Martin Howard Rasmussen was born on December 10, 1895, in Genoa Junction, Wisconsin,1 the son of Peter and Carolene/Caroline/Carolyn (Peterson) Rasmussen.2 His parents were both born in Denmark and immigrated to the U.S. in 1889. Peter Rasmussen had previously served 17 months as a soldier in the Danish Army. Martin received his education in Woodstock, Illinois, schools and was of the Lutheran faith. He had four sisters and a brother. A seventh child died (believed to be James).3
In 1900, the family lived in Greenwood, Illinois, but Peter’s wife was listed as Lena (possibly Carolene went by Lena). There were three daughters (Mena (believed to be Minnie), Elsa, Anna) and three sons (Theodore, Martin, and James). There was also a child, Jennie, later. Peter was a farmer.4 In October of 1907, Martin’s father died after a six-year illness. Even the Woodstock Sentinel in November 1905 lists him as doing poorly.5 He had suffered a series of unfortunate events, lastly being kicked in the face by a horse, after which he developed asthma.6
In 1910 at the age of 15, Martin was hired out as farm labor to Robert and Mabel Mansfield in Greenwood, Illinois. He lived at their residence.7
He was single and unemployed at the time of his draft registration for WWI on June 5, 1917. He had a broken arm and lived in Woodstock, Illinois. He enlisted June 26, 1918, and on September 22, 1918, he was on the roster of Co F, 342nd Infantry.8 He was also on the WWI Transport Passenger List of Casuals for Co. F, 342nd Infantry, 86th Division on Sept. 9, 1918, from New York, New York on the SS Minnekahda steamer. SS Minnekahda was a transatlantic ocean liner that was launched in Ireland in 1917. Because of the war she was completed in 1918 as a troop ship.9 Martin was a private, SN 3336495. His sister, Minnie Rasmussen, was listed as his contact. 10
The 86th division saw no combat in World War I. The division was originally organized on August 25, 1917, at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois. A small cadre of Regular Army, in addition to Officers Reserve Corps and National Army officers staffed the 86th, while the soldiers were mostly Selective Service men from the states of Illinois and Wisconsin. It went overseas in August 1918, and was ordered to be skeletonized in October, with its soldiers transferred to other units. It returned to the United States in November 1918, and was deactivated in January 1919.11
Martin was most likely transferred to Co. I, 56th Infantry, 7th Infantry Division as that is the unit listed on his headstone.12 The 56th was assigned to the 13th Infantry Brigade, which was part of the 7th Division.
During the Meuse-Argonne campaign the 56th Infantry Regiment was on the left bank of the Moselle River, the nearest American military unit to Metz, and was preparing to attack towards Metz. At 1 a.m. on November 11, the 13th Infantry was to make an attack on the front. The 56th Infantry was to make the assault for the 13th. A three-hour artillery preparation, beginning at 8 a.m., was to precede the attack. But just prior to 8 a.m., the hostilities were halted after the armistice was signed. The division remained in this area from November 12, 1918, until January 9, 1919, for training, salvage, and enforcement of the Armistice terms.13 For its actions during World War I, the regiment was awarded the campaign streamer ‘Lorraine 1918’.14
On December 13, 1918, it was reported in the Champaign Daily Gazette that Martin had been severely wounded.15 On January 10, 1919, Martin was listed on the Passenger List of the ship Manchuria, Port of Embarkation, St. Nazaire, France, enroute to Fox Hills, Staten Island. The passenger list said: convalescent Detachment No. Med and Surg in standees. Base hospital #113.16 The Manchuria, a troop transport, made 13 round trips to Europe, including nine after the Armistice, bringing home approximately 39,500 troops.17
Fox Hills Base Hospital was constructed in a record four months in 1918 and, at the time, was the largest Army Hospital in the world. It operated until 1922.18 Fox Hills was a military-receiving hospital from which wounded American soldiers were distributed to rehabilitation hospitals. Fox Hills had a 2,500-bed capacity and overlooked New York Harbor, which was close to the Quarantine Station and made the transfer of the wounded easier with a minimum of delay. This hospital was used only for distribution, and, after thorough examinations and study of their special rehabilitation requirements, patients were sent to other facilities that met their needs closer to their home.19
On the January 8, 1920, census, Martin was living as a patient in Deerfield, Lake County, Illinois, in the U.S. Army General Hospital #28 at Fort Sheridan.20 He was 25 years of age and single. Following WWI, Fort Sheridan processed nearly 20,000 returning wounded soldiers and helped them return to civilian life through physical and occupational training for reentering the workforce.21 Martin was discharged September 30, 1920.22
In 1930, he was living in Woodstock, Illinois, and was a lodger and a general laborer. His brother, Theodore, was also a lodger and was a die setter at a die casting factory.23 In 1938, Martin was paid by the city of Woodstock for a number of jobs as tractor operator and laborer.24 Martin boarded with Roger and Beverly Retterer in Batavia, Illinois, in 1950. No occupation is listed. Roger was a painter.25
Martin was a member of the Umathum American Legion Post No. 412 in Woodstock. He was on the membership roster from 1936.26 The Peter Umathum Post 412 roster and activities report from 1936 said that the members mostly built the new building for the Post themselves and raised the money for it. In August 1935, Martin was head of the stock room committee of the Legion. In 1940, Martin led the house committee for the Post. 27
Brother Theodore also served in WWI. He died Nov. 17, 1959, in a VA hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, from multiple myeloma. He had been in the hospital for eight days. He was a farmer.31 His mother’s name was listed as Carolyn Peterson. He was a private during WWI, serving with Co. C, 341st Infantry, 86th Division.32 He is also buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery.
19 Big Army Hospital for Staten Island, 28 Nov 1917, Page 8 – The New York Times at Newspapers.com