As November approaches I always think about Armistice Day. Armistice Day commemorates the signing of the armistice ending World War I, which was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, and was first commemorated on November 11, 1919. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. In 1954 President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day. WWI, which the United States entered on April 6, 1917, was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Most Camdenites know that the Victory Memorial Drive honors the 568 men and women from Hennepin County who died in WWI, but I wondered about those from right here in North Minneapolis who had fought and had lost their lives in the Great War.
Since war is often fought by young men, I decided to look through the 1918 and 1919 yearbooks of North High School, which was the only Northside high school at that time, to see what I could find. What I found in those two copies of the Polaris yearbooks gave me pause.
The 1918 yearbook was dedication was “To our loyal boys of North who are fighting in the cause of Freedom, we the class of 1918 dedicate our Annual.” The 1919 yearbook dedication read “To the Spirit of world-wide Liberty we, the class of nineteen-nineteen, – – – dedicate our Annual.”
There were plenty of photos and writings about students selling and buying War Bonds, the Victory Garden at the school, the Surgical Dressing Class etc., but the real story is of the young men who left to go fight the war. Both yearbooks had Honor Roll listings of hundreds of North High graduates, former students and even some faculty who had gone to war. And there were In Memoriam pages honoring those who had died in the war. Seventeen of these young men from North Minneapolis gave their lives in WWI.
*Clyde Albrecht, U. S. Army – Class of January 1910 – died March 9, 1918
Lester Brennan, Royal Flying Corps. – Class of January 1911 – died February 25, 1918
John Cornelius, U. S. Navy – Class of June 1911 – died June 25, 1917
Russell Gaylord, U. S. Army – Class of June 1911 – died April 28, 1918 (KIA)
Norman Gilkey, U. S. Army – Class of June 1917 – died July 20, 1918 (KIA)
*Max Greenberg, U. S. Army – former student – died December 1918
Hjalmar Johnson, U. S. Army – Class of June 1915 – died March 1919
Roy Johnson, U. S. Army – Class of January 1914 – died October 13, 1918
Edward Keating, U. S. Army – former student – died September 12, 1918 (KIA)
Leo Levin, Student Army Training Corps – Class of June 1918 – died October 24, 1918
Harry Rosenfield, U. S. Army – former student – died August 9, 1918 (KIA)
Jacob A. Roisman, U. S. Army – former student – died October 7, 1918
*Earl Shannessy, U. S. Army – Class of January 1910 – died October 18, 1918
Henry Spanier, U. S. Army – Class of January 1916 – died October 28, 1918 (KIA)
Shirley Thompson, U. S. Army – Class of June 1912 – died October 13, 1918
*Arthur Wales, U. S. Army – former student – died December 20, 1917
Earl Weld, U. S. Marine Corps – Class of June 1918 – died in France December 14, 1918
There were also letters written by these young men. I will end this article with this poignant excerpt from a letter written by Norman Gilkey, who months later would lose his life.
Somewhere in France
“If I were to go back tomorrow, I think I could say I have seen about the worst phases of this terrible war. What I have seen will always be indelibly written on my mind—the havoc wrought, and the indescribable sacrifices that have been made. The people back in the states have no conception of what this war is, and will never know…”
E. Norman Gilkey
Co. B, 6th Engineers, A.E.F.
Camp, March 26, 1918
Note: All but the four young men with * next to their names have markers on the Victory Memorial Drive. In the case of Max Greenberg, I found this “Max was considered for a memorial on Victory Memorial Drive, but the committee could not get any information on him. All their letters were returned.” I could find nothing about why the other three have no marker.