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100 years ago: Adair County goes to war, 1917

When the the first report of the first round of registrations for the draft was printed in the Adair County News, in early June, Adair County's Selective had registered 1,225 - more than larger Marion County, and more than any of the surrounding counties. One of the most remarkable volunteers, later, in 1918, was a 99-years-young woman, who was 'ready for any service called upon her to do.' A brief was fact-packed and fascinating story from 100 years ago by JIM

"Congress will meet in extra session April 2nd and a declaration of war may be expected." -- Adair County News, March 28, 1917.

In June 1914, an assassin's bullet set off the European tinderbox and plunged the continent into war. By mid-1916, despite a stated policy of non-interference with European affairs, slowly, inexorably, America found itself drawn closer to the fray. In early 1917, newly re-elected President Wilson made public the so-called Zimmermann telegram (Germany's attempt to recruit Mexico as an ally in the war), and in mid-March, a German U-Boat sank without warning the steamer Vigilancia, an act immediately deemed to be an "incontrovertible act of war." On April first, another U-Boat sank the armed transport Aztec. The following day, President Wilson asked Congress, already in extra session, to declare war, and one hundred years ago today -- April 6, 1917 -- the United States formally entered into the conflict against Germany.

Congress passed the Selective Service Act in May. The first draft registration was held in early June, and a few days later, the News stated that one thousand, two hundred twenty-five Adair County men had duly registered. With justifiable pride the paper reported that was a higher number than in "Marion county or any of its adjoining counties."

By the time the war ended, wrote Adair County native son James Garnett, Jr., in December 1918, "over 600 of the flower of the young manhood of Adair County" had served in the armed forces during the just-ended global conflict.

On the home front, parents, brothers, sisters, sweethearts, and friends worried and prayed. Adair Countians, in the parlance of the times, "did their bit," to help America win, buying generously of war bonds, donating to scrap drives, regularly observing "meatless, wheatless, sweetless" -- and sometimes heatless -- days to preserve precious resources, and volunteering in whatever ways they could, including knitting blankets for the troops and rolling bandages.

Perhaps Mrs. Esther Gilmer Dohoney best exemplified the volunteer spirit. In 1918, she went to the court house and registered in response to a call by the Women's War Census, and the News indirectly quoted Mrs. Dohoney as saying she was "ready for any service called upon her to do." She was ninety-nine years young.

Prior to the draft and the calls to the colors which followed, several young Adair County men had already volunteered for military service. That contingent included Clarence Jackman, who had volunteered for the regular army in the early summer of 1916, and Leontiff "True" Akers.

Cpl Jackman, of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry, died in action on July 18th, 1918. Pvt Akers, an "expert marksman" of Company A, 36th Infantry, was seriously wounded in combat a day or two later but lived to come home. Both young men had embarked for France a little over a year earlier.

By the time the war ended in November 1918, the Council of Defense listed nearly forty Adair Countians who had been seriously injured on the battlefield. Almost two dozen of Adair's soldiers perished during that time frame, nine of them either on the battlefield or soon thereafter from wounds received in battle. The others died from accident, illness or misadventure but still in the service of their country.

This story was posted on 2017-04-06 03:42:29
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