By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, MN The Paul F. Dille American Legion Post 364 celebrated its 93rd anniversary by honoring its founding members all World War I veterans and World War II veterans at a program that took place Aug. 29 at the Dassel History Center.
It was the fall of 1919, just after the end of World War I, when 15 Dassel veterans of “The Great War,” as it was called at the time, signed an initial post charter.
By the time the permanent charter was granted for the post, which was to be named the Paul F. Dille American Legion Post 364 in honor of the first Dassel man to die in any war, there were 59 members listed on the charter.
At the program, attendees were welcomed with slide shows set to patriotic and time period music regarding the world wars.
Steve Dille, a great-nephew of Paul F. Dille, was the featured speaker at the event, and gave a presentation about the life of Paul F. Dille.
Other speakers were Dassel History Center director Carolyn Holje, Boys State attendee Cory Jacques, Veterans Service Officer Donald Dufner, and Legion Commander Mark Olsen.
Before going to the Dassel Community Cemetery for a 21-gun salute, descendents of World War I veterans Walter O. Dille and Arthur S. Baden were given certificates of honor.
World War II veterans in attendance were also recognized for their service to the country.
Life of Paul F. Dille casualty in WWI
Steve Dille began his presentation describing Paul Ferdinand Dille with six phrases:
• Dassel farm boy;
• athlete baseball and boxing;
• scholar valedictorian of Dassel High School and graduate of college with a degree in commerce;
• patriotic Christian;
• US Marine 1917-18, killed in action July 21, 1918;
• first person killed in action in any war that was from Dassel.
Steve continued by reading a short biography about Paul that was written by his uncle, former president of Moorhead State University, Roland Dille.
Paul was born April 3, 1893 on a farm on Lake Jennie owned by his parents, Peter and Christine (Persson) Dille.
The family moved one mile north of Dassel in 1910, which was likely good for Paul, Roland noted.
Paul attended Dassel High School, becoming a star pupil in the class of 11 students 10 of whom were girls. He graduated as valedictorian in 1912.
“A great future was anticipated for [Paul],” it was noted. Going on to college at Hamline University, Paul decided to transfer due to high tuition and graduated from Minnesota College with a degree in commerce May 25, 1917.
Karl Gayner also graduated from Minnesota College that year, and is one of the charter members of the Paul F. Dille American Legion, it was noted.
Paul enlisted in the H.S. Marine Corps the next day, writing and asking his brother, Oliver, to explain to his parents why he felt the need to enlist.
Serving on a Marine detachment that served on ships, the detachment left the ships to assist in the American Expeditionary Force in France.
The Western Front of World War I was fought in the trenches and was almost static. However, in the early spring of 1918, German generals decided to attack the Allies, moving west.
The assault failed as the Marines were joined by Moroccans and Senegalese, fighting for the first time beside the French.
Paul wrote home July 14 about the wonderful wheat he saw, wondering if it would ever be harvested.
Within a few days, he was advancing through those fields as the Allied forces began their big offensive against the Germans.
Advancing six miles south to Soissons with the Allies, Paul was killed in battle July 21, 1918 the first Dassel citizen killed in action in any war.
In his letters home, Paul often explained his reasoning for enlisting in the Marines during a time of war, Steve noted.
For instance, a Christmas letter sent to his parents in 1917 stated, “But eats and a good time do not make up a Christmas celebration. I feel that I am just as happy out here as I would be at any place because I am under His care who sleeps not.
“Some day we will, all of us, celebrate our Christmas in a land when we can always be together and be happy for all times.
“I am glad that I can say that no matter what happens to me, I know that I will see and enjoy that promised land; and, as one person said, ‘Heaven is as close on the sea as it is on land.’”
In the letter, Paul continues to explain his decision to sacrifice and serve his country in its time of need, even though it meant giving up the comforts of home.
“I am sure that all of you feel that I should not have stayed at home when our country needed all the men she could get,” Paul wrote.
Writing home to his brother March 2, 1918, Paul stated, “Although I have often kicked myself for having gone to sea, I, at the same time, would not like to now be on the outside.”
He wrote that at least one from the family had to go, and his brothers could not get away, so he had “it all planned out it was my place to go.”
Paul told his brother he was doing as much as him, as “we could not live without our farmers.”
“I am sorry if I caused mom or dad grief by joining, but at the same time I do not think they would want it said that they were not brave or patriotic enough to stake something on this war,” Paul wrote.
He goes on to say that he wished to make it home, but if he does not he will be resting in eternal peace, meeting all his relatives in Heaven where they will never be separate.
He was sure he was fighting on the Lord’s side, because the war was to make the world safer for all people.
Finally, Paul wrote, “I think it is unworthy of the people who try by all kinds of schemes to keep their sons out of this war. They came to this country without a thing on earth and now when they have grown prosperous and happy in the shade of Old Glory, they are unwilling to repay for their prosperity.”