Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

German-Americans During World War I

I have occasionally read about the prejudice that German-Americans encountered in this country during World War I (and World War II) because they were suspected of favoring their country of origin over their adopted country. The vast majority of German-Americans were, in fact, loyal to the U.S., but there was apparently just enough truth to the idea that they were disloyal to feed the prejudice. For instance, I know that some German-Americans did, indeed, resist or aid their sons in resisting military service because they did not want to fight or see their loved ones fight against their former homeland. (Of course, people who were not necessarily of German descent also sometimes resisted military service during World War I. See, for example, by blog post of several months ago about the so-called Cleburne County Draft War of 1918, which was precipitated by the resistance of Russellites to the Selective Service Act of 1917 based on their religious beliefs.)
One interesting incident of German-American opposition to America's involvement in World War I happened in Joplin in the early summer of 1918. A German man named Frank L. Misch was drinking in the St. Joe Saloon on the night of July 2 when he overheard a young man named Albert Thomas telling the barkeeper that he was getting ready to enlist in the army. Misch broke into the conversation to advise Thomas against enlisting, telling him that he was crazy to go to war and put himself up as a target for the Germans. Misch said that the Germans were too smart for us (i.e. Americans) and that if we did not leave them alone they might come over here and kill us all. He added that all his family except his immediate family were in Germany, that he sympathized with the Germans, and that America had no business getting involved in the war to begin with.
About midnight, Misch became so boisterous that the saloonkeeper sent for a police officer, who arrived and placed Misch under arrest. He was taken to the lockup and held overnight. The next day, an agent of the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI) came to Joplin to investigate the case. The detective interviewed the young man, the barkeeper, and a taxi driver who was in the bar at the time of the incident, and all three told him essentially the same thing: that Misch said he had two sons in the U.S. Army but that he expressed himself repeatedly in favor of Germany, that he advised Thomas not to join the military, and that, although he had been drinking, he did not appear to be drunk.
The G-man also went to the jail and interviewed Misch himself. Misch said he had drunk about a dozen glasses of beer and one or two shots of whiskey. He claimed that he had been drunk and that his memory of the incident in the bar was hazy. He said he recalled having a conversation with the young man but didn't remember exactly what was said, only that it was something about the war. He admitted that he might have made the statements the witnesses against him said he made but he did not know. A judge heard the case that very day and fined Misch $100 and costs, and the Federal detective wrapped up his investigation.
Source: FBI files

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