Albert Bally’s World War I Letters Home
On April 7, 1917, the United States responded to three years of uncertainty and aggression by declaring war on Germany. The U.S. was now a part of World War I. One month later, at age 20, Albert Bally left his college studies in Milwaukee to enlist in the U.S. Army. His letters home to Grand Marais over the next two years follow the highlights of America’s World War I experience, from mobilizing an army of millions of men, to combat in the trenches, to the American occupation of Germany after Armistice Day in November of 1918. With directness and sometimes humor, Al’s letters illuminate the challenges of communication and the suspense faced by American families who waited weeks for every precious letter to make it home.
Albert Bally was born in Bayfield, Wisconsin on August 10, 1896, the youngest child of Sam and Nancy Bally. Shortly thereafter, the Ballys moved to Grand Marais, where Sam opened a blacksmithing business. Al and his brother, Bill, and his sister, Blanche, grew up in Grand Marais, where they were some of the first high school graduates. Al began a degree in electrical engineering, but put his education on hold to volunteer for the U.S. Army when the United States entered the war. He served in France, Luxembourg, and Germany, and was wounded in October of 1918, before returning home in May of 1919. He achieved the rank of Corporal and served the entire war with Company C of the 107th Signal Battalion in the 32nd Division, a unit that received acclaim for its extensive combat experience.
After returning to the U.S., Al finished his degree in electrical engineering and graduated at the top of his class, married Mary Landergott of Milwaukee, and took jobs in St. Louis and Chicago. Shortly thereafter, Al and Mary moved back to Grand Marais, where he took over his father’s blacksmithing business. He remained in Grand Marais the rest of his life and was an active citizen in public affairs. Albert Bally passed away December 11, 1990, and is buried in the Maple Hill Cemetery.