Fourth Liberty Loan | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Fourth Liberty Loan

Sep 26, 2018

From the American perspective in September of 1918, the allies in France needed to take the offensive instead of continuing the battle of attrition associated with trench warfare. American leaders were willing to commit what was necessary to get the job done quickly. Initially it would result in more casualties, but it promised to bring an earlier end to the war.

On Pershing’s birthday, September 13, the American Expeditionary Forces launched a campaign commanded by American officers.  With the number of American troops escalating dramatically, so did the cost of the war. To fund it, the Fourth Liberty Loan began on September 28. Known as the Fighting Loan, it had a staggering price tag. The quota for North Dakota was set at nineteen million dollars. Bells, sirens, parades and patriotic speeches heralded the beginning of the bond drive, allowing only a few days to a week to meet the quota. Despite the fact that North Dakotans had been digging deep into their pockets for almost a year, most locations in the state went “over the top” on their share. Money from the harvest had fueled the local economy, and an early end of the war could save the life of a loved one fighting in France. 

Thanks to the assistance of urban volunteers known as “shock troops” and also the “work or fight” order putting idle men to work in the grain fields, the harvest was nearing completion.  But farmers had been encouraged to plant every available acre, and, due to good yields, the volume of grain leaving the state became too massive for the shippers to handle. The price of grain was fixed by the government, so there was no incentive for the farmers to store it. With the grain being sent to market as quickly as it could be harvested, seaboard and Eastern grain terminals quickly filled to capacity. Railcars were also in short supply, but, on the bright side, most restrictions on wheat flour had been rescinded. 

North Dakota’s ranching industry also contributed to the war effort, but most livestock was shipped to the East for processing. On this date in 1918, the Equity Cooperative Packing Company announced that it was nearing the completion of its new meat processing plant in an open field near Fargo. A shortage of labor delayed the installation of equipment and slowed the construction of twenty-four homes for plant’s workforce, but a mid-winter opening was still planned. This processing plant in West Fargo would go on to operate for over seventy years – spawned by the needs of the War to End All Wars.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

Sources:

Ward County Independent, September 3, 1918

Grand Forks Herald, September 24, 1918

Fargo Forum, September 28, 1918

Ibid; September 26, 1918