Prior to World War I, members of the Wisconsin National Guard received important active duty experience along the Mexican border. In March 1916, the United States sent over 110,000 National Guard troops to the border against the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa. Wisconsin sent 3 infantry regiments, 2 cavalry troops, an artillery battery, and a field hospital (over 4,000 men) for service. While these men did not see battle or suffer any casualties, this provided mobilization and organizational experience.
In April 1917, mere months after Wisconsin troops returned from the border, the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered the war. Men and women from Wisconsin served in all branches of the armed forces, although the largest concentration of Badgers was in the 32nd Division. 18,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen began training at Camp Douglas and were eventually merged with Michigan National Guardsmen into the 32nd Division. The 32nd Division arrived in France in early 1918, saw significant action, taking part in three major offensives, and was the first American troops to reach German soil.
An additional 10,000 Wisconsin men and women volunteered for service, while 90,000 men were drafted, bringing the total contribution of the state to about 120,000. They served in hundreds of units within the Army, Army Air Corps, Army Nurse Corps, Marines and Navy. These veterans suffered about ten per cent casualties, with over 2,000 dying in service
This is part of our exhibit on WWI at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. The exhibit opens April 2, 2017.