Flashback Friday: Remembering World War I

Last weekend, on Nov. 11, the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I was commemorated around the globe. To remember the experience of men and women who served, take a look at the South Dakota History article titled “‘Over Here, Over There’: The World War I Correspondence of the Pvt. Warns Family” by Richard Loftus (vo. 36, no.1).

Private John Warns was among the thousands of Americans that served in Europe during the war. A farmer from a German-American family, Warns hailed from the town of Wentworth in eastern South Dakota, between Madison and Flandreau. As the country went from neutrality to war, the Warns family, along with others of German heritage, found their loyalty in question. However, on 26 April 1918, John Warns reported for duty in Madison and soon made his way overseas.

Warns wrote to his mother that summer from a post near Aneauville, France:

Of course there’s no dodging around it—you know it anyhow—sometimes it isn’t so pleasant, especially when one sits up for hours at a time with a gas mask on in a night so dark ink would show up white. One realizes a little of the danger and when the guns vibrate the ground one just does get a wee bit nervous and excited—Mother dear—one sure thinks of a lot of things in a blessed little time during occasions of this kind, and were it not for knowing that the Lord knows where you are and is taking care of you, one would feel like a fly on a tanglefoot—lost. (p. 17)

Through the correspondence of the Warns family members, readers gain better insight into the extent that World War I affected the lives of people both at home and abroad. Click here to read the entire article and selections from the Warns family letters.


The image at top is of John Warns, wearing his helmet and sidearm, after arriving in Europe.