Dakota Datebook

Whippet in Grafton

Thursday, April 12, 2012

 

In early 1919 the Great War was over in Europe. To the soldier, war is hell; to the poet, war is glory; but to everyone, war is expensive. America’s industrial might, with its vast resources, sent an endless amount of war material overseas, however, this came with a cost. By the end of the war the United States was almost thirty billion dollars in debt. During the war, Liberty Bonds were sold to ensure that our men and women in uniform would have what they needed to quickly end the war and return safely. But with the war’s conclusion, the urgency and patriotic duty of buying bonds waned.

 

In early April of 1919, the Ninth Federal Reserve District announced that North Dakota’s share of a new bond drive, termed the Victory Loan, was eighteen million, five hundred thousand dollars. To enhance the sale of the bonds, special incentives were introduced, such as a higher return rate and an exemption from state and local taxes, as well as federal income taxes. Millions of posters, banners, buttons and medallions were printed and distributed, but other measures were also taken to once again instill patriotism and remind Americans of their duty to pay this debt.

 

On this date, a battle-scarred, awkward looking fighting machine entered Grafton on top of a railcar. A large crowd had gathered to see the heavily armored Whippet tank descend from the flatbed car and rumble through the streets of the city, making its way to the school grounds. Few Whippets had ever been seen on American soil, but their exploits during the war were legendary. The light, fast and highly maneuverable Whippet was designed by the British to exploit the holes in the battle lines created by the heavier Mark IV tanks. At sixteen feet in length and eight feet in height, the camouflaged symbol of mechanized warfare was an impressive sight. The Whippet tank was endowed with the glory of war and it had come to Grafton to kick off the Victory Loan drive.

 

The abilities of the tank were demonstrated at the school and also at the hospital grounds, and these demonstrations were followed by speeches appealing to the patriotism of the crowds. The Whippet tank had helped win the war, and now it carried a message that it was up to the American people to finish the job by buying Victory Loan bonds.

 

Dakota Datebookwritten by Jim Davis

 

Sources:

 

Walsh County Record April 16, 1919

Tanks in 1918 – www.tanks.net.

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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