On this date in 1933, Mr. Felix Renville and his wife were getting ready to travel from their home in Fort Yates to New York to appear on Robert Ripley’s radio program, “Believe It or Not.”
According to an article in the Mandan Daily News, the curious event prompting the show to invite Renville extended back to 1918, during World War I, when he was a machine gunner in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
The Meuse-Argonne campaign started on the 26th of September of 1918, and was the final large-scale offensive of World War I. The battle lasted until the Armistice. In the process, more than 26,000 Americans were killed, and over 120,000 wounded.
On November second, the day after the final push began, Felix Renville was injured so badly that he was thought to be dead. Gassed, and suffering from multiple shrapnel wounds, he said his body was examined by a buddy, his corporal and captain. None of them found any sign of life.
“The corporal pushed me…called my name,” Renville later reported. “I was bleeding and didn’t seem to breathe. He put me down as killed and went on.”
Luckily for Renville, who was left for dead on the battlefield, he was nonetheless carried off to a hospital by first aid men. When he regained consciousness, more than ten days later, he asked the man on the bed next to him about the progress of the war.
“It was over two days ago,” the man replied.
Renville, who was a Sioux Indian, stated that blood transfusions left him with “mostly Irish and Swedish blood.”
After he came to, he contacted his father, to make sure he knew he was alive – and, according to Renville, after all the uncertainty, this positive proof of his son’s life caused Renville’s father to have a heart attack. He died before Felix returned to North Dakota.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is a franchise that began in 1918, involving cartoons, books, film, TV, Internet, and yes, radio – sharing the story of “bizarre events and items so strange and unusual” that listeners might question the claims, including the story of a North Dakota boy who for a time, had claimed a spot amidst the “legion of the dead.”
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Mandan Daily Pioneer, Friday, January 14, 1933