Terry’s Turn: Dad was drafted for World War I

November 18, 2018

Terry Turner

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The war began on June 28, 1914, when a Serbian terrorist shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Russia and France sided with Serbia, and Germany supported Austria-Hungary. Other countries, including the United States, were eventually pulled into the fighting.

In 1917 the United States was not involved in the war. Woodrow Wilson was campaigning for a second term as president and used the slogan “He kept us out of war.” About a month after he took office, the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. The two main reasons for entering the war were an intercepted telegram from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to Germany’s minister in Mexico encouraging Mexico to invade the U.S., and attacks by German submarines on American and British ships.

In an effort to increase the size of the military, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, also known as the draft, in May 1917. My dad was one of those who was drafted. He was 25.

He was sent to Camp Funston, an Army training center on Fort Riley in Kansas. I have a formal photo of him in his dress uniform and more casual ones during training. I have one showing him and a buddy dressed in gas masks. Many years later I would wear similar gear while in the Air Force and Air Guard. I’m sure he hated that getup as much as I did.

He was assigned to an infantry unit and after training was sent to the East Coast to await transport by ship to France. Fortunately for him and later me, the war ended before his ship sailed, and he was returned to Kansas. Sadly, more than 110,000 Americans died during the war, including about 45,000 who died due to the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak, 30,000 of whom died before they even reached France. In a letter written by my father to who would eventually be my mother, he mentioned the flu outbreak at Camp Funston. He never got the flu, but many in the camp did.

World War I was called at the time the “Great War” and the “War to End All Wars.” It was a Great War with over 4 million Americans involved, but unfortunately it wasn’t the war to end all wars. A total of 116,708 Americans died during WWI from all causes, including combat and the flu. Over 204,000 were wounded. The total number of military and civilian casualties is estimated at a staggering 40 million.

The War ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Every year on Veterans Day we honor all those who have served in the military. Maybe someday countries around the world will remember WWI and remember it was known as “The War to End All Wars” and realize we need to make that a reality.

Terry Turner is a Prime writer who can be reached at turnert185@outlook.com.

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