City men gained World War I honors
called the "war to end all wars."
It was fought to "make the world safe for democracy."
World War I marked a turning point for the United States. For the first time, Americans became seriously involved in affairs of other world nations, and in many ways, the United States profited from its involvement.
Americans entered the war late and with optimism. During the war America's trade increased greatly and in 1917 the U.S. switched from debtor to creditor for the first time.
Nevertheless, many sacrifices were made in physical materials and human lives. Americans supported a $7 billion war budget, largest in the nation's history, and Eau Claire area residents bore their share of the burden.
Records indicate 2,063 Eau Claire County residents fought in World War I. Of these, 49 died, including 17 killed in action. Several Eau Claire residents were cited for acts of bravery.
Oscar T. "Si" Slagsvol was one of the highly-decorated veterans.
Born in Eau Claire in 1888, Slagsvol, son of John and Auria Slagsvol, attended the University of Wisconsin and lived in the area all his life.
He served with the Army in France as a second lieutenant in the 32nd Division, 128th Infantry. During this time he was one of six Eau Claire men to win Distinguished Service Crosses. He also won two Purple Hearts and two Croix de Guerre (France, Order of Black Star and Chevalier of Legion of Honor, France).
The Eau Claire man's most famed moment came Aug. 3, 1918, when he was wounded near St. Gilles, France. Despite his injury, Slagsvold continued to command his battalion patrol until collapsing.
After the war, Slagsvol returned to Eau Claire where he founded an insurance agency and was active in a number of civic groups. He died in January, 1969.
Sgt. Frank Glomski, another Eau Claire soldier, won the Distinguished Service Cross and Croix de Guerre. A member of 2nd Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, Glomski received his citation for action north of Soisson, France, Aug. 21, 1918. Glomski advanced from shell hole to shell hole across "no man's land" under heavy fire.
His sister, Mary, a Red Cross nurse, and his brother Julius also served overseas.
Sgt. Richard Johnson, Co. E, 127th Infantry, died July 29 when the group he was with was ambushed by a German machinegun nest. He threw himself on the gun, saving lives of his fellow soldiers. The Germans were captured.
Names of other Eau Claire residents are linked to World War I.
The Nov. 17, 1917 "Eau Claire Leader" lists William Bernhard Johnson as the first Eau Claire soldier killed in action. His brother died later in the war.
In February, 1918, a second Eau Claire man, Albert Harvey, died when the troop ship "Tusconia" was sunk by a German submarine.
John McInnis of Co. E, 127th Infantry, was the only Eau Claire soldier taken prisoner by the Germans during the war. He was later released.
Those at home also made sacrifices as Eau Claire residents endured a number of "meatless, wheatless, autoless" days during times of rationing.
Eau Claire residents continued to show their support through the end of the war when approximately 20,000 persons turned out for a June 18, 1919, parade celebrating return of area soldiers.
Extracted from the Eau
Claire Leader Telegram
Special Publication, Our Story 'The Chippewa Valley and Beyond', published 1976
Used with permission.