The Berserker

Major Axel “Rass” Rasmussen †
97th (American Legion) BattalionRasmussen

Rasmussen was a big, handsome man; fearless in war and pitiless to four-flushers anywhere, any time.

(J. W. Pegler, Evening News, 26 June 1918, 2)

“But so far I’ve always found that a man has time to get down to avoid the fragments— if he moves fast. If it’s got your initials on it— well, no one but a prime so-and-so wants to live forever!”- Maj. Rasmussen

(E. S. Johnston,  Americans vs. Germans: the First AEF in Action, 1942, 33)

Axel Thorvald Rasmussen was one of the American Legion’s most famous members. The thirty-eight year old, Danish-born resident of Oregon was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. During the Mexico Revolution, he fought in support of General Obregón’s army. Regarding his previous fights as “mere skirmishes,” in 1916, Rasmussen traveled to Canada in order to join Lieutenant Colonel Wade Jolly’s 97th American Legion.

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The Mercenary

Lieutenant Colonel Wade L. Jolly
97th (American Legion) BattalionJolly

I am an American though having sworn allegiance to His Majesty King George, and I most respectfully submit that the treatment I have received since I have been in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in England has been a burning disgrace.

(Court martial of Lt. Col. Jolly, 23 Aug 1917)

Born on 18 January 1878 in Iowa, Wade Lytton Jolly was an American soldier, adventurer and businessman. At the age of 19, he enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War. In 1899, he joined the United States Marine Corps. Serving for fourteen years, he saw action in many overseas military campaigns including China and Panama. During the Boxer Rebellion, Jolly distinguished himself in several acts of “conspicuous gallantry.” His superior, Major Littleton Walker, enthused, “The reports of Mr. Jolly’s conduct are most flattering and they come in from all sides. This is the second time I have had occasion to make special mention of this young officer during the week.”

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