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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Spokane: Boy turned down for Navy, immigrants applying for citizenship asked extra loyalty questions as U.S. prepares for WWI

As the United States prepared for World War I, a large patriotic rally was planned, recruiters asked pastors to encourage men to volunteer for National Guard, and a 12-year-old boy was turned down for military service by the Navy, The Spokesman-Review reported on April 1, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

A variety of war-related news filled the pages of The Spokesman-Review as the U.S. prepared to declare war on Germany.

A national guard recruiter asked the city’s ministers to “sound a call for recruits” from their pulpits.

He said the guard needed the men, and it was the patriotic duty of everyone, even ministers, to lend their support.

More than 20 applicants for U.S. citizenship were subjected to pointed questions about their loyalty. Among the questions were: If the U.S. and your native country went to war, which would you support? And would it be wholehearted support?

Of the 21 applicants, 20 successfully “withstood the quizzing,” including four Germans.

Charles Ellis of Spokane was turned down by U.S. Navy recruiters in Spokane for one very good reason: He was 12.

Tears rolled down the cheeks of young Charles when told he was too young. The recruiter offered to enroll him in a Boy Scout troop – even though he was actually too young for that, as well.

A second “monster patriotic rally” was being planned during the next week at the Spokane Armory. The first one attracted 5,000 people and vast overflow crowds. For this event, they wanted to form the Spokane Patriotic League For Service, and were expecting 5,000 “charter members.”

Spokane’s national guardsmen disembarked at Camp Cosgrove (part of today’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord) and “set a record for rapid pitching of camp. Of the 2,000 guardsmen mobilized, “not one was placed on sick report,” according to a correspondent on the scene.