© 2023
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cases and Cures

As the Meuse-Argonne offensive began, the letters from the North Dakota soldiers in France were now only lightly censored. Life on the battlefield was being graphically described to family and friends back home. While this helped sell the Fourth Liberty Loan, it also triggered a quick reaction to any anti-war sentiment.

When the District Court in Fargo convened for the October session, it was seeking to dispose of more than one hundred criminal cases, most directly related to the Espionage Act. Patriotism was foremost. A young Norwegian of Walsh County, facing the draft, claimed he was an alien of a neutral country and withdrew his Declaration of Intention to become a citizen. Later he approached the draft board and stated that he regretted that decision.  His case was referred to Adjutant General G. A. Fraser of the North Dakota National Guard. In a warning to others, Fraser stated that not only could the young man not be reinstated into the draft, he could also never become a citizen. He stated that citizenship was not an old coat that could be put on and taken off at whim.  The young man should have been willing to assume the full responsibility of citizenship.

While the letters from the battlefields were filled with the horrors of war, the letters also brought sad news from military bases in England and the United States, far from the frontlines.  Due to the close living conditions, the spread of Spanish flu was rampant.  A young Wilton woman, Emily Anderson, who had lost a brother six months earlier, was called to an Army Camp near Seattle to escort the remains of her brother Arthur, a flu victim.  Upon arrival she discovered that her brother Herbert had also succumbed to the dreaded disease. 

The epidemic had become widespread in North Dakota, and various cures were being touted, including Gold Medal Haarlam Oil and Vick’s VapoRub. Mess Sergeant Albert Johnson wrote to his sister in Fargo, claiming that hot lemonade in the evening and onions at every meal had kept his troops healthy.  When the letter was printed in the Forum, local grocers were besieged with demands for onions and lemons. Soon most citizens of Fargo were sipping lemonade and munching raw onion. Even “dainty little ladies” roamed about Fargo with confidence and, incidentally, they had an air about them that would ward off almost anything.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


Bismarck Tribune, October 17, 1918

Ibid; October 4, 1918

Fargo Forum, October 22, 1918

Prairie Public Broadcasting provides quality radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.
Related Content