Camp Doniphan

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President Woodrow Wilson called for a declaration of war against the German Empire on April 6, 1917.  Harry Truman quickly rejoined the Missouri National Guard and began recruiting others to join a newly formed field artillery battery.  He was elected a First Lieutenant.  In August his unit was mobilized for Federal service and designated as Battery F, 129th Field Artillery, 35th Division.  He left the management of the family farm to his sister and a trusted farm hand, and in September 1917 the 35th Division moved to Camp Doniphan at Fort Sill, Oklahoma for training.  For the next eight months the men drilled while living in hastily-assembled tents and ramshackle buildings, enduring heat, cold, sand storms, blizzards and tainted water, among other challenges.

After arriving at Camp Doniphan, Truman found he had been assigned the additional responsibility of organizing a regimental canteen.  He chose Sergeant Eddie Jacobson to help because of his reputation for reliability and his experience in retail sales.  

The canteen sold such items as apples, candy, cakes, pencils, soft drinks, and other sundries, as well as providing services like haircuts and tailoring.  The endeavor had a leg up over other canteens in the camp, because the presence of Truman’s 1911 Stafford car enabled them to make quick trips to pick up new supplies.

The canteen turned out to be a very successful venture, bringing in several hundred dollars a day.  By the time the 129th Field Artillery shipped out for France in April 1918, the canteen had made a profit of $15,000. 

Truman and Jacobson had managed the only canteen in Camp Doniphan to make a profit.  They would renew their partnership in business after the war.

Exhibition Dates

Heroes or Corpses: Captain Truman in World War I is on display from March 10 through December 31, 2018.