Remembering Tuscania

Remembering Tuscania

By Clyde Annala

When troops of Wisconsin’s 32nd Infantry Division boarded the Anchor Line’s steamer Tuscania they may have felt fortunate to draw passage on such a new vessel.  Tuscania was only a few years old, built in 1914 at the Alexander Stephen and Sons Ltd shipyard in Glasgow, Scotland.  It was a 567-foot, twin screw, transatlantic passenger ship that accommodated 271 first class, 246 second class, and 1,900 third class passengers.

Refitted as a troop carrier, Tuscania left Hoboken, New Jersey on January 24, 1918 headed for Le Havre, France.  On board were the ship’s crew and 2,013 soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force.

The Tuscania joined other merchant vessels and a destroyer escort at Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The group sailed for Europe as convoy HX20. The soldiers Tuscania carried were from the 100th Aero Squadron, 158th Aero Squadron, 263rd Aero Squadron, 20th Engineers, 357th Infantry, 165th Depot, 107th M.P., 107th Engineer Train, 107th Supply Train, and the 32nd Infantry Division composed of National Guard units from Wisconsin and Michigan.  The troops quickly learned Tuscania was no pleasure cruise.  The ship was crowded, the food terrible, and the days monotonous.  Most were overjoyed to see the coast of Ireland and Scotland on the horizon.

On February 5, 1918 the convoy was spotted by German submarine UB-77.  At 5:40 P.M., under the cover of darkness, the submarine’s captain Lt. Commander Wilhelm Meyer fired two torpedoes at Tuscania.  The second is a miss, but the first torpedo scores a direct hit.  Tuscania begins sinking and abandon ship is ordered.  By 7:00 P.M. all available lifeboats had been launched with 1,350 men still on board.  There was no panic, and the soldiers maintained good order as destroyer escorts continued to rescue those left on the stricken ship.  Rescue was difficult, the effort hampered by darkness, heavy seas, and the UB-77 still lingering in the area.  At 10:00 P.M. Tuscania sank, bow first, into the Irish sea seven miles north of Rathlin Island lighthouse (Northern Ireland).  Two-hundred-thirty men died with her.

Tuscania is the first American troop ship in World War One to be sunk by a German submarine, and the only one to be lost while under destroyer escort.  Most of the 32nd Infantry Division soldiers survived the sinking.  They were from cities and towns across Wisconsin including men from the Twin Ports; Edward James Paulus, A.F. Schmidt, C.P. Revell, Joseph Devine, Herschel Bird, and Steven Hugh Thorson.

Twenty-one of the survivors were from Baraboo, Wisconsin.  Known as “Baraboo’s 21,” that city plans to memorialize the survivors with a bronze relief sculpture to be placed in Baraboo’s Mary Rountree Evans Park on November 10, 2018.  This is the same day the United States will dedicate a National World War One memorial in Washington, D.C.

On Islay Island Scotland, where many of the Tuscania dead washed ashore, there has been an American cemetery and memorial for many years.  The memorial includes these words:

“On Fame’s Eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread

While Glory keeps with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead”

Remember Pearl Harbor

Remember Pearl Harbor

Today we remember and honor all those who served and gave their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. One of those who served was Leo Kempton of Superior, Wisconsin, a Radioman 1st Class with the U.S. Navy. He was on duty the morning the Japanese attacked. In a handwritten letter he said,

“I was a 20 year old RM3c, USN. I was stationed at the U.S. Navy Radio Station, Wailupe, Oahu. My duty hours on that date were from 8am to 4pm. My assignment was to man the sending circuit to Navy Radio Washington. Therefore, it fell upon me to relay [this] message,
“Air Raid on Pearl Harbor. This is no drill”
that came over the landline from Admiral Kimmel’s headquarters. The actual sending of the message and obtaining a proper receipt should have taken but a minute or two, but because of the incredulity of the crew in Washington it actually took 20 to 30 minutes. They repeatedly asked me to slow down …and repeat the message.”

After the attack, the words “Remember Pearl Harbor” served as a rallying cry across the country. Today we use it to remember the bravery and sacrifice of everyone involved on that infamous day.

Flag of Remembrance, Sgt Arnold A. Houk

Flag of Remembrance, Sgt Arnold A. Houk

Superior, Wisconsin man’s service to his country to be honored during flag raising ceremony.


A Flag of Remembrance will fly Friday, September 1st, for Sergeant Arnold A. “Clint” Houk who served his country as a member of the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War.         

 The American Flag will be raised at 9:00 a.m. in front of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center for Sergeant Arnold A. Houk.

 Arnold Arron Houk was born September 1, 1946 in Port Angeles, Washinton.  Arnold graduated from the Port Angeles High School in 1964 and worked at the Crown Zellerbach Paper Mill in Port Angeles until he left for Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas on September 14, 1964.  He received his training in jet engine mechanics and then was stationed at the former Duluth Air Base, Duluth, Minnesota becoming a member of the 148th Fighter Unit.  

 Arnold met Mary Thompson of Superior, Wisconsin in 1965.  Arnold was deployed to Phan Rang Air Force Base, Vietnam in August 1966 returning home September 1967.  Arnold and Mary were married on September 23, 1967 at the Bethel Lutheran Church, Superior, Wisconsin and they traveled to Merced, California where Arnold was the Jet Engine Trim Team Chief, Engine Conditioning Section, 93rd Field Maintenance Squadron, Castle Air Force Base, California.  

Their son, Ronald, was born on the airbase on May 18, 1968.  Later, Arnold was Honorably Discharged with the rank of Sergeant from active duty.  Arnold and Mary moved back to Superior, Wisconsin.

 Arnold was the 1980 Tri-State (Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan) Arm Wrestling Champion for all weight classes.  Arnold would not be able to defend that title as he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in 1981.

 Arnold never faltered in his faith and said this faith blessed him with a daughter, Jamie Rae on February 22, 1984.  His son, Ronald, blessed him with grandson Timothy in 1991.  Arnold’s faith also gave him the strength and courage to face the challenges through his lengthy battle with cancer and the effects of radiation treatment.  Arnold’s legacy continues with the birth of granddaughter Liliana (2004) and grandson William (2011). 

 Arnold passed away on September 5, 2002 and was laid to rest at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Spooner, Wisconsin.  The entire Houk family and friends are proud of Arnold’s service to his country and are happy to have a Flag of Remembrance flown in his memory.        

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information about the “Flag of Remembrance Program”, you may contact any of the following individuals:  John Vaski – (715) 394-7693; Scott Markle – (218) 269-4675.  You may also leave a message at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center (715) 392-7151.  Email may also be utilized at:  gro.retnechvb@ofni                  

Don’t Call Me ‘Sammy’

Don’t Call Me ‘Sammy’

by Clyde Annala

The origin of Uncle Sam is uncertain, but the persona has been around since the War of 1812.  The “Uncle Sam” of today was created by magazine illustrator James Montgomery Flagg, first appearing in public July 6, 1916.  Over 4,000,000 copies of his iconic “I Want You” poster with a bearded, finger pointing, Uncle Sam were produced during World War One.

This image was extremely popular with the public and Americans started calling their soldiers ‘sammies’, or ‘Sammy’, a nephew of Uncle Sam.  The name caught on.  In July of 1917 General Pershing, commander of the American forces, reported French civilians calling his soldiers ‘sammies’.

In the Twin Ports, a daily paper, the Duluth News Tribune, started a campaign called Sammie Backers, urging older men to “adopt” a soldier to support with mail and small gifts.  It seemed America’s troops were destined to be known as ‘sammies’ until word got out through letters and chinwag that the troops hated it.

“Don’t call me ‘sammy’”, they wrote.  Nor did they want to be called yanks, especially the southern soldiers, despite public popularity of the name as celebrated in the song Over There with its patriotic proclamation that the yanks are coming.  What the soldiers fancied was “doughboy.”  That moniker seems to have been started by a populace movement among their ranks.

Doughboy is another obscure name, probably originating during the Mexican War when American infantry ended a day’s march covered in white road dust.  There is a lot of speculation on the origin of doughboy and its connection with the American military, but no one knows for sure.  Perhaps British and French troops got the last word, claiming the Americans are called doughboys because they were needed in 1914 but didn’t rise until 1917.

Well, rise they did.  Some 4,800,000 of them.  They won the war, and Americans welcomed their doughboys home, sammy all but forgotten.  The doughboy of World War One left a legacy that proudly stands alongside the “GI” of World War Two and Korea, “grunts” of Vietnam, and modern day “joe” fighting the war on terrorism.