–Contributed by: Doug Cahow
America is a nation of immigrants. Adolph Brihan is an example of one immigrant who dearly loved his new country of choice so much that he gave his life to defend the values he believed America represented.
His date of birth was 1893 and born in a small village near Vilno (Vilnius), Lithuania. At that time Lithuania ,a tiny country on the Baltic Sea of Northern Europe, was occupied by Russia. For centuries the hard working Lithuanians were being over run by conquering nations such as Russia, Germany and Poland. Adolph wanted to escape the hardships which so many of his countrymen knew and start a different lifestyle; one of freedom and justice for himself. He knew about the opportunities America offered for anyone who was willing to work hard so he immigrated to America when he was 20 years old.
He arrived in New York City and passed through Ellis Island Port of Entry on April 13, 1913 and eventually sought work on farms in Minnesota along with his brother Joseph. While in Minnesota, he joined the Army National Guard. His reasons were many but he loved his new country and wanted to help defend it. Germany-Austria (Axis Powers) were at war against England, France, Belgium and many other European countries. The later group of countries had very close ties to the United States whereas the former group (Axis Powers) were making threatening gestures against American trade with the Allies. Finally the striking blow that threw America into WWI was the sinking of the Lusitania.
By 1917 the Brihan brothers had developed close ties to the Clear Lake, Wisconsin area and sought to build a new life there. On April 12, 1917 America declared war against the Axis Powers and millions of American doughboys were drafted, volunteered or their National Guard units were activated and called to active duty.
In early 1918 Adolph’s Army National Guard unit was activated and sent to Camp Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa for further training. When finished with his combat training, Adolph was sent to France as a machine gunner with Company M, 47th Infantry, 42nd (Rainbow) Division, 1st Army.
News of his whereabouts in France was often delayed. Months passed before an actual accounting of what happened to Adolph went by before his family really knew about him. For example a telegram dated November 6, 1918 said he had been wounded on about June 6, 1918 near Chateau-Theirry, Belleau Woods and returned to duty on September 6th, 1918. But his family did not receive the tragic news of his death which was on September 13, 1918 in the battle of St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive until a letter arrived on March 14, 1919 which was 4 months later. As to how Adolph died in combat, there is no certain documentation; however, the commitment he made as an American for liberty is what we shall honor forever.