World War I also known as WWI, the First World War, the Great War and the War to End All Wars, was a military conflict fought chiefly in Europe.The war began on June 28, 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.Within weeks, most European countries had joined the war.The United States entered the war in April 1917.
New technologies made this a particularly deadly war.Machine guns, better artillery, advanced logistics, poison gas, aerial warfare and submarines all contributed to the 40 million casualties, including approximately 20 million civilians, who lost their lives in WWI.
When the United States entered the war, Sauk County responded.Over 950 men were drafted between 1917 and 1918.Others already enrolled in local National Guard units like Reedsburg’s Company A and Baraboo’s Company I of the 1st Wisconsin Infantry, were called into service immediately.
The Reedsburg and Baraboo companies were assigned to the famous 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division.The men of the 32nd Division were labeled “Les Terribles” by a French general impressed by their prowess in battle.
Fifty-eight Sauk County soldiers died in France.Twenty-four were killed as a result of combat.The remaining 34 succumbed to disease.
Many of the home front activities that we today associate with World War II, actually began during WWI.Rationing, propaganda posters, Sons in Service Flags and victory gardens were all introduced during WWI.
Could you live without wheat, beef, pork, dairy products or sugar?During WWI, Wisconsin citizens were encouraged to do just that.
While most people associate rationing with WWII, state and federal food rationing programs were first implemented as a show of home front patriotism during WWI.
In fact, Wisconsin pioneered many of the programs that formed the basis for the federal Food Administration policies.Wisconsin became the first state to organize state and county educators to teach citizens about wartime sacrifice.These educators promoted food conservation through home gardening and implemented meatless and wheatless days.
Government posters encouraged citizens to raise their own food
Before the advent of television, radio and movies, posters and newspapers were the main sources of information for the American public.The main use of these posters was to influence people to join the army, buy war bonds or to help the soldiers overseas.
At the beginning of the war, these posters were naïve and innocent.By the end of the war, the techniques for imparting information had become much more sophisticated and powerful.
Patriotic songs and music became very popular during WWI as many families had a phonograph to play the hits of the day. Click the center of the picture to view vintage photos and listen to a patriotic song of the day.
The Baraboo 21
On February 5, 1918, a German submarine sank the SS Tuscania off the coast of Northern Ireland. The Tuscania, one of the largest ships of her time, was transporting troops from the United States to France to fight in the war.On board were 2,174 enlisted men along with 119 officers.
Of those 2,174 enlisted men, 21 were from Baraboo.They had just finished training at Camp David and become part of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry which was attached to the 207th Supply Train.
The Tuscania was hit at 5:45 p.m. at mid-ship.By 7:00 p.m. all lifeboats had left and the remaining 1,350 survivors were picked up by the destroyer “Grasshopper.”The survivors were taken to locations in Scotland and Ireland before being reassembled and sent onto France via the Irish Sea.
Of the 2,293 men on board, 200 lost their lives.All 21 men from Baraboo survived.
This uniform was worn by Baraboo native Mrs. John B. Anderson while serving in the American Red Cross in Siberia during the Russian Civil War.
A registered nurse and member of the American National Red Cross since 1912, Anderson served as an Army nurse in WWI and later in China during a cholera epidemic in 1919.
Sauk County Victory Medal
When Sauk County’s veterans returned from France, a grand parade was held in downtown Baraboo.The soldiers marched down Third Avenue underneath a decorated white arch erected at the corners of Third and Oak. At the county courthouse, the veterans were presented with a special “Victory” medal, like this one.
The inscription of the back of the medal reads: Presented by the County of Sauk in grateful recognition of patriotic service rendered during THE WORLD WAR 1917 – 1918.
Over 1,000 medals were produced.Only three are known to have survived, including two in the Sauk County Historical Society’s collection.
German Language textbooks were burned and the words, "Here lies the remains of German in Baraboo High School" were painted on the street at the intersection of Oak and Second in June 1918, at the height of the anti-German sentiment.
To learn more about Sauk County's involvement in WWI, visit another page on our Web site. Click here.