By Debra Fitzgerald - Pipestone County Star - December 18, 2013.

The Pipestone County Historical Society has been awarded a $10,000 Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund grant to identify World War I veterans of Pipestone County.

The project will enable a museum researcher to develop biographical information leading to an exhibit and educational programming in time for the 100th Anniversary of World War I (1914-1918).

“That’s a big anniversary and we’d like to do something with that,” said Susan Hoskins, museum director. “I’m excited to get this grant. It puts us ahead of the ball.”

A book published back in 1920 entitled “Pipestone County’s Honored Dead” identified Pipestone County residents who died in World War I. The names were submitted, however, with no comprehensive research ever done, Hoskins said.

“Right now, this is just a list of names but I’m hoping to make this into a story of the lost generation,” said Pipestone resident David Rambow, who will be the researcher for the project. 

The scope of the project will “only be the guys who went to the war from Pipestone County,” Rambow said, a number that’s expected to exceed 600. In addition to basic facts about the Pipestone County veterans, Rambow intends to look into their units, where they served, if they were wounded and problems they may have had after the war.

“It will be interesting to see some of the commonalities the people in the military have today with those 100 years ago,” Rambow said. “These guys came home broken physically or with shell shock that today we call PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome). People think they just came home to the farm and back to work but in reality, that didn’t happen a lot. We’re just starting this and finding suicide and problems with the law and chemicals. They just weren’t getting back into the swing.”

Rambow’s interest in World War I
dates back to his teens when his uncle returned from the war with items like a German gas mask that still today retains the smell and remnants of poisonous mustard gas. His interest extended into his first job at a museum working with veterans who had been combat wounded during the Great War.

“People don’t think of World War I anymore,” Rambow said. “World War I claimed the lives of 230 soldiers for every hour that it lasted, and that’s times four years. Seventy million men were mobilized and 50 million were casualties. You can’t even comprehend the numbers involved.”

The incomprehensible numbers produced by World War I’s static trench warfare were played out against a backdrop of societal change that included the rise of the Red Cross, rationings, modern food production and women’s suffrage.

“So there’s lots of other things that were going on in the century,” Rambow said.

The project has an August 2014 deadline for identifying the veterans. Though Rambow will spend a lot of time researching historic documents, he said he’s hoping family members of World War I veterans will get in touch with him with memories or stories.

The public may call Hoskins at 507-825-2563 with this information or for more details about the project.