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Wartime News

 

Throughout the first year after America entered the war in 1917, the War Department maintained a strict censorship on the news from France.   To keep the public informed, there were brief war news presentations from the Committee on Public Information by the Four Minute Men.

These were volunteers authorized to speak at movie theaters and public meetings on timely topics related to the war.  Often speaking between the film reel changes at theaters, their speeches were restricted to four minutes, thus the name. Using local community leaders who were provided with general topic guidelines, it was a successful approach in promoting public support for the war.

 

But it was mostly through the Associated Press that the public learned the general war news.  In the fall and winter of 1917-1918, due to the nature of trench warfare, successful campaigns were often measured in yards, not miles.  

However, German losses in men and equipment were slowly bleeding the German Army’s strength; and North Dakotans, like most Americans, hoped for an early end to the war.  In mid-March the German command mounted a spring offensive in an all-out effort to gain as much territory as possible before the American Expeditionary Forces could become an effective part of the war. The news from the front in late March of 1918 was dismal as the French and British forces, which included some American units, appeared to be in retreat.

 

In the evening of Saturday, March 23rd, the Ward County Independent issued an extra edition, which stated that General Haig and the British lines had stemmed the German advance.  A large crowd of several hundred enthusiastic citizens gathered in the streets of Minot to celebrate. Speeches were given and the band played patriotic tunes.  However, a few hours later, the Minot Daily News, in its edition, denied the story based on new information.

An angry crowd, dissatisfied with this development, gathered in front of the Daily News office.  During the night the front entrance to the building was painted yellow, and the words “Kaiser” and “Slacker” were painted on the doors and windows.

The newspaper responded by posting a one hundred dollar reward for the names of the individuals who vandalized the building.  They also posted a reward for the identity of the individual who submitted a story to the Fargo Forum that charged them with disloyalty, but they offered no apology for reporting their version of the news. It was what it was – good or bad.

 

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

 

Sources:

Devils Lake World and Inter-Ocean March 27, 1918

Bismarck Tribune March 25, 1918

Ward County Independent, March 28, 1918

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