Bay County World War I History
By Marvin Kusmierz (May, 2010)
World War I took place from 1914 until 1919. The war was caused by a series of political events in Europe that turned into a world conflict with Germany's invasion of Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Initially, the United States held to its traditional isolationist stanch to Europe's history of conflicts. However, in 1917 a threat to the U.S.A. developed when Germany moved to develop an alliance with Mexico, which unacceptable, compelling the U.S.A. to declare war on Germany and join the Allied forces.
This was the time period of a maturing industrialization period and a time when the transition from horses to motorized vehicles still in progress, and aviation was on barely a decade old. It was also the first war for the U.S.A. in the European theater. Not being within the theater of war, the country, although concerned, its citizens were less than enthusiastic about getting involved in Europe's war.
The bravado that came from success in the Spanish-American War may have played a part in the decision that sent troupes across the Atlantic Ocean with less than a full measure of understanding as to what were to encounter. This war would not be fought by a cavalry regiment of gallant soldiers charging forward on horseback. Instead it was dominated by motorized tanks, trucks, cannons and bombs being dropped from the sky by a whole new breed of aviators. Defense against such arsenal requiring digging trench lines from which to do combat. It also introduced a new silent weapon of mass distruction, gas warfare, requiring soldiers to do combant while wearing a gas mask.
YouTube Video: World War I Theater.
The government went on a political offensive within the nation to muster support among citizens, industries, and to take actions against potentional enemies from within, German descendants. President Woodrow Wilson authorized a government newspaper, published under the label, "Official Bulletin," which contained news related to the war. The content in the paper was a coordinated effort among Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Navy and a civilian chairman, named George Creel, a skilled investigative journalist who shared a political point consistent with that of President Wilson's administration. The followoing are a few headlines that appeared in this paper:
"RULES DRAFTED FOR ISSUING PERMITS TO ALIEN ENEMIES."
"U.S CENSORSHIP RULES FOR SENDING OF WIRE MESSAGES."
"TO REPORT ON TREASON."
"INTERNED GERMANS TO LIVE IN NORTH CAROLINA HOTEL."
-- Editions of this newspapeer from 1917 may be viewed on [Google Books]
The local war effort included several contributions from Bay City industrial businesses. Defoe Shipbuilding Company (then known as Defoe Boat and Motor Works) built five 40 foot torpedo chasers for the Navy in 1917, and near the end of they were under contract to building eight steam mineplanters for the Army in 1918. The Aladdin Company niche in manufacturing pre-fabricated homes was used to supplybarracks and storage buildings for the military. Lumber was still a major construction commodity and it's like more than one sawmill of the dwindling sawmills along the Saginaw River this need as well.
World War I mobilized more than 70 million military personnel, and over 15 million people were killed, including over 116,000 from the armed forces of the U.S.A.
See right-hand column for link to photos of some WWI veterans from Bay County.