Goff Brothers Across Pond with 88th Division–100 Years Ago

The three Goff brothers–Merl, Wayne, and Jennings from Guthrie County, Iowa–had arrived in France in August of 1918. The 88th Division assembled near Semur, Cote d’Or, France, for open warfare training.

News reached Guthrie Center the end of September that the first local boy, Omar Sherer, had been killed in early August.

The Guthrie Times reported Red Cross Notes that their Annual Meeting was to be held October 1 at the court house to elect officers. “A call has come for the collection of old clothes for Belgian Relief. Anything will be acceptable just so it is clean, strong and durable. Shoes are also wanted, in all sizes, scraps of canton flannel to make garments for new born babies. Bring in anything you have within the next ten days and leave in the show room of the Moore Garage. . . . Also an urgent call has come for the collection of fruit stones, fruit pits and nut shells to be used in making carbon for the protection of our soldiers against the German gas shells. Please have them clean and dry and bring them at once to the Red Cross rooms, where they will be shipped.”

From September 26 to November 11, over a million US troops participate in the Meuse-Argonne campaign, including the 88th Division, which served in support and reserve positions.  

By September 20, wide-spread influenza had set in among soldiers of the 88th Division in France. In eight days there were 1370 cases in one regiment alone. On October 14, there were eighty deaths. In all, there were 444 deaths in all from influenza and pneumonia. Soldiers’ letters were censored, and the Goff brothers did not breathe a word about any sickness.

See also: World War I reaches into Guthrie County

Sources: Goff family letters, 88th Division in the World War of 1914-1918.

Story from Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots


  1. Fascinating, especially the call for “the collection of fruit stones, fruit pits and nut shells to be used in making carbon” which I have not heard of before.

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