Annie Hatlie, who turned 25 in the summer of 1918, was one of countless women aiding the United States in World War I.
Born Annie Mickelson on July 24, 1893 to farmers who settled near Walcott, North Dakota, Hatlie began her training as a nurse in October 1913. Following nearly five years of education and hospital experience in Fargo, she enlisted as a Red Cross nurse before joining the Army Nurses Corps.
“We had about 15 Fargo nurses (at Camp Lewis, Tacoma, Washington) so I felt very much at home,” Hatlie wrote. “I was there two weeks when I was placed in charge of Ward 33 where we first had mumps, measles and flu.”
Hatlie and her fellow members of the Army Nurse Corps might not have known fighting would cease that November, with the war itself officially coming to a close in June 1919. The nurses probably could not have guessed that just over two years after Hatlie’s Aug. 6, 1918 enlistment, she and other American women would be able to vote.
What they did know is that they were serving their country.
“She is our champion and she deserves to be recognized,” said Darlene Lee, director of Richland County Community Service.
Lee and Jenny Anderson, assistant veteran service officer in Richland County, North Dakota, want Hatlie’s gravesite to receive full recognition of her wartime service. Hatlie, who died on Oct. 10, 1936, is buried at Fairview Cemetery, Wahpeton.
The recognition situation is complicated because Hatlie wasn’t a U.S. Army registrant and did not receive a service number nor an official discharge from active duty. The DD Form 214 is commonly used for when applying for military markers at a gravesite. Hatlie’s gravesite has included recognition of her women’s auxiliary involvement.
“My focus currently is for women being recognized for the services they provided to the war effort,” Lee said. “There are women who served in World War I, in World War II, as late as Vietnam who aren’t being recognized.”
In February 1922, Annie married Martin Hatlie, a fellow veteran from Abercrombie, North Dakota. Their marriage lasted until her death. In 1939, Martin Hatlie transitioned from serving as a deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office to serving as Richland County District Judge, a title he held until 1957. He died in 1965.
“These people are a part of Wahpeton and Richland County’s history,” Lee said.
Age took a backseat to ability for many women.
Florence F. Huseby was born Jan. 10, 1901 in Galveston, Minnesota. After her husband Harold died in battle in 1943, Huseby entered the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), where she served as a nurse for three years. Huseby lived nearly 40 years after World War II, dying on March 13, 1984. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Wahpeton.
“We have information on just a sampling of women. These are the ones who are buried in town that we know of,” Lee said.
By spreading the word about women’s wartime service, Lee and Anderson are hopeful that Twin Towns Area residents might take a second look around their homes and perhaps at their family members.
“There are more men who are getting markers long after they served,” Lee said. “Some had come home from Vietnam and didn’t want to be recognized. But we’re also finding out about men who served in the Civil War or World War I, whose families didn’t even know about their service. They had no opportunity to learn.”
For all the men whose wartime service is just being recognized, there is a growing number of women with potential for belated recognition.
Murl LaVerne Fodness Smith, who died on Dec. 9, 2012, is buried with full military recognition in Fairview Cemetery. Countless Twin Towns Area residents know Smith’s last name: she and husband Bryce, a fellow veteran, founded Smith Motors, which opened in Wahpeton in 1960.
What many residents might not know is that Murl Smith entered the WACs on July 9, 1942. Not only did she reach the level of captain, Smith also served as Company Commander at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C.; Company Commander at Eglin Air Field, Florida and as an administrative aide to General Curtis in England and France.
“When I entered the service, for me to become an officer, it was because of these women who broke ground,” Lee said.
Smith’s postwar service included becoming the first president of the North Dakota Physical Education Association and membership with organizations including the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Bethel Lutheran Church, Wahpeton.
Anderson has a personal connection with the late Emeth Boyer, who died June 16, 2019 at age 95. Boyer was her great-aunt, raised in rural Colfax, North Dakota. She’s buried in Fairview Cemetery.
Boyer didn’t enlist in World War II. Her husband, Bud, was drafted on March 23, 1943. According to Anderson, Emeth Boyer traveled with her husband as he moved from fort to fort, doing what she could with countless other women.
“She worked as a riveter for Boeing, assembling turrets for B-24 Liberator heavy bombers,” Boyer’s obituary states. “Rosie the Riveter said ‘We can do it,’ and Em did.”
Following World War II, the Boyers eventually returned to North Dakota. They farmed and raised Holstein cattle and later in life, Emeth Boyer served hot lunches for over a decade to Wyndmere Public Schools students.
“She won’t get any recognition on her grave, because she wasn’t enlisted,” Anderson said. “But she did what she could on the home front. There were a lot of ladies out there who were just like her.”
Fairview Cemetery includes many families, including the Dixons. Robert Dixon, a former cook at the Hotel Wahpeton, died in Williston, North Dakota, but was returned to Wahpeton.
“You’d be surprised how many of these people were brought back from everywhere else to come back home,” Lee said. “Their moms or dads might have bought burial plots and so all their loved ones were brought back here to be buried with their family. They’re all back together again.”
Sandra Dixon Hall, who served in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam, is buried with military recognition beside her father. She died Dec. 17, 1984 at age 38.
Over the past 10 years, Lee, the Veterans Service Office and other officials have worked to learn more about the people at Wahpeton’s cemeteries.
“We’re trying to connect their families with these memories, give them their life back and credit for achievements,” Lee said.
They were nurses, WACs and eventually non-segregated military members or the “Rosie the Riveter”s of their communities. After decades of obscurity, they’re receiving more attention for service.