PINEDALE – On April 19, 1917, a week after the United States entered World War I, the editor of the Pinedale Roundup appealed to his readers on the front page, “volunteers are wanted at once!”
One week later, the editor reported in his newspaper that Captain Waugh of the Wyoming National Guard had received enough volunteers from the Upper Green River valley to form a machine gun company headquartered out of Pinedale. The volunteers were to await mobilization orders from President Thomas Woodrow Wilson to report to Fort D.A. Russell in Cheyenne, the Roundup noted on May 3.
On May 17, the Roundup announced that the new machine gun company was drilling under the command of C.F. Patterson. The editor urged more volunteers to join, adding, “Patriots do not wait to be drafted.”
Dozens of men from Boulder, Pinedale, Big Piney, Merna, Cora and Daniel enlisted in the new company, the Roundup reported over the following weeks. Jessie Miller of Pinedale was named the second lieutenant and commander of the company, according to the paper on July 26.
The volunteers underwent a series of physical examinations, until they were ordered to report to Fort D.A. Russell in August.
“Machine gun company leaves for mobilization at Cheyenne,” the editor wrote, “good byes were said with many a broken voice.”
The list of 36 men who passed muster to travel to Cheyenne and enter the U.S. armed forces included: Roy Stinson, Jason N. Hodson, Ira Bourm, Frank Carr, Paul Demshar, Harry Kline, Frank Roop, John Kurzynske, Ernest Faler, Frank Allen, Clarence Gilley, Richard Dew, Fred Shields, Antone Paulson, Jasper Paulson, Fred Thornton, Alfred Erickson, John Jurhs, William Hollandsworth, James Pope, Frank Hubert, Sidney Edwards, Gray Huston, Joe Stanton, Floyd Smith, Clarence Smith, Forest Thompson, Louie Steele, Albert Lovatt, Dave Meyers, Mason Phillips, Clifford Phillips, Lee Edmunson, Chris Berg, Omar Dallaire and Jesse C. Miller.
On Aug. 30, the Roundup received photographs and letters from the men in the machine gun unit. The new soldiers drilled for eight hours every day, and the men in the photographs showed “the effects of this intensive work,” the editor added.
The same edition of the Roundup announced that Erickson was promoted to sergeant along with “Budd” Smith and Kerzynske. Bourm, Thornton, Hodson and Stanton were named corporals.
That fall, the machine gun company from the Upper Green was merged into the 196th Regiment of the 41st Division. The men were shipped to Camp Greene near Charlotte, N.C., according to the Roundup on Sept. 13.
On Dec. 13, the Roundup reported that the company was training to fight in Europe at Camp Mills on Long Island, N.Y. The newspaper published a letter from Shields.
“We are well and doing nicely,” Shields wrote, “We are now preparing for our overseas journey and all the boys are raring to go.”
On Jan. 24, 1918, the Roundup received a letter from Lt. Miller that the men in the machine gun company had arrived in France. Other letters arrived later that month, but the content was heavily censored by the military. The only thing readers back home knew was that the boys were “somewhere in France.”
Reports from the front arrived sporadically. On May 9, the Roundup received several letters from the machine gun company on the front. The men “have repeatedly been under fire,” the editor reported, and were occupying trench positions.
“They are becoming seasoned to the sound of the whizzing machine gun and shrapnel fire of the enemy,” the paper added. The editor was happy to announce that so far, there were no reports of injuries or deaths from the men on the front.
In October, however, the paper reported that a memorial was conducted at the Congregational Church in Pinedale for three soldiers who lost their lives on the front. The names of the dead, listed on Oct. 3, were Sidney Edwards, Clifford Brown and Clifford Phillips.
That same day, the Roundup reported that it had received a letter from Sgt. Bourm. Bourm wrote that many of the men in the original machine gun company had been split up into other units. Bourm was serving as a truck driver delivering troops to the front.
“The first bomb I heard made me have a kind of shaky feeling and my legs wouldn’t hardly stand,” Bourm wrote. “But now we are hardly at home unless we can hear the hum of the (machine guns).”
The story of the local machine gun company becomes harder to trace after October 1918. The Roundup went out of business that month for a brief period. In November, social revolution in Germany led the Kaiser to abdicate. The new government sued for peace, and an armistice was signed on Nov. 11, ending four years of bloodshed.
A brief article in the Big Piney Examiner announced on Feb. 20, 1919, that parts of the 41st Division were arriving in New York City from Europe. The soldiers on their way home from the war included six men from Big Piney: Stanton, Loyd Wyman, Dalliare, Loyd Smith, H.H. Moyer and “Budd” Smith.
“The citizens of Big Piney are glad to welcome these boys,” the editor wrote. “We will let them know that those who remained at home appreciated their services and are proud of them.”