0:00

Interview

GASSER: [Instrumental version of "Star Spangled Banner" plays for approximately 30 seconds] It was 1914. War broke out in Europe. Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States of America, and though in a speech in May 10th, 1915 Woodrow Wilson said, "There's such a thing as a man being too proud to fight". And because the people of the United States of America did not want war, 1:00they were emotional about it. They came to settle in the country for freedom. Their own ancestors were fighting. They did not want to have war against their own relatives. Nevertheless, Woodrow Wilson reluctantly called for war on April 2, 1917, stating "that it was necessary to make the world safe for democracy". Young men from Wisconsin were called to war. [Approximately 8 second musical interlude] We have with us some of these gentlemen who were in World War I from the Sauk Prairie area. We have here Private Elmer Denzer, Corporal Fred Hauser, and Private Ernest Wittwer. We are going to start here talking with you Elmer. 2:00Where were you, Elmer, when World War I was declared?

DENZER: As much as I can remember I was on the farm. I came in on the second draft. I entered the Army in September the 3rd, 1918. We went to Baraboo, and we left Baraboo with the train. There were a lot of boys from Prairie Du Sac. Ed Wenzel was one.

GASSER: That's good. Do you remember anybody else?

DENZER: Oh, ya. Ya, I shoulda had a list of them.

GASSER: No, that's all right.

DENZER: Johnny Held was one, and a lot of 'em. I should have--

GASSER: No, that's all right. How did you hear about the news when the war broke out?

DENZER: Well, a lot of the boys had left before I had to go.

GASSER: Yes, they left, but I mean, did you hear in the newspaper, or how did 3:00you hear about it?

DENZER: I think we--we had newspapers at that time.

GASSER: And that's where you heard it?

DENZER: Yes.

GASSER: Why did you join the military?

DENZER: I didn't join; I was drafted. I came in on the second draft.

GASSER: How did they draft people?

DENZER: By their age and then I got into Class 1, 1-A. Some of them that were working on the farms were Class B, and they didn't have to go. Like some of those boys--

GASSER: It's all right.

DENZER: Raymond Block was one of them that didn't have to go.

GASSER: I thought you were on the farm?

DENZER: I was on the farm, but I still had to go.

GASSER: Because your farm wasn't big enough?

DENZER: I guess so.

GASSER: What branch of service where you in?

DENZER: I landed at the 121st Depot Brigade.

GASSER: In other words, you suddenly got a letter in the mail that said, "Mr. 4:00Denzer, you're drafted."

DENZER: Yeah.

GASSER: And then what did you think about that?

DENZER: Well, I had to go.

GASSER: Did you like it?

DENZER: We had to like it.

GASSER: That's a good way to say it.

DENZER: For our country's sake.

GASSER: Very good. Okay, continue. Where were you--

DENZER: Okay, I was stationed in Camp Grant, and we had 188,000 at Camp Grant. I wasn't there--

GASSER: And where was Grant?

DENZER: Near Rockford.

GASSER: Illinois.

DENZER: Near Rockford and there were 188,000 there, and after a while the flu broke out. The hospitals were full so they put us into the barracks, and they died so fast. They carried them out. I was very sick. They didn't think that I would make it, but I did. But they carried them out. We were not in the 5:00hospital; we were just in the barracks. And they came in with a stretcher, and they carried out that one and the next one and the next one. They loaded them on trucks like cordwood.

GASSER: Oh boy, that must have been scary.

DENZER: Then after I got over the flu I was transferred to the school for bakers and cooks. There I helped cook and washed dishes. And we had great big coal stoves, and we used to take the bacon rinds and tie them on our shoes, and we'd skate around on the stove.

GASSER: [laughs] Oh, I thought that only happened in Paul Bunyan.

DENZER: To bake pancakes--

GASSER: Is that really true?

DENZER: For the 200.

GASSER: Is that true?

DENZER: Well, you can believe it or not.

6:00

GASSER: It was true. [Both laugh] All right, let's stop with you right here, and let's go on now to--All right, Elmer, I see here you have another World War I veteran with you. Who is that gentleman?

DENZER: That's Corporal Ferd Hauser.

GASSER: Hello, Fred Hauser.

HAUSER: Hello.

GASSER: Corporal, how are you?

HAUSER: Oh, I'm good right now.

GASSER: Where were you when the war was declared?

HAUSER: Well, I was to home.

GASSER: Where was home?

HAUSER: Endeavor, Wisconsin. I was working every day.

GASSER: What were you working at?

HAUSER: Oh, on the farm.

GASSER: How did you hear the news?

HAUSER: Oh, they wrote a letter to me out in Iowa. I signed up in Iowa.

GASSER: Oh, you already signed. Were you in Baraboo, and didn't you read it in 7:00the newspaper? You suddenly heard that there was a war when you got a letter?

HAUSER: Oh no, I was out in Iowa working, and they were right after me. They said, "Now there's a good soldier."

GASSER: Because you were a good farmer?

HAUSER: Yeah. [Both laugh]

GASSER: Well, that's right. Farmers are good soldiers. Then I don't need to ask you why you joined the military. You did because--

HAUSER: Ya told me to.

GASSER: What branch of service were you in?

HAUSER: I was in the infantry.

GASSER: Do you want to tell us a little bit about that? Did they give you a good workout?

HAUSER: It was better than a--I got to be a corporal, and I didn't have to wash dishes or go on guard. I didn't anyway. I had a good pal that was in the office.

GASSER: And he didn't make you wash dishes--

HAUSER: He and I were--he wouldn't put me on Sunday job, and that's about all.

8:00

GASSER: So I guess we have to say no matter where we've been in life if you've got a good pal it helps.

HAUSER: Oh, yeah, that's it. This was a good pal.

GASSER: Then where were you really stationed?

HAUSER: In Des Moines, Iowa.

GASSER: And then that's where you were in the infantry?

HAUSER: Yes.

GASSER: Mm-hmm. And did you do a lot of marching and exercising?

HAUSER: Well, quite a bit, yes, a little every day, go out in the drill field, all day sometimes.

GASSER: All right. That was real interesting, Corporal. Now we're gonna--who is your other friend over here who was also in War World I?

HAUSER: That fella?

GASSER: Yeah, that fella.

HAUSER: My gosh, you can find out what he is, and you can have him.

GASSER: [laughs] No.

HAUSER: That fella is Ernest Wittwer. He lives not too far from us.

9:00

GASSER: In Sauk City?

HAUSER: In Sauk City, yeah.

GASSER: All right, we'll talk to Ernest. Well, Ernest I understand you were not a native of this area when the war broke out?

WITTWER: No, I was up in northern Wisconsin at the time around Cable, Wisconsin, and later I came down here to Arena where I enlisted in 1917.

GASSER: Okay, but you said you came from Europe in the first place, where was that?

WITTWER: Hayward, Wisconsin, but originally came from Switzerland.

GASSER: Tell us about how you came from Switzerland.

WITTWER: Oh, I came over here when I was fifteen years old. I had three brothers over here, and they sent me the money to come over here with. I worked on a farm down in Monroe, Wisconsin for a number of years. And about that time everybody joined the Army, and I thought I might as well go too to earn my citizenship, and so I did. I enlisted in Madison in November of 1917 and from there we went 10:00to St. Louis and got our uniforms there and then down to Camp MacArthur Texas, Waco, Texas. We trained down there for about two months, and then we went east to Camp Merritt, New Jersey. Stayed there, and from there we went overseas.

GASSER: So then when I say how did you hear about the war, where were you?

WITTWER: I was up in Hayward, Wisconsin at the time. It was all over. Everybody knew, ya know.

GASSER: Through the newspaper?

WITTWER: Through the newspaper, yeah. There wasn't any radio then.

GASSER: Voice, word of voice, I mean just mainly newspaper? So what branch of service were you in?

WITTWER: I was in the infantry.

GASSER: And then where were you stationed? Tell us about that.

WITTWER: In Camp MacArthur Waco, Texas we were stationed. I was in the 127th Infantry in the 32nd Division. And from there we trained down there, and we went 11:00up east to Camp Merritt, New Jersey. From there we went overseas. And we landed in a place called Liverpool, England, and from there we were sent to another place called Winchester, England.

GASSER: Okay, we'll go into that a little bit more. I understand you have a lot of experiences. How did you feel about going to war against people who were really kind of your relatives?

WITTWER: Oh, I wanted to go.

GASSER: You did? You wanted to go?

WITTWER: I wanted to go because I wanted to earn my citizenship. I figured that way, and I got as far as New Jersey, and a man came over from the Swiss Embassy, and he wants to know how I got in the Army. Were you drafted, or did you volunteer? I said, "I volunteered. Why?" "Well," he says, "if you were drafted you can't because you are a Swiss citizen, and that's a neutral country.

GASSER: Yes, the Swiss have always been a neutral feeling country. Now, might I ask you Elmer, how did you feel about going to war against people who were 12:00really kind of your relatives? Our ancestors came from Europe.

DENZER: Against the Germans, it was my duty to go.

GASSER: That was it. How about you? How did you feel about going to war against people who were really kind of our relatives?

HAUSER: Well, I didn't know 'em over across.

GASSER: Yes.

HAUSER: Because that's where I was born, in Germany.

GASSER: Yes, but you were dedicated to your new country.

HAUSER: Yeah. Well, it was good to us. At that time we didn't have stuff to eat as my folks telling me that. That's why they come over here so they could buy a farm. Out there, why, you couldn't have only a chunk of land, and so that's why 13:00they did. Farmed and raised cattle.

GASSER: All right, let's go back to Elmer now. You were stationed in Camp Grant, Illinois, and what were your duties?

DENZER: Well, after I was cooking for a couple of weeks I got a boil on my arm, and they took me out from cooking, and they put me on transferring cooks. I had to transfer cooks from one kitchen to the other, pick one up and put it there. They never would let 'em stay too long in one place.

GASSER: Why didn't they let anyone stay too long in one place?

DENZER: They didn't want them to get too acquainted, I guess. They wanted new experience.

GASSER: Wanted to be sure they could keep you working hard.

DENZER: Yeah.

GASSER: Or something. All right. Is that it then?

DENZER: I was in head quarters. I was with a captain, and I had a buddy, Charlie Rowe. He was a sergeant, and he was a buddy of mine for a good many years. He 14:00used to come up, and he is gone. And I had four other buddies down there, and they're all gone. I am the only one that is left.

GASSER: Were these people from the Sauk Prairie area or the Sauk County area?

DENZER: Not those four.

GASSER: As I understood it when they drafted people they took them all from the same area at one time. Is that true?

DENZER: Oh, no, they took them from Ironton and Reedsburg, Baraboo, Prairie Du Sac, Sauk City.

GASSER: Basically from Sauk County.

DENZER: Yeah.

GASSER: And they all went together to the same unit, right?

DENZER: Yes.

GASSER: All right, let's go to Fred. What were your duties, Fred?

HAUSER: Well, I guess just in the Army, that's all. You learn how--

GASSER: You said you were in Iowa.

HAUSER: Yeah.

GASSER: And what did you do there?

HAUSER: Drilled.

GASSER: Did you walk, exercise, shoot?

15:00

HAUSER: Yes, a lot early in the morning, we come back at night, dark. I thought that was a heck of a thing to do.

GASSER: They really kept you going.

HAUSER: They had to, yeah. Then they sent me to Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Stayed there about two months, I guess, and I ate up everything they had, and they sent me to Chicago.

GASSER: [laughs] What do you mean they ate up everything they had?

HAUSER: Well, had to wash dishes once in awhile then got to Chicago, and I got in with a friend there, and I always got--if there's any good jobs, why, I always got 'em.

GASSER: Why do you think you got those good jobs?

HAUSER: Well, guess I was a good guy.

GASSER: Well, I agree. [all laugh] These guys agree, too.

16:00

HAUSER: And, see, I never got a Sunday job, never had to go out and do guard duty at night. And I got the job of spreading out the--get the mail in Chicago and then hand out the letters.

GASSER: To the boys. That must have been rewarding.

HAUSER: Yeah, everybody was--

GASSER: Bet they were happy, weren't they?

HAUSER: Yeah, some of those guys never got a letter in weeks, ya know, always just standing out waiting to call their name.

GASSER: That must have been hard, wasn't it?

HAUSER: Well, it was for me because--it wasn't so bad. I had it easy because to home I had to work to beat all.

GASSER: But I mean you felt sorry for the guys who didn't get their letters, didn't you?

HAUSER: Yes, felt sorry for 'em. I don't know. I always got a chance to--I had 17:00a motorcycle that--I didn't drive it; I had a driver go downtown to get the mail. Yeah, I thought I was kind of the big shot.

GASSER: Wasn't that wonderful?

HAUSER: Yeah.

GASSER: Here's a big shot who deserved it. Now, these guys--we're all good, but we always don't get rewarded. It was wonderful you got rewarded for your goodness.

HAUSER: Well, we'd get the captain's car, and of course we'd put on our caps from--you know that lieutenants and all them wear, and we'd go down the street, and there'd be a couple of soldiers out on the street, and they'd salute at ya. We thought we were the big shots.

GASSER: Made you feel good, didn't it?

HAUSER: Yeah.

GASSER: All right, let's go to Ernest Wittwer. What were your duties in the 18:00service, Ernest?

WITTWER: Well, we were out in the drill field most of the time going through maneuvers and different things and digging trenches, things like that. And of course learned the Manual of Arms, how to salute.

GASSER: Where were you when you drilled?

WITTWER: At MacArthur Texas, Camp MacArthur. Yeah, at that time we were stationed in Camp MacArthur, Texas in Waco, Texas. We were down there about a month and a half I guess we were sent east then. We were supposed get warm clothes on the way up from Texas up to New Jersey because we were going to go overseas in the wintertime. But we never got them, and when we got to New Jersey the fellas died almost like flies there with the flu because we had the summer clothes on, you know, and there is a lot of snow there at the time. That's about it.

GASSER: A lot of snow in New Jersey, didn't you?

WITTWER: We sure did. The train stopped out in the country quite aways, and we had to walk about a mile and a half into camp. And the little fellas couldn't 19:00make it first. So they put the big fellas, those thick fellas more up ahead to tramp the snow down, and then us little fellas came in behind.

GASSER: [laughs] Then you really had to cooperate, didn't you?

WITTWER: Yeah.

GASSER: An interesting story about your fainting. Want to tell us about that?

WITTWER: Yeah, we had quite a trip coming up from Waco, Texas up east. The coaches were terribly hot, and every now and again every so many miles, a hundred miles maybe, they let us out to exercise around the depots because we had to limber up our limbs after we set there all day long crowded like sardines in the box, ya.

GASSER: Did you have any good food on the train?

WITTWER: No, we didn't have anything. Not in the train. You couldn't--no place there to cook. They let us out along the depots now and again. They had Salvation Army and people like that come over and had sandwiches and things like that. Anyhow, we got up there then finally, and like I said before, there the 20:00snow was several deep. In New Jersey I never thought there was that much snow in New Jersey, but there was. From there we got into a place called Camp Merritt, New Jersey. We stayed there for some time. We couldn't do much drilling because there was too much snow at the time. We stayed mostly in the barracks. They were big, two story barracks at the time. In about a week or so, two weeks later we were called down to Hoboken with the docks, loaded on boats. I wasn't on the boat only about an hour when we were called off. Somebody in our outfit had measles and scarlet fever or something. So we were called back back to Camp Merritt, got quarantined there for three weeks and went over on a different boat. That's why we landed in Liverpool that time. The first time we were 21:00supposed to go to France in the other boat.

GASSER: How did you know you were selected to go overseas?

WITTWER: Well, after all that was what we were in the Army for, to go overseas, ya know. They called it the American Expeditionary Force. Where we were going we didn't know, but we had orders to pack up. It was at night around about 11:00 o'clock and before it was morning we were already on the boat and we would have stayed there if somebody hadn't had the measles or scarlet fever, and we were ordered out from the quarantine, and later we went on a different boat. We landed in Liverpool, England.

GASSER: Do you remember any of the life on the boat, the food or the rocking of the waves?

WITTWER: Oh, indeed.

GASSER: Tell us about that.

WITTWER: Oh, yes. Yeah, it was very rough on that boat, and there was quite a few boys dead there already laying on the floor because it's so crowded. There was probably about 10,000 people on that boat. And we'd be called down twice a 22:00day we'd get fed. We'd go down, and we had our own canteen, and you hold a canteen out and somebody puts ya a bunch of beans, whatever we had in that canteen and some water in the other and coffee in the other with no place to sit down, no place to eat.

GASSER: Did you walk around?

WITTWER: Well, there was no place to walk, not just go unwind. The stairs were awful narrow, just real narrow, about three foot wide.

GASSER: What did they do with the dead soldiers?

WITTWER: Well, yeah, some of 'em were buried--I saw some of 'em buried at sea, but they were mostly sailors because the soldiers you usually don't bury at sea that I heard of, but sailors, I saw several of 'em get buried at sea. They put 'em in the black bag with a weight on it and sink 'em over. And there's usually a chaplain say a prayer before they go down.

GASSER: Well, I'm sure you said a prayer, too.

WITTWER: Yeah.

GASSER: Well, you finally got to Liverpool then what happened?

WITTWER: Went to a place called Winchester, England. I don't know what part of 23:00the country that was in. We stayed then. We buried some more dead there, and we guarded some prisoners, always [unintelligible] out the unruly, our own prisoners, and then we helped build barracks, built tents. There was nothing there. They wasn't ready for any of those soldiers. They had to get all ready for them and build tents. It rained an awful lot that time. In fact it rained so much that I even had rheumatism myself because the tents we lived in didn't have any floors in them and the ground was wet quite a bit. Then we stayed there about three, four weeks, and from there we went to another place called Warrington, England. From there we were attached to a British force.

GASSER: How did you like working with the British military?

WITTWER: Well, we weren't there for very long, maybe two or three weeks. They were a lot more strict with us than the Americans were. Whatever they said they 24:00meant, too, because you went into the guardhouse if you didn't. And there were big--

GASSER: What did they do with you in the guardhouse?

WITTWER: Well, I don't know. It might rain.

GASSER: Can you tell us about some of your other experiences in England?

WITTWER: Well, we done all kinds of work in England. We buried a lot of men there that died there with the flu. And we done other works. We worked in kitchens. We helped some of the fellas that came in off the boats. It was about four miles from where the boats come in up to Knotty Ash [Army camp], Liverpool. We had to go down there and guide them up there because they didn't know which way to go. I was usually selected to go down one of them. There were a lot of them.

GASSER: Why do you think you were selected?

WITTWER: Well, we didn't have much choice; you was just asked to go. It was a "has to" duty to do. So then we stayed there quite awhile, and one day there was a fella and I were shaving out pretty close to a sidewalk. British people would come over lots of times to look at the boys in the camp. There was Australians. 25:00They had New Zealanders and Canadians and Americans. Some of the girls come down and looked over the fence. One day two girls come by there. One boy was shaving me, and I was shaving him out in the back of the tent. They said, "See that's what you boys are doing over here, shaving." "Yeah, we do." "How do you like England?" Well, I said, "Like it pretty good. Lot of pretty girls." "Well," one of them said, "I suppose you tell that to all of them." So they came over and talked with us and asked me what part of the United States we came from. We told them we came from a place called Wisconsin. They say, "Any cowboys there?" "No, not in Wisconsin. They're out west years ago." So we got talking with them anyhow, and before they left I said, "Would there be a possible chance to see you tonight? We have a pass tonight." "Well," they said, "didn't see no reason why not." We got to see them, and sure enough from then on we stayed together. Then they stayed there then and went home--well, not home. I didn't have the 26:00home. I had to make a home first in United States. I went back and asked my girl who was going to be my future wife, would she come to the United States, would she consider it someday. "Well," she said "I don't see why not. You have to ask my dad and mother." So I did. "Well," her dad said, "I think as much as we hate to see her go, I'd just as soon she to have his family over there because it was a better chance to raise a family." I went home then, and about a year later I went back, stayed there for two years. I married her. Our oldest son was born there. I stayed there another few months. There was no future for me there so I went home alone and got a place over here, and I made cheese. About a year later I sent for her. She come over with the little boy alone.

GASSER: That was a romantic story, kind of a difficult romantic story.

27:00

WITTWER: Sixty-four years.

GASSER: Back to Elmer now. Tell us a little bit how your personal life was, your housing, your food. Of course, you were a good cook.

DENZER: While I transferred the cooks I would go from one kitchen to the other, and I'd get the best food [Gasser laughs] there was, and I got to weigh 185 pounds. No matter where I'd go they'd give me something.

GASSER: And your housing, you lived in barracks?

DENZER: The housing we lived in the barracks.

GASSER: And how were they heated? Was it warm?

DENZER: Oh, yes. Our housing was good, and our eats were good, and a lot of the boys did a lot of gambling. I never joined them because I couldn't afford it. You know, our wages weren't too good then, not more than $24 a month.

GASSER: You were very wise. Some people gamble if they can afford it or not.

DENZER: Right.

28:00

GASSER: Okay, Hauser, how about your housing?

HAUSER: About the what?

GASSER: The housing situation. Did you have barracks?

HAUSER: Yeah, we had barracks. Well, I can't--

GASSER: Did you have good food?

HAUSER: Had good food--

GASSER: You didn't have Elmer for a cook, but did you have good food?

HAUSER: Oh, yeah. If it wasn't I'd go in the kitchen and tell them, and they'd give me something to eat, but didn't have to, I got enough to eat. I got fat.

GASSER: Did you eat in the dining room?

HAUSER: Oh, yes. I did, yeah.

GASSER: How about your housing and so forth, Ernest? Did you have pretty good housing, living, and food, and so forth?

WITTWER: Yeah. I could start from the beginning yet, too.

GASSER: Well, that's all right. Just tell about it.

WITTWER: Oh, the food was always good. When we got attached to the British it 29:00was mostly fish and mutton, [Gasser laughs]. You wouldn't starve on that as far as that goes [both laugh], but nobody liked it. No, we lived in barracks; we lived in tents.

GASSER: You just recalled some stories on more of a serious note. Do you want to tell us about those?

WITTWER: Well, I had a one out of quite a few.

GASSER: Well, you tell as many as you want.

WITTWER: Experiences, I was guarding some prisoners there in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, picking up cigarette butts and banana peels and things off the company grounds, and there was one fella, Monks (??), and he wasn't fully dressed. He was suppose to have prison garb on, like a circle on the back of his garb with a big "P" on it, but they didn't bother doing that. They just let him out. He was brought in the night before going AWOL, and I took him out. He said, "Let's go and get some chocolate bars in the canteen." "Well," we said "nobody has any money." "Well," he says "I got plenty of money. Let me go in and get 30:00it." And I was foolish enough to let him go in. He never came out. So when I got back to the thing the sergeant says, "Where's your third man?" I said, "He got away on me." "Well," he said, "you take his place in prison." And I went in for a while. They took two-thirds of my pay off for three months, and that was about it.

GASSER: And you mentioned about shipping dead people home.

WITTWER: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

GASSER: That was very sad, too.

WITTWER: There was an awful lot of men died, mostly big men, big chested men with that flu. We'd go out on the burial detail, and the British usually dug the graves out in the country. They had a little church.

[Break in Recording]

GASSER: [starts in middle of sentence] had experiences with taking care of the dead boys.

WITTWER: Yeah. Yeah, most of the men that died near the camp were taken out to a 31:00country cemetery there, and the British men would dig the graves and put them in rough(??) boxes and put 'em down, and I stayed then another seven, eight months, and we had to-- I don't know what you called it. It wasn't a pleasure to dig some up, but they'd unthread(??) 'em and put 'em in the metal boxes and send 'em home.

GASSER: Away from that sad note let's go back to Elmer and talk. Where were you, Elmer, when you heard the news of the close of the war?

DENZER: I was in the 161st Depot Brigade, and the first time was a false one. A couple days-- I don't remember just how many days before that. And the next time the war is over, and they had the bands playing and everything, and I thought now we can go home. It won't be long, we'll be going home. But I got fooled. I had to stay until March.

GASSER: Ohh. And how about you, Fred? Where were you, and how did you hear the 32:00news about the close of the war?

HAUSER: Well, I was in Chicago when the war was over. It wasn't very long before I got shipped the same year to Illinois, and we got sent home and went to work at home hauling cordwood.

GASSER: Ernest, tell us about how and when you heard the news about the ending of the war.

WITTWER: We had newspaper men come around to the camp, and they wanted us to put on a little show there. And they said, "Well, now, all get together in a group. We are going to take some pictures of ya, and all of you, hey, throw your hats in the air, and we will take a picture. We'll put it in the Liverpool Echo," they called it, Liverpool paper. And when we went on home about six months later 33:00we had to wait for the ship to come in to take us home. There was thousands of men sent home every day, but we had to take our turn, and we wasn't supposed to take any stuff home that belonged to the government or any stuff that was captured from anyone else, any foreign stuff. One fella had a gun that he wanted me to have it. I says, "No, I was told if anybody had any weapons on hand he'd get turned back to Germany in the Army of Occupation." And I didn't want that so I threw it down the toilet some place. I don't know who picked it up from there. On the way home there was quite a few fellas that didn't obey the rules, and they did have stuff stuck in the duffel bag. The boat pulled out, and we were goin' about--one night they thought they were getting away with it. And the boat went as far as some place near Ireland, and it stopped, and they got all those fellas that had stuff taken that they wasn't supposed to have. They were sent 34:00back to Germany in the Army of Occupation for one whole year for punishment. They had to go down the rope ladders down into the boats, you know.

GASSER: Mm-hmm.

WITTWER: Yeah.

GASSER: In order to go back to Germany.

WITTWER: To go back to Germany. Little tow boats came and took 'em back--

GASSER: That was quite sad for them.

WITTWER: It was. Some of 'em just about bawled, in fact did bawl, some of 'em. They thought they were getting away with it, ya know.

GASSER: Well, I don't blame them. They thought they earned it.

WITTWER: Well, they had all kinds of stuff smuggled in there.

GASSER: Illegal.

WITTWER: Illegal things, yeah.

GASSER: Well, Ernest, you had a story about how you were greeted when you came home.

DENZER: Yeah, I was greeted. My mother took me home with a truck wagon. It took us three hours to go home because that frost was just coming on the ground. The next morning my dad took me up in woods. There was a pile of wood as big as a 35:00house, [Gasser laughs], and I had to start splitting wood.

GASSER: Oh dear, you wished you were cooking.

DENZER: I often wished I'd have stayed in the Army.

GASSER: [laughs] And you already said what you did. Did you have any special greeting?

HAUSER: Well, I walked from the depot in Endeavor, Wisconsin, walked home with two suitcases and ten miles, no overshoes or anything. I walked home. I didn't want to call the folks up because they'd have to go that long way.

GASSER: Weren't they glad to see their boy home?

HAUSER: Oh, yeah. Well, I don't remember what they said. I got home about 7:00 o'clock in the morning. It wasn't long they had me working [Gasser laughs]. Hauling cordwood and chopping wood.

WITTWER: Keep you out of mischief.

GASSER: Yeah. All right, Ernest, your homecoming and return to England was 36:00interesting. Tell us about it.

WITTWER: Yeah. As I got off the boat onto a streetcar to take me up to where my sweetheart lived, there was a man on the streetcar watching me pretty close. I caught him looking at me every now and again, looking past the newspaper. And when we got off he went the same place where I did, where I went. He approached me then and wanted to know why I came back here. "You were in the Army over here, weren't you?" I said, "Yes, why"? "Well, I just want to know why you came back for." "I came to come back to get my wife, the young lady that I met over here, and I want to marry her and take her back." So he says, "Where does she live?" And I told him the address. He come up with me, and I showed him where she lived, and he checked it out. He said--he knocked on the door. "Young lady in here?" Says, "Yes." "Does she know this man?" "Yes, that's Ernest Wittwer, Private Wittwer. He come back to marry my daughter."

GASSER: Actually you went to the United States after the war, and then you went 37:00back to England to get your beautiful lady?

WITTWER: Yes, I did, yes I did. I had quite a little trouble, too, with the passport. It was made out wrong to start with, and instead of going back to Arena [Wisconsin] where I came from the lady at the Passport Office told me at Madison told me the shipping of it. She says, "I give you a card. Take it to Washington, D.C. Tell them that we gave it to you." There were people that lived--[Wisconsin] Senator [Robert] La Follette so happened to be in the United States Capitol at the time, and he said, "What can I do for you, young man?" "Well," I says "I'm going to go back to Europe, and my passport is made out wrong. It's made out to France and Switzerland, and I want to go to England." Well," he says "you can't go there without fixin' it. We'll fix it for you." So it wasn't very long he had it fixed, and, "How was Wisconsin up there?" he said. 38:00He gave me a big cigar and slapped me on shoulder, "Good luck!" [Gasser laughs] "And before you go, what do you want to go back there for?" I said, "I met a young lady, and I want to bring her home." That was it.

GASSER: That's a beautiful story. Elmer, what are you doing now?

DENZER: I am retired and tired most of the time. No, I am very thankful to be able to be up and around. My wife has been gone for eight, nine years.

GASSER: And who was your wife? What's her former name?

DENZER: My wife, I met her over the telephone when I was in the Army. And we celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. And I have two sons. Lynn is in California, and Gordon is up near Portage. He is retired from Oscar Mayers.

39:00

GASSER: And right now where are you?

DENZER: Right now I'm in Prairie Du Sac [Denzer laughs] at Doris [Gasser laughs] Litscher Gasser's house.

GASSER: Yeah, but you live down--

DENZER: I live in Sauk City in an apartment. Have lived there for ten years.

GASSER: And you have a friend, and you keep yourself busy, don't you?

DENZER: Keep busy, thank you.

GASSER: Well, you're doing exceedingly well. How about you, Fred?

HAUSER: Well, I'll tell ya, I got nothing to say.

GASSER: Well, you have a wife.

HAUSER: Got a wife.

GASSER: Mm-hmm. And you have some--

HAUSER: Pretty tough on me. [Gasser and Hauser laugh]

MRS. HAUSER: [inaudible] I'm gonna quit now!

GASSER: [laughs] No [laughs]--

HAUSER: No, she's good to me.

GASSER: Yeah, okay.

HAUSER: Too good as I always got to be waited on.

GASSER: Ernest up [??].

WITTWER: After my passport was amended then I went back to New York to get on 40:00the boat, to go on the boat, and they informed me that the longshoremen were on strike, and they wouldn't load the boat. And it had been that away for about ten days. So they told us to either wait until the strike was over or go to Canada and go out from there. There was a hitch to it; they had to pay forty dollars more because it was only first and second class. And the boat went up around Newfoundland the 1st of November. And if you think that was rough; I never seen anything like it. I had three meals the whole eleven days I was on the boat. When I got over there I couldn't get married for another thirty days because they wanted to find out who I was. You know, so they really didn't know much about me, the authorities didn't. So I had to wait thirty days. Then we got married 29th of November, 1919. I stayed there then for a year and a half, and my oldest boy was born there. I got a job in the American hospital. I got a job there, fifteen dollars a week. So it wasn't very much, kind of an orderly job. I 41:00went back home then. I said there was no future for me here. I'll go back and find a job. So I got a cheese factory. I made some cheese. And a year and a half later I sent for mommy. I had enough money saved up. She brought--come over with (??) little one around sometime in March of 1922. We made cheese down near Spring Green and Arena and Black Hawk at different times. Then my health got kind of poor, and I had to quit and go out on the farm. And I have been there ever since. Retired now.

GASSER: Where is your farm?

WITTWER: Out in Lodi.

GASSER: And where are you now?

WITTWER: In Sauk City. Yeah, Sauk City, Yeah.

GASSER: And you live by yourself, and you keep yourself busy?

WITTWER: Yeah, keep myself busy, yeah, cook myself.

GASSER: Well, good. This has been a delightfully interesting time being with you people. Elmer, can you tell us just a little bit how you kept your interest going?

42:00

DENZER: Well, after I was discharged in 1919--in 1920 is I think when they started the Legion. And in 1922 I joined the Legion, and I have been a continuous member for sixty-five or sixty-six years. I haven't had many offices in the Legion, and about twenty years ago we started the barracks, WWI Barracks. I was the second commander of the barracks. I've been chaplain. I've been adjutant and quartermaster. I was the 3rd District commander. And I have been taking care of the books for quite a while. That keeps me kind of busy.

GASSER: And that is beautiful. I really enjoyed being with you, Elmer. Goodbye, Fred.

43:00

DENZER: So long.

GASSER: Goodbye, Fred.

HAUSER: Bye, bye.

GASSER: Goodbye, Ernest.

WITTWER: Goodbye. You don't want to hear any more of my [unintelligible] [Gasser laughs].

GASSER: Of course, we want to hear more, but for now it's time to say goodbye for a while. And John Philip Sousa and "Liberty Bell". [music plays for approximately 3 ½ minutes]

44:00

[End of Interview]

46:0045:00

0:00 - Introductory music

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Partial Transcript: [Instrumental version of "Star Spangled Banner" plays for approximately 30 seconds]

Segment Synopsis: As a lead in to the interview, the Star Spangled Banner plays for about 30 seconds.

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0:37 - Introduction / Denzer's draft into the service

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: It was 1914. War broke out in Europe.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, the interviewer introduces Private Elmer Denzer, Corporal Fred Hauser, and Private Ernest Wittwer. The interviewer begins with Denzer and his drafting into service.

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6:18 - Hauser's drafting into the armed services

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Hello, Fred Hauser.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, the interviewer speaks to Hauser about how he came to be involved in the military. Hauser also speaks to the kinds of jobs he had while on duty.

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9:08 - Wittwer's enlistment and background

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: All right, we'll talk to Ernest. Well, Ernest I understand you were not a native of this area when the war broke out?

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Wittwer explains how he came to reside in Wisconsin, and why he enlisted in the armed services.

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11:49 - Feelings about the war

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Yes, the Swiss have always been a neutral feeling country.

Segment Synopsis: Denzer and Hauser give brief reflections on how it felt to be fighting the Germans.

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13:09 - Duties

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: All right, let's go back to Elmer now.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Denzer speaks about his duties while stationed at Camp Grant and Hauser describes the jobs he had while stationed at various bases.

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17:57 - Wittwer's deployment

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Partial Transcript: Interveiwer: All right, let's go to Ernest Wittwer.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Wittwer recounts the path taken to deploy to Liverpool, England. He also speaks about the conditions on the trains, and boats used to move troops.

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27:06 - Living conditions

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Back to Elmer now. Talk a little bit--tell us a little bit how your personal life was.

Segment Synopsis: All three narrators reflect on the living conditions of the soldiers on bases.

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29:12 - Anecdotes about duties

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: You just recalled some stories on more of a serious note. Do you want to tell us about those?

Segment Synopsis: Wittwer reflects on the nature of the work he had to do while stationed in England including being a prison guard and funerary work.

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31:26 - The End of the War

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Away from that sad note let's go back to Elmer and talk.

Segment Synopsis: All three narrators talk about their experiences of the war ending.

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34:39 - Homecoming

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Well, Elmer, you had a story about how you were greeted when you came home.

Segment Synopsis: Denzer speaks about how he was received by his family when he returned from the service. Hauser reflects on how he surprised his parents when he came home.

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35:57 - Wittwer's Return to England

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Yeah. All right, Ernest, your homecoming and return to England was interesting. Tell us about it.

Segment Synopsis: Wittwer discusses the difficulties he had returning to England after the war to marry his fiance.

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38:16 - Life After the War

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: That's a beautiful story. Elmer, what are you doing now?

Segment Synopsis: All 3 narrators discuss what they've done since the end of the War. Denzer talks about his family, which he settled after his time in the Army. Wittwer further explains the process he needed to go through in order to be reunited with his fiance. He then explains how he and his new family returned to Wisconsin.

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41:53 - Denzer's involvement in the American Foreign Legion / Concluding remarks

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Partial Transcript: Interviewer: Well, good. This has been a delightfully interesting time being with you people.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Denzer speaks about his involvement in the American Foreign Legion. The interviewer says goodbye to the narrators and the interview concludes to John Phillip Sousa's "Liberty Bell."

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