Lest we forget

To the Editor,

On July 28 we remembered the beginning of World War I, 100 years ago; it was referred to by author H.G. Wells as “The War to End War.” United States merchant ships were being sunk by German submarines, and as a result the U.S. declared war with Germany on April 6, 1917. In September of that year Company C, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division of the Wisconsin National Guard headed for Waco, Texas, from the Sheboygan train depot. The large crowd that gathered to send off the Sheboygan County soldiers showed much joy and enthusiasm for the troops marching off to war.

Fifty-two years had passed since the end of the Civil War, and Plymouth residents would again answer the call of war. Two men, whose name would become the namesakes of the local American Legion Post, answered that call to war.

Walter A. Ladewig was born May 8, 1890. He came from a very patriotic family – he had two brothers, Edward and Herbert, who also served in World War I. Walter had a thriving meat market in Plymouth, and by all accounts he was a real heartthrob for the ladies. Walter was severely wounded by a shell fragment from a German machine gun in August of 1918. He was partially paralyzed and underwent several operations, only to succumb to his wound Sept. 6, 1919, at Fort Sheridan Army Hospital in Illinois. He is buried in Plymouth’s Woodlawn Cemetery. Full military rites were conducted by the future charter members of the American Legion.

Clarence Zinkgraf was born June 27, 1895, and was a painter by trade in the Plymouth area. Clarence had attained the rank of corporal and had a brother William who was a supply sergeant for Company C. Clarence fought in seven major campaigns with Company C. After the war Clarence was listed as missing in action. In fact a book written by Company C commander refers to the missing of Corporal Zinkgraf “…as if the earth had swallowed him.” It would not be until July of 1919 and only with the help of Wisconsin Sen. Robert LaFollette that the family found out that Clarence died on the battlefield, during the last major campaign of the war, called the Argonne Offensive. The Army finally listed Clarence as killed in action on Oct. 4, 1918, and he is buried in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery in Romagne, France.

Not all deaths in war are listed as “combat” deaths, but nonetheless they are causalities of war.

Additionally, seven other Plymouth residents died as a result of war. Floyd Hollenberg, drowning; Edward Laabs, pneumonia; Gilbert Hand, appendicitis; Alfred Germshel, pneumonia; Harold Holling, pneumonia; Walter Scheib, tuberculosis; and John Schmidt, meningitis.

There are no living World War I veterans today, and “Lest we Forget,” these men had a whole life ahead of them and sacrificed for all for us.

Konrad Kaczkowski, adjutant,
Ladewig-Zinkgraf American
Legion Post, Plymouth

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