Henry Joseph Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, was twenty-six years old when he enlisted in the Iowa National Guard in December 1907. He enlisted for a term of three years with Company L of the 56th Infantry, and received an honorable discharge when his term was complete. His character was noted to be “excellent” and his service “honest and faithful.”
In December 1917, ten years after he had first enlisted with the Iowa National Guard, Henry enlisted once again, this time with Company D of the 4th Infantry. The United States had entered the “Great War” in April of that year, and by June the first draft registration was underway. Henry, now thirty-six, was not included in this first draft (which was limited to men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one), but perhaps he saw the writing on the wall and considered that service with the National Guard might put him in a better position than if he were to wait to be eventually drafted. In July 1918, he was appointed corporal, but soon thereafter his trajectory was altered.
Henry, a carpenter, relocated to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he became an employee of the George Leary Construction Company at the Norfolk Navy Yard. He commenced work on 01 September 1918, and on 12 September, when the third draft registration, for men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, was initiated, he dutifully completed his registration. He was called home to Iowa in late September when, tragically, his five-year-old son succumbed to extensive burns received when he fell into a fire. It could not have been easy for Henry to bid farewell to his wife and surviving son, who was ten years old, to return to the shipyards once again.
In late October, Henry became an employee of the United States government, assisting in the construction of a power plant at the Norfolk Navy Yard. It was on these grounds, as a skilled laborer in a necessary industrial occupation, that he completed a questionnaire claiming deferred classification of military duties. His work entailed building concrete forms; he stated that he had four years of specific experience, and six years of additional general experience. His daily wages amounted to eight dollars and twenty-five cents, and he was the sole supporter of his wife and child.
The questionnaire was signed and dated on 05 November 1918—less than one week before armistice would occur, marking the conclusion of the war on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Perhaps Henry’s questionnaire was never even submitted, or was returned to him in short order, which might explain how it ended up among other assorted family papers and survived for more than a century.
I have no record of when Henry’s employment at the Norfolk Navy Yard nor his service with the Iowa National Guard formally concluded. However, Henry would continue to apply his carpentry skills in the service of the government periodically throughout the rest of his life. During the Great Depression, he found employment with the Works Progress Administration, and during World War II, he was employed at a United States Air Force base near Sioux City before temporarily relocating to Portland, Oregon, where he once again became an essential worker in the shipyards.
Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
Iowa National Guard Certificate, Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, 06 January 1911; Adam Family; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.
Military Deferment Questionnaire, Form 1001, Office of the Provost Marshall General, for Henry Joseph Adam, Portsmouth, Virginia, 05 November 1918; Adam Family; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.
“World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 April 2021), card for Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives microfilm publication M1509; imaged from Family History Library film roll 1,643,352.
“Henry J. Adam” in Lasher, Louis G., Report of the Adjutant General of Iowa: For the Biennial Period Ended June 30, 1920 (Des Moines: The State of Iowa, 1920), 125; from “U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 April 2021).