Wendt, William Sr.

Wendt fought at an early age

NWS Editor

Published: Thursday, July 3, 2014 10:05 AM EDT (Re-printed with permission from the Northwest Signal)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. The Northwest Signal will be running Associated Press photos from the war over the next several weeks. This week, however, the newspaper will spotlight one of the local men who fought in that conflict. The Signal invites others who may have known someone who fought in that war to share their stories or memorabilia. E-mail briank@northwestsignal.net or call 419-592-5055.

Photo above: William Wendt of Napoleon enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1916 at the age of 16 to fight in World War I. He was injured twice and received the Purple Heart twice, among other medals. (Photo courtesy of Bill Wendt)

One hundred years ago this year, the world engaged in such a terrible conflict it became known as The Great War and the War to End All Wars.

Most commonly known as World War I, it lasted four years and killed more than 9 million soldiers, sailors and airmen from 28 countries.

One of those who fought in World War I was Henry Countian William Wendt. According to an article written several years ago by Wendt’s granddaughter, Christina Cochran, Wendt enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1916 when he was 16. He served in the 37th Division.

After several weeks traveling from one camp to another to be trained, Wendt headed out on a 13-day voyage by boat for Europe. His first post was at Alsace, Lorraine, which was technically on the front lines, but Wendt said there was very little fighting there. He added the Germans used it as a place to rest their soldiers, while the U.S. used it to train new ones for the type of trench warfare seen during the war.

In 1918, Wendt’s division traveled by truck to Argonne Forest in France and battled German forces for a small section of trench near Ivory. Wendt was wounded multiple times during the fighting, first being shot in the leg and stomach by German soldiers.

While waiting for transportation from an Army ambulance, the Germans shelled the area and Wendt suffered shrapnel injuries to his face and arms.

He received two Purple Hearts for the injuries incurred during the battle.

While recovering, Wendt was re-classified for non-active duty and sent to Bourges, France, in 1918, to work in a records office. He requested a return to combat, however, and was put in charge of a platoon.

In November of 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending World War I. During a review of troops by Gen. George Pershing, the famous general stopped to talk to Wendt and told him, “Soldier, you’re from a very good division and you’re doing just as much for your country now as when you were in combat.”

Wendt put in for release so he could return home, which was originally denied. He then sent a request directly to Pershing, which was approved.

Returning to Henry County, Wendt became co-owner of Charles Co. in Napoleon and was a charter member of the American Legion Bert G. Taylor Post #300.

His accomplishments are memorialized in a display on the office wall of his son, Bill Wendt, who is president of The Henry County Bank.

E-mail comments to briank@northwestsignal.net.

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