Called to Serve


On October 2, 1917, Grandpa boarded a train for Camp Funston, Kansas, to begin his military training. He was 26 that fall. Like his fellow recruits–among them, friends and neighbors–he was leaving the only life he’d ever known, farming in the rolling hills of northwest Missouri.

Grandpa Alderson WWI Train

My grandfather, Thomas William Alderson, stands in the front row, center, his arms crossed.

On the day Grandpa’s group boarded the train, people gathered in the county seat of Maysville to send them on their way. According to a report in their local paper, a “big demonstration” was held in front of the Rex Theatre. The program featured music and several addresses, one by the Red Cross, and included the introduction of the “soldier boys singly and collectively.” The event concluded with the crowd joining together to sing America. “The boys left on No. 71 for St. Joseph where they entrained for Camp Funston. Barring delays they would reach camp about 8 o’clock.”

The recruitment and classification of men for the draft was detailed in the Selective Service Act, passed by Congress in May, 1917. Local boards, like the one in Maysville, registered men, classified them, and determined which were fit to serve. A final step in this process was putting them on trains to military training camps. The National Archives and Records Administration holds the registration card of my grandfather.

Grandpa's WW1 Registration Card (1)

Gpa Reg Card page 2

Before leaving for Camp Funston, Grandpa had been honored in King City, where he–and his “Dear Girl,” Inis Dykes–lived. The King City Chronicle proudly reported that their “soldier boys” were of the “true soldierly kind and not a slacker from this locality.”

Grandpa described the trip in his first postcard to Grandma.

Kaiser Killers rev.

Over the next year and a half, there would be more journeys by train, and then by ship, but none would have the heady optimism of this one, riding a train filled with “Kaiser Killers.”

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