January 23, 1919: Duluth’s 126th Artillery returns from war

On this day in Duluth in 1919, members of the 126th Field Artillery returned home to Duluth with “every man carrying a German helmet” as a war souvenir, the Duluth News Tribune reported. It was a quiet reception, as only a few family members had been tipped off. One soldier asked, “where’s the band?” He was a day early. The next day members of the 125th Field Artillery (formerly the Minnesota Third Regiment) received a more raucous welcome when they arrived at the Duluth Union Depot. The Commercial Club had organized a greeting. At 2:07 the whistles at Marshall Wells Hardware on South Lake Avenue blew, followed by the whistle of every train, boat, or factory that was aware of the plan to announce the troops’ arrival. The orchestra of steam horns included those of  “14 mastodon locomotives, which paraded along beside the incoming train in true presidential receptive grandeur.” Soon the area surrounding the Depot was “jammed with a seething mass of humanity” to greet the 189 soldiers that arrived on two trains. Thousands showed up to meet the troops, who had mustered out of Duluth 18 months earlier. Charley Helmer’s band provided background music, but between the noise of the trains and the cheering crowds it could barely be heard. Mayor Clarence Magney planned to give a speech, but it the noise in the Depot was so deafening it was cancelled. As the festivities continued, members of the Minnesota Motor Corps volunteered the cars to drive the veterans and their families anywhere they wanted to go in Duluth.

Most soldiers returning to Duluth in January 23, 1919, carried with them a German helmet similar to this (though not nearly as fancy) as a souvenir.