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Dakota Datebook

Last North Dakota Soldier in WWI

 

In 1919, farms and communities across the state had been drained of young men -- called into service during two years of war.  Weekly casualty lists contained the names of local boys who died in the war, eventually totalling four hundred and seventy-four. And when combined with the Spanish Flu epidemic sweeping the state from October to December, death had visited most doorsteps.

 

On this date in 1919, the City of Cooperstown was preparing for Memorial Day.  Among those being honored was Sigurd Lima, a 26-year-old Cooperstown blacksmith, who only a year earlier had boarded a train to Ft. Lewis, Washington after being inducted into the army.

 

Lima, born in Norway in 1892, had obtained his citizenship only three years prior to his induction.  Following basic training in 1918, he was assigned to an infantry company and sent overseas.  In September he transferred to the 308th Infantry as a replacement, joining a company engaged  with the enemy in the Argonne Forest.  His battalion had been ordered to advance further into the dense woods and in doing so, they were surrounded and cut off.  For five days, the Lost Battalion, as they became known, fought with almost no food or water, and steadily diminishing ammunition. The fighting was fierce, and when they were rescued on October 7th, less than half of the five hundred men had survived.  

 

Carl Michaelson from Hannaford, North Dakota, was in the same squad. According to his account, private Lima had been severely wounded, and two men had carried him from the fighting. But when the war ended, the citizens of Cooperstown and Lima’s parents in Norway waited impatiently to learn of his fate.  No trace of Lima had been found, and for years the question lingered. It was almost a decade later, in March of 1928, that the War Department announced that Private Sigurd Lima had been killed in action on October 3rd, 1918 during the Argonne offensive and was buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.  And it was with that announcement, that the last North Dakota soldier in the Great War had been accounted for. 

 

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

 

Source:

Divide County Farmers  Press, March 16, 1928

Roster of the men and women who served in the army or naval service (including the Marine corps) of the United States or its allies from the state of North Dakota in the World war, 1917-1918..., The Bismarck Tribune Company, 1931

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