Rudolf Laemmlen, WWI, 1917
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on the German Empire and entered into what is known as the Great War, or World War I.
My father’s German family was involved in this war. In 2007, my father explained to me what happened:
In 1914 World War I broke out. Hermann [Grandpa’s older brother] joined the Ulanen cavalry regiment in Ludwigsburg in 1912, survived the war, and came home at the end of 1918 half deaf and nervous. Hermann was in the infantry from 1915 to 1918. Dad [Rudolf Laemmlen] was drafted in July 1917 into Regiment 122 based in Heilbronn. After three months, he asked to be transferred to the mountain artillery, Sonthofen Allgau. He was only in one bloody battle–at the Marne, against the Americans. He returned home January 1919.
After coming to America in 1929, Grandma and Grandpa joined the First Mennonite Church in Reedley. They believed in a way of non-resistance, which meant refusing to participate in the activities of war. Historically Mennonites have not subscribed to entering the armed forces. During that time Dad would often tell us the story of his military experiences at the end of WWI.
He was conscripted into the German army and sent into the 13th brigade. This Calvary unit manned a cannon (10mm) and they went with six or eight horses into hilly country to station their cannon at strategic places. At one time they were sent to position their cannon over a river on the border between Germany and France. They were up on a hill looking down into a valley that had a bridge going over a river. He told how during the day he watched the soldiers rushing over this bridge and machine guns nests would shoot the soldiers down. By the end of the day the paramedics went in to clean up the dead on the bridge and pile them on each side of the bridge. There were 2 piles of dead men at each side of the bridge of the day, each row 3 feet high. They sat up above on the hill watching this whole situation. He said that by the end of the day he said he was repulsed by the whole scene he had witnessed that day and he concluded that war is a barbarous and dastardly activity of mankind and that people should not engage in it.
Along with those feelings, Dad would recite to us what happened to our 2 cousins. Marie and Richard had 2 handsome sons–both were killed, one in Siberia and one on the battle fields of Russia. Dad counseled us not to get involved in war. My brothers and I became Conscientious Objectors.
From The History Channel (http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/world-war-i-history):
WORLD WAR I BEGINS
World War I began in 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and lasted until 1918. During the conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers claimed victory, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.
THE LEGACY OF WORLD WAR I
World War I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million more were wounded. Civilian casualties caused indirectly by the war numbered close to 10 million. The two nations most affected were Germany and France, each of which sent some 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle.
The political disruption surrounding World War I also contributed to the fall of four venerable imperial dynasties—Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey.
World War I brought about massive social upheaval, as millions of women entered the workforce to support men who went to war, and to replace those who never came back. The first global war also helped to spread one of the world’s deadliest global pandemics, the flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people.
World War I has also been referred to as “the first modern war.” Many of the technologies we now associate with military conflict—machine guns, tanks, aerial combat and radio communications—were introduced on a massive scale during World War I.
The severe effects that chemical weapons such as mustard gas and phosgene had on soldiers and civilians during World War I galvanized public and military attitudes against their continued use. The Geneva Protocol, signed in 1925, restricted the use of chemical and biological agents in warfare, and remains in effect today.