In trying to choose which soldier (or military person) to write about, I decided to go for a Meintzer Trifecta, and pick one of the Kranz cousins. Unfortunately, travel limited my sources of information, and I wasn’t *quite* sure if Glenn Dale Kranz (a Rondout Kranz cousin), had died in the service, or just died in 1945, unrelated to WWII.
So I switched gears and looked at the family of my half grandaunt, Catherine (Kate) Meintzer Warren. Kate’s daughter, Mabel (1895-1973), married Frank E. Krenek (born 3 October 1889, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio). They married in Cuyahoga County 5 July 1911, and had 2 sons, Walter Roy (b. 1912), and Robert.
Frank became a soldier in WWI, leaving Mabel at home in South Haven, Michigan (on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan) with at least one, maybe 2 young boys.
He’s listed on a Europe-bound transport at Fold3, showing him leaving Hoboken, New Jersey on the Kroonland, 15 June 1918, service number 822037 . He returned from Europe after 19 April 1919, sailing from Pauillac, France, on the Canonicus, heading back to Mabel, now living in Chicago, at 6927 Solinin Street. It took almost 2 weeks before they arrived in Brooklyn, New York.
Much of Frank’s time in Europe is a mystery. He was a member of the Park Battery A , Army Artillery Park, 1st Army. My mom remembered hearing from her parents that he had been gassed during the war, and was never quite right, afterwards.
Mustard gas, of course, was the high tech weapon of that era. Its primary consequences were physical, with soldiers exposed to it experienced symptoms of:
- eye irritation/burning
- itchy skin that then developed yellow blisters
- runny nose, hoarse throat, shortness of breath, coughing
- abdominal pin, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting
Which symptoms, and their severity, probably depended on the individual, and how long (or concentrated) the exposure was. The other major injury was “shell shock.” That was the term used before it converted to PTSD.
Some time after the war, when Walter was an adult, Frank apparently took off. No one knew where he was or how to find him, but one day Mabel received a phone call from police out west, I believe. Frank had been picked up, not in trouble, particularly, but disoriented and confused. He was able to give them Mabel’s phone number, though.
Walter went to retrieve his father (Car? Train?), because the officers didn’t want to release him, fearing he wouldn’t get back home.
I don’t know how that trip went, or exactly when it was, but in the 1940 census, Frank resided in the Veterans’ Hospital in Shields Township. My guess is that was a result of his “road trip.” Why did the gas exposure story get passed down and the shell shock (assuming that’s accurate) not? Who knows? Maybe being “gassed” was a more concrete idea for people than “shell shock.”
The 1930 census placed Frank, Mabel, and Walter in a rental house in Cicero (southside). By 1935, a city directory moved Frank and Mabel to 721 Jenkinson Court, in Waukegan (a northern Chicago suburb). That agreed with the 1940 census which claimed he lived in Chicago in 1935. That probably narrows down the roadtrip to between 1935 and 1940.
I do not have information from family members about his death. The U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006 database at Ancestry has an entry for Frank E. Krenek, which matched his information on his service unit. It shows Frank died 10 March 1963, and was buried in the Wood National Cemetery, in Milwaukee.
Briggs, Josh. 2008. “How Mustard Gas Works”. Howstuffworks. https://science.howstuffworks.com/mustard-gas3.htm. Accessed 24 November 2019.