Dakota Datebook Stories: The Great War

Millions of Americans served in World War I — soldiers, sailors , nurses — and many at home provided support, suffered scarcities, and grieved for loved ones lost. The United States entered the Great War 100 years ago on April 6. Prairie Public’s Dakota Datebook is commemorating this anniversary with stories from North Dakota, thanks to historian Jim Davis and other Dakota Datebook writers.

Dakota Datebook radio features air weekdays at 8:35 am, 3:50 pm, 6:30 pm and 7:50 pm CT on Prairie Public. The Great War features will air weekly throughout the year. Find the full archives here.

Council of Defense

Jul 10, 2018

In the Special Session of 1918, the North Dakota Legislature created and funded the North Dakota Council of Defense.  The Council was comprised of the governor, the attorney general, and twelve members selected by the governor.  The Council of Defense was granted broad powers to oversee coal resources and agricultural production.  The governor was granted additional power to authorize other actions necessary for the conduct of the war. 

Motion Pictures

Jul 4, 2018

On this date in 1918, the political climate across the state was calming momentarily with the completion of North Dakota’s primary election the week before.  The Nonpartisan League made a significant showing in their hopes to control both houses of state government.  Although the casualty lists from World War I coming in on a daily basis were putting a damper on the celebration of the Nation’s Birthday, unlike the previous year, many communities were planning fireworks, while at the same time encouraging individuals to purchase War Stamps instead of buying personal fireworks, stating there were plenty of fireworks in France.

Loyalty Week

Jul 3, 2018

A Loyalty Week event was held in North Dakota during the first week of July in 1918. It was sponsored by the North Dakota Council of Defense and the North Dakota Commission of Agriculture.

3,000 people descended on Bismarck for the opening festivities that included a Monster Aquatic Spectacle starring Miss Bertha Dragoo, “a pretty diving girl.” An evening illumination of the city was to be accompanied by a band concert and a street dance.

Tower City Marines

Jun 26, 2018

On April 26, 1917, only twenty days after the United States declared war on Germany, the newspaper headlines in the Tower City Topics, a Cass County newspaper, boasted, “Tower City Gives Ten Youths for Nation’s Defense.”  Thirteen young men from Tower City traveled to Fargo and enlisted in the Marines, but only ten were accepted.  They included Harold and Albert Beltman, Roy Black, John and Rudolph Boehm, Charles Carmichael, George Kelley, Leslie Sansburn, George Stine, and Ray Wells.  All but one of the members of the Tower City State Champion Basketball team of 1917 enlisted, however, it was a far different game they were playing now.  Following basic training at Mare Island near San Francisco, they were sent for addition training at Quantico, Virginia.  By January of 1918 they were in France with the 78th Company of the 6th Marines. 

North Dakota Marines

Jun 22, 2018

E. H. Tostevin, the Mandan soldier and newspaperman, traveled throughout France attempting to record the war as seen through the eyes of North Dakota soldiers.  In a hospital somewhere in France he met Albert T. Mastrud, a freckled-faced, nineteen-year-old from Hatton who fought near the town of Bouresche, France on this date in 1918.  He was one of sixteen North Dakota soldiers in his company from Barnes, Traill and Cass Counties who had enlisted in the Marines in May of 1917, shortly after the United States entered the war.  As they went into battle, only two of them were over 20 years of age. 


Jun 15, 2018

This is Dakota Datebook for June 15th; North Dakota remembers World War I.

By the middle of June in 1918, American troops, now numbering at over eight hundred thousand, were taking the offensive on their own and occupying sectors of the front in the Alsace area of France.  Since entering the war, American casualties were slightly over eight thousand killed, wounded or missing. The unprecedented and unceasing use of artillery created most of the carnage.

June 5, 1918, was the first anniversary of the Selective Service Draft Act. Almost six million men across the nation between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one had registered for the draft in that year. The draft was considered fairer than the Civil War draft in that it hit all aspects of society equally.  

Memorial Day 1918

May 28, 2018

Today is Memorial Day, a day to honor those who paid the extreme sacrifice in the service of their country.  

Work or War

May 22, 2018

On this date in 1918, the last quota of the selective service draft initiated in June the preceding year was being processed. Thirteen hundred men from North Dakota were set to board trains headed for Fort Lewis, Washington. But for those who were not drafted, there would be no leisure time.  

Manchurian Railroad

May 17, 2018

On this date in 1918, the Great War was raging, and North Dakota boys were fighting in the front-line trenches. The first three years of the war had shown that when modern weapons for conducting warfare met older tactics, the losses were staggering.  Germany was beginning a new spring offensive.