Marshfield, June 1918: On the front lines
The first Marshfield native wounded in World War I
By Kris Leonhardt
John G. Kohl was born in Germantown as the son of German immigrants. Having been trained in the skills of a blacksmith, he came to Marshfield and opened a shop near the Soo Line depot. He married and ushered in seven children before he was taken from them at the age of 51.
After Kohl’s death in 1904, his wife Suzanna opened a millinery shop to support the family. Also eager to help his family at home, their young son Frank quit school and found work in a factory to bring in some needed income.
When World War I broke out, Frank stepped forward to join the “Fight for Democracy” only to be turned away due to his battle with bronchial asthma.
In March of 1917, Frank left for Circle City, Mont., searching for some relief for his affliction. While there the draft was enforced, and all men ages 21-31 were required to register.
This time Frank would not be denied, and when his number was called, Frank reported for induction at the age of 25.
On Christmas Day Frank’s boots landed on French soil, and Frank’s brother John would follow. As Frank fought in the first line trenches, he received a letter that his mother was in Saint Joseph’s Hospital and very ill.
As he returned a sympathetic letter wishing his mother well, he spoke of his proximity to danger and the knowledge of his brother’s arrival there. The letter, however, would never be seen by its intended recipient, as his mother would succumb to her illness before it reached her hands.
With Memorial Day 1918 drawing near, a magnificent tribute arose in the front window of the millinery shop, which Frank’s sister Anna now owned. The tribute was to her brothers, now both embroiled in the action of the war. She sat waiting for word of any kind.
In mid-June, as word came that the first Marshfield native had been injured in France, some of Anna’s worst fears were realized. Her brother, Frank, had been the first from the area to be wounded by the enemy.
Later, as Frank lay recovering in a French hospital, he wrote to set Anna’s mind at ease. Wounded in the right knee, he was recovering well and would return to the front line. He promised her that he would stay far away from the bullet’s evil sting and return home.
Frank would serve 18 months at war and return to the U.S. in March of 1919. He was honorably discharged from the 26th Infantry in Fort Russell, Wyo., and would return to his sister and Marshfield itself.