Marshfield, April 1917: Answering the call
Young men from the Marshfield area enlist for World War I
By Kris Leonhardt
On a Monday morning in early April, the Soo Line Engine No. 6 rolled into the Marshfield depot, and the sharp tones of a bugle echoed through the city, ceremoniously announcing the arrival of 16 young men. Startling residents of a busy but peaceful community, with each contrasting note a youthful face full of dedication and valor appeared from the steps of the nearby passenger car.
Most of the 16 men were from the cities of Owen, Stratford, and Colby and were a portion of 69 men filling the ranks of Company A at the Marshfield armory as a result of a national call for troops.
Just nine days prior, President Woodrow Wilson had asked Congress to send United States troops to Germany. The action resulted from the war waged on England, France, and Russia by Germany in the previous two months, which would be exacerbated by Germany’s offer to aid Mexico in regaining the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona if Mexico would join in the war against the United States.
The United States could no longer remain neutral in the situation, and Wilson addressed Congress.
In his April 1917 address, Wilson called for a war mobilization and asked young men to volunteer. These men were answering Wilson’s call.
Young men from the Marshfield community and those from the surrounding areas arrived in packs at the armory on Second Street to pledge their service while officers and privates already enlisted went out to the areas outside the city to recruit others.
Lt. Edward Witt oversaw the droves of volunteers coming to the armory at a rate of approximately three per hour. After receiving a medical examination by Dr. R.P. Potter, the onsite examining doctor for Company A, the men were enlisted for duty.
During the second week of April, 69 men had volunteered and enlisted for service at the Marshfield armory, and the company was officially up to war capacity. War strength in 1917 was considered to be 150 soldiers, and Company A was expected to receive 175 volunteers.
Though the response in the Marshfield area was tremendous, that was not the case with the nation as a whole, as the volunteer army consisted of 100,000 inexperienced, untrained men. To create an effective defense, Wilson pushed for a draft.
The following month, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which required young men between the ages of 19 and 30 to register for service. The act raised military numbers from the thousands to the millions.