Dakota Datebook Stories: The Great War | Prairie Public Broadcasting

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. Hear the stories here, or download a pdf to read the entire collection

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.

The War is Over

Nov 12, 2018

Slightly over one year after the First and Second Regiments of the North Dakota National Guard departed from the State, the war was over.  An announcement that the armistice was to be signed was made by the State Department at 2:45 the morning of November 11, 1918. A few minutes later the Associated Press flashed the news across the continent.


Nov 7, 2018

By the end of October in 1918, the people of North Dakota held an apocalyptic view of unfolding events.  The whirlwind pace of an incredibly violent year had eclipsed anything ever witnessed before.  Editor F.W Wardwell of the Pioneer Express at Pembina had stated that it took blood to make people understand what war means, and, in his words, the war demon had spread his red cape across the state as loved ones were dying on the battlefields of France.

“No Man’s Land,” the area between the trenches, was a concentrated killing field that had to be crossed if any advance was going to take place.   Sentries were often placed in this area at night to warn against enemy activity.  One of these was Russell Diesem, from LaMoure, who occupied a sentry post north of Verdun. 

Bone Dry Law

Oct 23, 2018

The Germans were steadily being forced back towards their homeland, giving up much of the territory they had gained since 1914. As the Allies advanced, the communities they recaptured were impoverished, destroyed by the retreating forces. Although the seven major relief organizations in the United States, such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, had agreed to a united campaign scheduled to begin on November 11, it became apparent that thousands of Jewish people, especially those in Poland and Lithuania, were dying from starvation and in desperate need of help. President Woodrow Wilson declared that this date, October 23 was Jewish Relief Day, and Governor Lynn Frazier issued a Proclamation for North Dakota.

Cases and Cures

Oct 19, 2018

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.

The Food Pledge

Oct 11, 2018

On this date in 1917, Europe was at war. America had not yet joined the fight, but there was another war to be waged: the war against hunger. Europe was woefully short of food. Herbert Hoover, the Food Administrator, announced that the United States could do a great deal to help the European allies, suggesting that Americans eat less of the foods that could be shipped to Europe, and more of the perishable foods that could not.

Spanish Flu

Oct 10, 2018

On September 29, 1917, throngs of people had stood amid garlands of red, white and blue bunting, waving flags and banners as they crowded on the railroad platforms to send off Company B of the First Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard.  Patriotic speeches and music filled the air.  For the families it had been a long, prayerful year.  At first the war news was hopeful and only a spattering of local names were among the casualty lists, but as the American Expeditionary Force took on a more aggressive role, the ranks of the dead and wounded began to swell.

United War Fund

Oct 4, 2018

Three days after the drive for the Fourth Liberty Loan began on September 28, 1918, the citizens of North Dakota had subscribed to $12 million of the state’s $19 million quota. But liberty loans involved redeemable bonds. Although the sale of bonds tied up personal finances, the money would eventually be returned with interest, and the end of the war appeared to be in sight.    

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.

Letters from France

Sep 19, 2018

On this date in 1918, many North Dakota soldiers were serving their country in the War, and when they wrote home, it was common for the recipient to give the letter to the local newspaper, which would then print it, so everyone would know what was going on.