ALAMOSA — “The eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month.” Veterans Day, a special day to take out time to recognize those among us that have chosen to dedicate their lives to the defense of the red, white and blue and all her values. Originally, November 11 was designated Armistice Day in recognition of the unofficial ending of World War I or the ‘Great War’.
People today can look back a century and oddly can identify with some of the struggles of those that came before us. In the late 1910s, the epidemic that plagued humanity was the Spanish Flu. Much like today the then Alamosa Courier was quick to keep the San Luis Valley’s citizens abreast on health tips as well as the virus’ impact on the community, one such entry notated more than 20 deaths from the virus in the San Luis Valley over the course of a month.
War is a complete effort from the home soil all the way to the front. Today, the country is not involved in a full-blown war effort like the times our ancestors endured. But a look into the past can reveal the sheer lengths that a patriot will go to support their country and those fighting abroad. It is commonplace to read about victory gardens and war vouchers. But it is easy to forget that these sorts of support from the home front took place right in our backyard.
Alamosa was not separate from drafts. During the late 1910s, there were many requests for nurses as well as a reoccurring notification of those drafted. Entries include a notification from Saturday, July 13, 1918
‘Fourteen Alamosa Boys Called to Camps This Month’.
The entry details boys from all walks of life being drafted from Alamosa into military service as well as the various locations for their service – Joe Martin, Oscar Schwartz, Floyd B. Sage, James O. Acree, A.J. Hanway, A.J Hooper and Lee Starbuck were destined for Camp Travis to be inducted into the National Army. A young man named Rex Colcord was destined for Boulder to take a course in Radio Work and even a movie operator named C.A. Barta was to report to Colorado Springs for electrical training.
Young women were also asked to do their part in a piece titled ‘Alamosa County Must Furnish 5 Nurses For War’
In the article “The United States Government wants five student nurses from Alamosa County to enter the United States Nurse Reserve.” Candidates from Alamosa would release a graduate nurse into service at the battlefront, ensuring technical experience for the wounded, according to the article.
Efforts originating in Alamosa
Alamosa was also the source of a few ideas in the war effort. In an entry to the Alamosa Courier from Saturday, November 9, 1918 entitled ‘Alamosa Again Starts Nation Wide Move In War Campaign’.
Alamosa County wired the Postmaster General about an idea to distribute war campaign literature on a leaflet postage-free. Not only did they get approval, the idea of postage-free distribution was passed on to the rest of the country. The enormity of this accomplishment was expanded on further in the article.
“It takes an act of congress concurred in by both house and senate and requiring the president’s signature to send matter postage free thru (sic) the post office on anything except distinctly government business, this being known as the ‘franking privilege.’”
The leaflet distributed throughout the county was called ‘What Loan Money Is Doing For Your Boys’.
There were also a pair of headlines in 1918 that detailed American Women’s vow to boycott German goods. In an article quoting the Denver Post, it is said, “The women of the United States should unite to boycott German goods.” A sister article then details that Alamosa women had already resolved to do just that months prior. In ‘German Boycott Idea Started Here, Now Nationwide’ the Alamosa Courier details a resolution asking for signatures, cited from the article in part, “Whereas: We the women of America that the power rests, in great part, in our hands, to put Prussian Militarism out of existence, do hereby solemnly swear that we will not buy anything made in Germany as long as the people of Germany keep in power their present militaristic government.”
Alamosans and Alamosa were also nationally recognized during such a difficult time in the country. Alamosa County was given a namesake boat in WWI, a Submarine Boat Corporation cargo ship that was set afloat on Independence Day in Newark Bay, New Jersey. According to the article, “Alamosa is the only city in Colorado to have a ship named for her, except for Pueblo. The City of Denver was sunk as a transport of English supplies before America’s entrance into the war.” Locals were invited to come to the Courier to look at a picture of Alamosa County’s namesake.
Individuals were also recognized as is the case with Lucian Baker who got recognized for marksmanship. Out of a company of 120 men, six were given the title of gunner first class, including Baker. A boy of only 16, Baker discussed his work in a letter to the Courier, “My present work is in the ‘plotting room’ I operate an automatic correction chart.” In his letter Baker also covers moving targets and anticipating shots based on projectile velocity and his working conditions compared to those in his company that worked with heavier artillery.
World War I was ended officially with the Treaty of Versailles which was signed on June 28, 1919. With the onset of future wars ‘Armistice Day’ was later expanded into ‘Veterans Day’ to recognize all veterans of all wars.