fingers would probably be left stiff.  He says that the wound to his knee is slight but that it would be two or three months before his hand would be well”.   

            Both of the letters from George Steinmetz and Glenn Blakley written from the Western Front were published on the front page of the La Farge Enterprise.  Further back in an October issue of the La Farge weekly was an ominous item located in the “Local News” column.  It read: “A report has been circulated that Glenn Jones had been killed in France.  At this writing confirmation of this report has not been received.”