Antigo soldiers in World War I, Langlade County Historical Society

More than 200 of William H. Wessa’s photographs of the 107th Trench Mortar Battery Company (TMB) of Antigo, Wisconsin are now online from the Langlade County Historical Society. Wessa was a professional photographer and lifelong Antigo resident. He brought his camera with him when he signed up for service with the TMB during World War I. His photos and the short histories he wrote about the Company capture the experiences of soldiers from small-town Wisconsin before, during and after the war.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, many Wisconsinites stepped up to join the fighting overseas. Wessa was one of 185 men from Antigo who volunteered for service, forming a regiment known as Company G of the Wisconsin National Guard. The men drilled in Antigo, then headed to Camp Douglas, Wisconsin and to Camp MacArthur, Texas for training, where they were officially designated the 107th Trench Mortar Battery Company. Trench mortar units had a tough job, manipulating heavy cannon-like mortars to fire on enemy trenches.

The TMB shipped out to France to join the Allies in February 1918. The company saw its first action in the Alsace region and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. This was the largest and deadliest battle for the Americans during WWI, although the TMB saw few casualties. The war ended on November 11, 1918 and by April of the following year the Antigo soldiers were headed back to the States. They were welcomed back to their hometown with a parade on May 17, 1919.

Company G (later known as the 107th Trench Mortar Battery Company) assembled for training in Antigo, 1917. Langlade County Historical Society.

Company G (later known as the 107th Trench Mortar Battery Company) assembled in Antigo. Wessa’s account of the TMB was published in the local newspaper after their return. He wrote: “It was on the morning of August 11, 1917, that Antigo bade farewell to her first military organization. And oh such a bunch of rookies. No uniforms, but all shades and colors of civilian clothes.” Langlade County Historical Society.

Recruits at Camp Douglas, Juneau County, Wisconsin, August or September 1917. Langlade County Historical Society.

Recruits at Camp Douglas, Juneau County, Wisconsin, August or September 1917. Langlade County Historical Society.

Soldiers pose with a mortar in a trench in the Brittany region of France. Langlade County Historical Society.

Soldiers pose with a mortar in a trench in the Brittany region of France. Langlade County Historical Society.

"Wessa's 'studio' at the front, Argonne." Langlade County Historical Society.

“Wessa’s ‘studio’ at the front, Argonne.” Langlade County Historical Society.

Antigo welcomed the 107th TMB back home with a parade down Fifth Avenue on May 17, 1919. Langlade County Historical Society.

Antigo welcomed the 107th TMB back home with a parade down Fifth Avenue on May 17, 1919. Langlade County Historical Society.


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