One of the most extraordinary stories from World War I has direct ties to Bloomer and Cherokee, Iowa. Bloomer Mayor Jeff Steinmetz and Mayor Craig Schmidt of Cherokee, Iowa, have issued a joint proclamation honoring the 100th anniversary of the supreme sacrifice of Private Martin A. Treptow (pronounced Trep-toe).
Mayors Steinmetz and Schmidt stated in their joint proclamation, “The American Legion Posts in both communities are named after him and it is most fitting for Martin A. Treptow to be formally recognized on the 100th anniversary of his death by the two communities he called home.”
Treptow was born on Jan. 19, 1894 in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and was raised in Bloomer. He later moved to Cherokee.
He was employed as a barber in the basement of what is now the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce building at 201 W Main, known also as the Schuster Building.
He barbered in the Popma Barber Shop. The Schuster Drug Store was on the main floor and became McWilliams Drug Store in March 1917.
Treptow gave his life for our nation as part of the Rainbow Division on July 28, 1918. After his death on the Western Front, he became famous for the “Soldier’s Pledge,” which was placed on WWI Liberty Bond posters. He is buried in the Bloomer City cemetery. The humble marker is pictured below. He was frequently mentioned by U.S. Senator Guy Gillette (D-IA), who left Congress in 1955. Senator Gillette was from Cherokee and was a contemporary of Martin Treptow. After the 1950’s, Martin Treptow’s story was somewhat forgotten nationally until President Reagan mentioned him in his 1981 inaugural address.
There are eight originals of the proclamation. Four are being dispersed by the City of Bloomer, including one to the niece and grand-nephew of Martin Treptow, who own his diaries. The other four are for Cherokee.
The Martin A. Treptow Story
Editor’s Note: The following is a more complete story about Martin A. Treptow and the soldier’s pledge written by Frany Yohnk. The following appeared in the Nov. 7, 2012 edition of the Bloomer Advance on the occasion of a special plaque being attached to Treptow’s grave marker.
Submitted by Frany Yohnk, Liaison Officer,
Bloomer American Legion
Under all kinds of monuments, all around the world lay all kinds of heros. Under one such marker lies a local hero, right here at the City Cemetery in Bloomer. He was a young man - Martin A. Treptow - who volunteered for a mission which ended with him paying the ultimate price by being killed in action.
In 1917, at the start of World War I, at the age of 23, he left his job as a barber in a small shop to join the Army and was assigned to the Rainbow Division which was committed to battle against the Germans in France during the War.
In the heat of a battle at that western front on that 28th day of July in 1918, a messenger was needed to deliver an important message to one of its platoons. In spite of heavy machine gun fire and artillery bombardment from the enemy, Private Martin Treptow, a barber turned Warrior, then 24 years of age, volunteered and grabbed the message and ran out under fire.
As he was nearing the platoon leader, Treptow was shot down by a hail of bullets. Later, in gathering up his personal effects, a diary was found in the blood stained shirt of this doughboy Warrior. Written in Treptow’s own handwriting were the entitled words of “My Pledge” that served as a memorial to the ultimate price he paid. On a flyleaf at the beginning of his diary he had written these words:
“America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
President Ronald Reagan recited this Pledge and made mention of Martin Treptow’s heroics during his first inaugural address as did President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After Treptow’s body was shipped back to Bloomer, the soldier’s pledge received widespread publicity and copies of it were used by the Armed Forces in patriotic posters all over the USA. Treptow’s nephew, Lyle Gehring of Roseville, Calif., remembers seeing the words 25 years later in a framed poster at the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., training camp during his World War II service. Another poster of the pledge is part of a collection in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
“It was reported that the diary was quite blood stained when it was found in his uniform pocket.” The original leather bound diary was shipped back to Bloomer to his parents, Anna and Albert Treptow. Some years later it was given to Martin Treptow’s niece, Doris Roberts of Freeport, Ill.
In 1926 when the Bloomer American Legion was chartered, his name was unanimously selected to their Namesake and this organization is still known as the Martin A. Treptow Post #295 and currently has over 200 members.
This Post, being over 85 years old, is still bustling with activity and surely Martin Treptow would be very proud of the fact that it is still providing military funeral rites for our veterans and are sponsors of so many activities such as sending students for a week to Badger Boys State Camp, sponsoring the Boy Scouts and Legion Youth Baseball to name a few. The Legion also purchases all the flags adorning the streets of Bloomer and provides college scholarships. The sending of care packages to local troops stationed around the world is also an ongoing project.
So more people may be made aware that the Bloomer American Legion is his Namesake, a special plaque has been created and permanently placed on his burial monument indicating this and what this special warrior meant to not only those who have or will serve in the military, but to all the people of the Bloomer area as well. His burial site is located near the southeast side of the Bloomer City Cemetery.