South Dakota in World War One - A Soldier's Story

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Vincent L. Knewel was born in January, 1891 in Sioux County, Iowa. He moved to Sioux Falls in 1906. On June 24, 1908 he joined Company B, 4th South Dakota Infantry. 

The US Census in 1910 lists him as a carpenter. Vincent played baseball for the Sioux Falls Lakeside Baseball Team in 1912 and was the team Captain. He was 5' 10" tall with grey eyes. In 1913 he married Lucille Hollier in Sioux Falls.

Vincent Knewel in uniform

In 1916 he was called up for service on the Mexican Border and on October 10, 1917 he was transferred to Battery D, 147th Field Artillery. He spent 17 months in France during World War One, 5 months on the front line. He returned to Sioux Falls after the war.

Vincent Knewel in uniform

group of veteransGroup of WWI Veterans - Knewel is seated third from right.


Vincent Knewel in Sioux FallsCapt. Vincent Knewel, Sioux Falls Homecoming Parade

In 1923 he was elected Sheriff of Minnehaha County as a Republican. He served two years as Sheriff and returned to carpentry. During the winter of 1933-1934 he built the City Addition to the Pettigrew Museum. Vincent left an autographed board in the wall of the Pettigrew to document his work. Vincent died in 1963.

Several of Knewel's wartime letters survive. Letters to his sister, Josephine, describe trips to Nice and Monaco. Knewel complains briefly about the mud and talks about his desire to return home, but says nothing about his combat experiences.

Knewel is more candid in this excerpt from a letter written to Maurice N. "Bud" Knewel.

"I guess I had gone about fifty yards when they saw me and turned a machine bun on me. Well, then I did fly. I couldn't stop there and those machine guns were spitting a regular hail storm at me and the first thing I knew I was in a little strip of gas but I couldn't stop to put on my mask. A little gas don't hurt anyway and all the time shells were busting pretty close but they don't worry me a bit when the 'typewriters' are working. I don't know how I ever got out of it without getting a pill but I went over the hill at 60 per and jumpted into a trench on the other side and I guess I hadn't taken a breath for five minutes and I thought I never would get any more. My lungs hurt from the gas and I got some ammonia from a doughboy and breathed that. It cut the gas right out. I also found out that I had been out in 'No Man's Land' and that I was in the front line trenches then."

Icon Read Knewel's entire letter to "Bud" (2.3 MB) . (Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of combat.)

In the Moment with Lori Walsh

Listen to Mary McCune interviewed about the life and service of her grandfather, Vincent Knewel.

Related: South Dakota in World War One - An Airman's Story