© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Draftees Mobilization


Until the end of summer in 1917, the war was still somewhat impersonal for most North Dakotans. Many young men seeking adventure had joined in the early months of the war, but most communities were not affected and deaths were few. Those who enlisted over the summer had departed as individuals or in small groups amid the fanfare of patriotic celebrations. The main units of the North Dakota National Guard were still stationed within the boundaries of the state. With few North Dakotans in harm’s way, the war was more of an inconvenience. Rationing had not yet become a part of everyday life, but people were asked to conserve most resources. For many, it was not until the first call of draftees that the reality of war was brought home. These men were being stripped from the community, and their destiny became tied to the battlefields of Europe. Many were married with young families, and many were nurturing careers. Plans were postponed, and families would wait now anxiously for their return.

Now that the draft selection was almost complete, the time had come to begin moving the massive numbers of men. Only 5% of the assigned quota was initially called up. Once they subtracted credits for those who enlisted or were members of the National Guard, North Dakota’s share was only ninety men statewide. On the 6th of September, Cass County’s quota of eighteen men boarded the special Northern Pacific train at Fargo containing three sleeper cars en route to Camp Dodge, Iowa. Several thousand people, including units of the National Guard, jammed the avenues leading to the train station. Among the tears and good cheers, the Cass County men joined their fellow draftees who had boarded at stations further west. On this date in 1917, another, much larger contingent of draftees, numbering almost two thousand men, was notified to prepare for mobilization.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union provided each man with a comfort kit. It was a bag approximately 10 by 13 inches with a drawstring at the top. The contents included needles, thread, and other sewing goods, as well as shaving soap, regular soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a small mirror, a pocket knife and shoe laces. The WCTU was a strong advocate for abolishing the use of tobacco, so it was ironic that as they were passing out the comfort kits, nearby the Fargo Forum was collecting funds to provide tobacco kits – another of the comforts from home.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


The Bismarck Tribune, July 2, 1917

Fargo Forum, September 11, 1917

Fargo Forum, September 14, 1917