Marshfield, October 1918: A young soldier is laid to rest
Cpl. Harold Jaeckel dies at 17
By Kris Leonhardt
As America entered World War I, the country was embarking on a very different kind of war. Not only was the battle fought on foreign soil, but many things were changing that would affect how the battle was contended.
The Army was now enforcing a minimum age of 18, and the Navy discontinued its apprenticeship program using boys still in their teenage years. Young men were required to get parental permission before joining the ranks prior to turning 21.
The change came in conjunction with the enforcement of child labor laws, which took children out of the factories and gave them more opportunity at a decent education.
The advancement of mechanics and technology also took some of the grunt work away from the military branches, filling positions that young boys once had.
As the war broke out, eager enlistees headed to recruitment officers selflessly looking for an opportunity to defend their country. Though the 18-year minimum age requirement was now enforced, this did not deter all ambitious young men from finding their way into service.
Some simply lied about their age to officers who turned a blind eye to their obvious youth just to fill their quotas. Others gained access with the help of supportive and forceful parents, while the remainder ran away from the community of their youth to places where they were unknown.
Harold Edwin Jaeckel was just 15 years of age when he left his home at 500 N. Cherry St. in Marshfield. His mother watched her young son leave the safety of their home, not wanting him to go but knowing it would be the best thing for their family.
As he entered the recruitment office, Jaeckel, of stocky build for his age, gave his age as 18. Whether the officer was wise to Jaeckel’s deceit is unknown, but Jaeckel joined Company A heading to the war on the Mexican border and later to the battlegrounds of World War I.
In September 1918 Jaeckel’s mother received a letter from the Western Front. She breathed a sigh of relief when she read that Jaeckel was doing well and was remaining free from harm at his station at Alsace, France.
However, just three weeks later, another letter would arrive at Mrs. Jaeckel’s doorstep informing her that her son had been killed in action. Jaeckel had died on Sept. 1, before his mother had even received the letter informing her that all was well with him.
At the tender age of 17, Cpl. Harold Jaeckel was laid to rest by his widowed mother. He is buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Marshfield.