Museum 75th Anniversary

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wayne County Boys in World War I

 Soon after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917 young men across America enlisted. A photo above dated September 19, 1917 in museum archives shows a large crowd on the courthouse lawn bidding farewell to the first group of draftees from Wayne County.  According to the Times Republican by 1918 there were 259 Wayne County men serving in France.  Iowa contributed 114,000 people to the war effort and of that number there were 3,576 causalities from disease, illness, or combat.

William Lem Dent

        William Lemly Dent was inducted January 16, 1918 into Fifth Division, Co. G, 60th Infantry of American Expeditionary Forces.  After a few months of intensive training the new recruits arrived in France on May 1, 1918 ready to fight.  Lem Dent was listed as a sniper.  The 5th Division insignia was a red diamond with a white center and the motto “to the utmost extent of our power.” The German forces called them “Die rote Teufel”- which translates to “Red Devils.” 

        The greatest American battle of the war began September 26, 1918; it would last 47 days, extend along the entire western front, and end with an Armistice signed on November 11, 1918  bringing a close to “The Great War.”  There were 1.2 million American soldiers participating.  The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, as it was called, resulted in 28,000 German causalities. There were 26,277 American lives lost and 95,786 wounded.  William Lemly Dent was one of those causalities; wounded on October 14 and died from his wounds on October 17, 1918 at age 24.

         Communications from France took time and were sketchy at best.  Americans celebrated the Armistice banging pots & pans and marching before William Lemly Dent’s family knew he had been killed.  His remains were not returned to his family until 1921.  A large funeral was held on Wayne county courthouse grounds near the newly dedicated Solders & Sailors Monument. Pvt. Dent was one of only very few killed Servicemen killed in WW I whose bodies were returned to Wayne County for burial.
        Bearing the casket of Pvt. Dent were recently returned soldiers – Leonard Tuttle, Alvin Krouse, Arthur Gartin, Guy Tuttle, James Hart, & Charles Chester.
Bearing the casket of Lem Dent 

Funeral of Lem Dent was held on the Courthouse lawn

Alva F. Eaton 

      Alva F. Eaton of Humeston joined Company D of the Third Iowa on March 29, 1916. He served six months on the Mexican border. Later the Third Iowa was transferred to the 168th Infantry and arrived in France in early 1918.  It became part of the 42nd Division, commonly referred to as the “Rainbow Division.”

     Sergeant Eaton was killed in action on March 5, 1918 at just 20 years of age. He was the first causality from Wayne County and only the second in Iowa at the time. Merle Hay, a soldier from Carrol County, killed on Nov. 3, 1917, was the first Iowan and possibly the first American serviceman killed in France during WW I.  Eaton is buried at Flanders Field in France. The American Legion Post and a street in Humeston both bear the name of young Eaton in honor of his supreme sacrifice for American freedoms.

 Above the  Argonne Forest in shreds after the battle and  below can be seen German dugouts 
in the Argonne Forest. All photos are part of Prairie Trails Museum collections. 

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