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The Machine Gun Boys


On April 4, 1917, Congress granted President Wilson’s request for a declaration of war. 14,000 American troops arrived in Europe by June of that year. In July, the Dickinson Press was full of war news. The newspaper reported a danger of food and fuel shortages, blaming the “unusual conditions” resulting from the war. The chairman of the Committee on Fuels, Mining and Engineering warned the State Council of Defense that distribution of necessary goods would likely be a problem. He assured the public that the Committee and the Council were working closely to prevent suffering, but he gave a reminder that the transportation of troops would take priority.

The paper also reminded men that once their draft notice was received, it was too late to enlist in the service of their choice. Meanwhile, an exemption board was appointed to review draft appeals. The paper characterized the members of the board as men of “unquestioned ability and character.”

Another article reported that the postmistress and her husband were accused of entertaining a lecturer who had insulted the flag. Senator McCumber said he had received numerous complaints about the so-called “copperheads and traitors.”

But the “Machine Gun Boys” got the front page headlines. The company of National Guard soldiers was training on machine guns. They drilled daily in spite of some very hot summer weather. The adjutant came up from Bismarck for an inspection and announced he was pleased with their performance. He said the company was “as fine a bunch of men as it had ever been his privilege to see.” The praise was gratifying since it came from a regular army officer. A reporter visited the company at the armory and noted a marked improvement over the course of a few weeks. He described the company as a “fine, husky looking bunch of fellows.”

On this date in 1917, the Commercial Club announced a reception for the boys in advance of their call-up to a camp in California. Dinner would be followed by entertainment and a dance. The Machine Gun Boys were the toast of the town.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


“Machine Gun Boys Are Drilling Hard in Spite of Heat.” Dickinson Press. 28 July, 1917.

Reception for Machine Gun Company Announced.” Dickinson Press. 28 July, 1917.

“First Call Takes Many from Stark.” Dickinson Press. 28 July, 1917.

“N.D. Postmistress Harbored Traitor Says Sen. McCumber.” Dickinson Press. 28 July, 1917.

“The Fuel Situation.” Dickinson Press. 28 July, 1917.