Archive for Wednesday, July 26, 2017

World War I in Lawrence: 64-year-old veteran volunteers to serve again

July 26, 2017

Editor’s note: As the U.S. marks the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I this year, local writer Sarah St. John will compile reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence at that time.


At an age when many local men were content to retire from work, a Lawrence veteran wished to respond to a call for artillery men. “Although sixty-four years old, William R. Smith of this city wants to see active military service,” the Journal-World reported. “He is one of the latest recruits to volunteer to enlist in the headquarters company of the Field Artillery regiment of the Kansas National Guard. The application was regretfully refused by the recruiting officer because of the age of the applicant. Mr. Smith is a graduate of Columbia University and served for more than seven years as a sergeant in the regular army of the United States. He read of the appeal for men for the artillery headquarters company and longed to do his ‘bit’ on the battle field.”

In Topeka this week, state health board secretary Dr. S. J. Crumbine warned of an impending shortage of doctors on the home front. “The problem of securing medical men for the new army is serious,” said Dr. Crumbine, “and it may be necessary to resort to conscription to obtain them…. After the entire medical reserve is exhausted — this includes all the physicians who have volunteered their services — only one-fourth the number needed will have been supplied. To supply the demand, 40 per cent of the present effectives in the medical profession will be required…. The nation must take better care than ever of health problems, because the aged physicians, many of whom have practically retired, will have to care for the public. It is a condition which will remain for a long time, as it requires about seven years to turn out a man equipped to practice medicine.’”

World War I in Lawrence
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Bryan Bowen 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Hi Sara,

I just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed your series about Lawrence and World War 1. I also wanted to give you an idea that maybe doing some articles about specific battles that the U.S., and if possible Lawrence, was involved in. I think that also posting casualties, injuries and MIA would be interesting because all of that involved Lawrence.

Anyway, just an idea. And again I wanted to let you know I do enjoy the series.

Sarah St. John 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you, Bryan! As I'm sure you've noticed, the Kansas troops began to organize and train in late spring and early summer, 1917. The "home front" news up until now has mostly concentrated on Red Cross activities, food conservation, keeping a sharp eye out for "slackers" and possible spies, etc. As time goes on and Lawrence people begin to move to the front and be involved in the battles, I hope to include information on those as well.

I'm so glad you are enjoying the series and I welcome your thoughts! If you're on Facebook, you might also enjoy my history page at which includes timelines from 150, 125, 100, and 50 years ago in Lawrence. Thanks again for reading!

Steve Jacob 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I do agree, these are great stories. What will be interesting is when the flu pandemic starting hitting the 100 years today news.

Bryan Bowen 7 months, 3 weeks ago


I'm not on facebook but I think your site sounds interesting. Is there a way I can get to without facebook?

Sarah St. John 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Hi Bryan!

I have the page set to "Public," meaning that you don't have to have a Facebook account to view it. If you click on the link, you'll be taken to a page where you can either sign in to your FB account (which you won't be doing, obviously) or type a little string of letters/numbers into a box, to prove that you're a person. Then you will be taken to my history page.

If this doesn't work, take heart! I am working on a separate page with the same content which will be available for anyone not on FB. I hope to have it ready later this summer.

Thanks so much for your interest!

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