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Superheroes of World War I

By Staff | Nov 16, 2018

A display case showing pictures of and medals belonging to Clarence Larson, who died in World War I.

“America was at war, and this was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars,'” said Dale Niewoehner during a presentation he gave Tuesday evening at the Heart of America Library.

Niewoehner added that that sentiment would later be proven “not true.”

Pierce County Superheroes of World War I, which was held in the west room of the library’s lower level, provided an in-depth look at county men who died as a result of the war.

Of the men who died, six Carl Nygaard, Fritchof Hagboe, Walter Severson, Hettrick Lowe, Olaf Haiberg and Elias Skjerve were due to influenza complications.

Clarence Larson is the most well-known name in the area of those who died in WWI. Larson was the first soldier from Pierce County to die during the war. When his family was to receive news of Clarence’s death, his father was out selling war bonds at the time. Larson’s parents are buried in Persilla Watts Cemetery while he remains buried in France. The American Legion post in Rugby, which is the 23rd post formed in the state, bears his namesake.

Also buried in France were Clarence Annis and George Abdalla.

Howard McLean was wounded and later deemed “missing in action.” His body was never found.

Valentine Schneider is the only WWI soldier from Pierce County killed in action whose remains were returned to Rugby. He is buried in Little Flower Cemetery.

Carl Nygaard was the first county soldier to die from flu complications. He died 26 days after his brother died from tuberculosis in San Haven. Nygaard, Hagboe and Severson would die within days of each other.

Niewoehner presented a mistake the Pierce County Tribune published during wartime. The Tribune reported the death of Ira Bonnell in August 1918. However it was later discovered that Bonnell was only wounded and survived the war. He died in California in 1962.

Howard Clark was a superintendent of the Rugby school district before going to war. He was killed in action on Nov. 8, 1918.

Stephen Bogus and Ingvald Gjertson were names recently added to the Memorial Wall outside of the Memorial Hall on Memorial Day. Bogus had worked as a hired man for Carl Erickson and Andrew Mundahl in the Wolford area prior to becoming eligible for service at the age of 18. Bogus died July 22 1918 in France. Gjertson worked for his uncle, Ben Jacobson, in Wolford. He died in October 1918 and his body was moved to Norway.

Pierce County Veterans Service Officer Ron Montonye said there were discrepancies in the list of county WWI dead. Bogus and Gjertson’s names were listed online in a database called North Dakota’s Heroes (linked to the Department of Veterans Affairs), but prior to this year were not on the wall. Now the Memorial Wall’s information corresponds with information from the database. However, Montonye said there are discrepancies with North Dakota’s Heroes, as there are names on the list of men with no connection to the county.

Niewoehner said when he first came to Rugby there were 10 WWI veterans still alive. No WWI veterans are alive in the area today.

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