Dakota Datebook

Reality of War

 

By this date in 1917, America had declared war on Germany, and the registration for the draft was only weeks away. For a number of years, North Dakota families had been anxiously following the war news from Europe, and now many loved ones could soon be in harm’s way.

Rose Havelock was one who waited for any news from her husband.  Fred C. Havelock, originally from Jamestown, had gone to Canada to begin a new job in early 1914.  Shortly after his arrival, war was declared and he joined the first regiment of Canadian forces organized in Edmonton.  The unit was named the Princess Patricia’s after the daughter of the Duke of Connaught.  In the early part of the war the Princess Pats gained international recognition having seen some of the heaviest fighting at the first and second battles of Ypres, the Battle of Somme, and at Vimy Ridge.  Of the original 1,300 men that went over, only 44 were still in the unit three years later.  In a letter home, he told of life at the front.  In the second battle of Ypres, his unit held off three massive German attacks in a single day, resulting in the loss of over 6,000 enemy dead and 8,000 wounded.  Of his unit, which mustered in 965 men in the morning, only 102 answered the roll that night.  The trenches were a surreal world of slimy mud, caustic gas, screaming shrapnel, roaring explosives, and the whine of bullets.

Emil Katz was another who lived in the trenches and witnessed the reality of war – from the other side.  Writing to his brother Morris in Minot, he told of his experiences. With trenches only one hundred yards apart in many places, they frequently called out to the enemy but none dared stick their head up.  To do so would be fatal.  He had not removed his clothes in nine weeks.  Sometimes they could sleep seven hours, but the shelling took its toll.  He related that the American-made ammunition was superior to the French, and that if it wasn’t for the aid of the American’s the war could have been over.  He told his brother that as a German solider he did not have much love for Americans.

With America now at war, Morris Katz, like many Germans in America, agonized over his new-found freedom and his love for his brother who stayed behind to fight for the fatherland.  Meanwhile, across the state, Rose Havelock silently prayed for her husband’s safe return.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

Sources:

“Germans Holding Line”, Minot Daily Optic Reporter, May 15, 1915

“Griping story of Trench Life”, Grand Forks Daily Herald, September 20, 1915

“Bismarck Man Wounded in War,” The Bismarck Tribune May 26, 1915

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