The Face of War
We were at War, and for Carl Kositzky, State Auditor for North Dakota, the Great War had more meaning than many. His father, Gustave Kositzky had immigrated to Yankton, Dakota Territory from Germany in 1871, but his business interests eventually brought him to North Dakota. A veteran of both the Austrian/Prussian War and the Franco/Prussian War, Gustave’s military background had a large influence on his sons. While Carl did not enter the military, he had three brothers who did. On this date in 1917, he learned that another brother, Edwin Kositzky, had enlisted. Edwin was a former employee in the mail room of the Bismarck Tribune, and a student at the University of Nebraska. Along with his three brothers and a number of cousins, Edwin became the fourteenth American Kositzky who joined the fight against Germany, making a total of twenty-three Kositskys involved in the war, for there were nine German cousins who were fighting for the Kaiser!
Beginning on December 12, the North Dakota troops at Hoboken embarked for a twelve-day voyage to England. Ironically, most of them would travel aboard the plush accommodations of the Vaterland, a German luxury liner, one of largest passenger ships afloat. When America entered the war many German vessels were caught in port and were confiscated by the War Department. Although the German crews attempted to scuttle the ships or make them inoperable, most were made sea worthy and put to work transporting men and supplies. The Vaterland was re-christened as the SS Leviathan.
The North Dakota troops, after some additional training, would soon be joining other Americans who had been fighting with the Canadian forces already in the trenches of France. Many of these were from North Dakota, and causalities mounted when the German command made a significant effort to conquer as much territory as possible prior to the arrival of the American Expeditionary Forces. Across the state, news of the deaths of North Dakotans filled the newspapers, spreading a pall over the holiday season. Soon thousands of young men from North Dakota communities would be in combat. It was the Christmas season, a time to rejoice, but, as F. L. Wardwell, of the Pembina Pioneer had prophesied so many months before, “We do not recognize the war demon until he comes near enough to see his red garment…We are about entering into the gates of hell, that fathers, brothers, sons and lovers may soon be weltering in blood on the fields of carnage.” The face of the war had changed…the face of Christmas had changed.
Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Tribune, December 20, 1917
The Washburn Leader, December 21, 1917
Williston Graphic, December 20, 1917