Sandy-Haired Bismarck Boy—Feb 14

Feb 16, 2018


With the North Dakota boys manning the trenches on the front lines on this date in 1918, local newspapers were carefully scrutinized, hoping that the name of a loved one would not appear on the latest causality list.  


On February 1st, the Associated Press carried a story on an unnamed soldier who had been wounded during a German raid on a little village in France.  He told the correspondent that after being drafted, he had come to France with a division of former National Guardsmen. He had only been in France for a few weeks.  The reporter described him as covered in mud from head to foot – a sandy-haired youth from a farm near Bismarck.


After being hit in the leg with shrapnel and undergoing surgery, the soldier stated that there were only two things he really wanted.  One was to get another chance to fight the Bosch and do the job he came there for.  For his second wish, he stated he would give two month’s pay for a large beefsteak smothered in onions.


When the story was circulated nationally by the Associated Press, the young man had mothers to spare.  Every woman around Bismarck with a drafted son was absolutely sure this was her boy.  One woman stated that her son was “always crazy to get over there and take a shot at the Bosch.”  Another woman based her claim on the beefsteak and onions and that there was not another boy in France who could eat as much as her boy.  There was even one women from Chicago, who claimed that the young man was her sandy-haired brother, Henry Vogelman, who, when last heard from, was working on a farm near Bismarck.  


Unfortunately, the individual’s identity was never confirmed, but most believed it was Corporal Joe Matthews. He had been wounded in the same battle that took the life of Louis Oulsey, the first North Dakota Guardsman to die in France. Although Matthews survived the war, and was seriously wounded three times, he also had achieved the dubious honor of being one of North Dakota’s most-killed soldiers, having been reported as killed in action several times.  


Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


The Bismarck Tribune, February 6, 1918

Ibid:  February 19, 1918

Valley City Weekly Times=Record, February 22, 1918

The Bismarck Tribune, September 06, 1919