“Appreciate their sacrifices” – Missouri veteran served with Army’s Veterinary Corps in World War I

The website of the U.S. Army Medical Department states that the Veterinary Corps was established through the National Defense Act on June 3, 1916 and, although comprised of 72 veterinary officers and no enlisted personnel at the beginning of World War I, grew in size to 2,312 officers and 16,391 enlisted personnel within 18 months.

Though Gundelfinger’s duties kept him in the United States during the war, his service with the Veterinary Corps played a critical role in ensuring the country’s success by supplying healthy horses and mules that could be used to carry supplies and pull guns and other types of heavy equipment throughout France.

During WWI, the Veterinary Corps grew exponentially through both enlistments and the draft. Above is one of the recruiting posters used by the Veterinary Corps during the war. U.S. Army photograph.

Gundelfinger’s service kept him in South Carolina until nearly three months after the war’s end, but in February 1919, he was transferred to the Veterinary Corps’ Auxiliary Remount Depot No. 313 at Camp Shelby, Miss., where he performed duties that were primarily clerical in nature until receiving his discharge from the Army on May 21, 1919.

Census records indicate that after his return from the war, he lived with his parents and became involved in the real estate industry as a “land appraiser.” His name would appear frequently in the local area newspapers during the summer of 1952 over a dispute with the Capital City Water Company.

“The wrangle stems from complaints by Green Berry Rd. residents about low water pressure and the company’s pledge to improve the service,” reported the Jefferson City Post-Tribune on July 14, 1952. “The company wants easement rights across Gundelfinger’s property … for the laying of an 8-inch water main.”

Despite the argument by Gundelfinger’s attorney that the water company failed to make a reasonable offer for easement rights, the Circuit Court granted the easement through a “decree of condemnation” on July 28, 1952.

As the years passed, the WWI veteran remained active in real estate pursuits; however, the 67-year-old Gundelfinger passed away in St. Louis on April 1, 1964 from complications related to a surgery, dying a single man with no children.

All that remains of the veteran’s legacy is a timeworn marker quietly tucked within the confines of Woodland Cemetery, but Thompson and the members of the Cemetery Resources Board are hopeful the experiences of Gundelfinger and other local veterans can be remembered and shared with the younger generations.

“I believe we need to respect the memory of all who have gone before,” said Thompson. “Veterans of the earlier wars, WWII and prior, suffered particular hardships and I don’t think that we can fully appreciate their sacrifices 100 or more years later. If their stories aren’t retold periodically, their accomplishments and contributions fade and are forgotten.”

She added, “I don’t want these people to be forgotten.”