Several times each year the museum selects a Minnesota veteran whose military service deserves note. A short biography is written and a special exhibit is created near the Veterans' Support Wall in the museum.
Sergeant Oscar William Fode
Company B, 527th Engineer Service Battalion
Oscar was born on April 17, 1894 in South Russia. The Fode family immigrated to the United States in 1898 when Oscar was 4 years old, and settled in Logan County, North Dakota. A young Oscar spent his boyhood days driving cattle and helping his father run a livery stable. After finishing grade school in Gackle, ND, he didn’t have the time or money to continue his formal education. However, realizing the value of a good education, he was able to convince his father to give him the time to take a 12 month business course at the Dakota Business College in Fargo, ND. After finishing his studies at the business college, he went back home to start work at the bank in Gackle.
International events interrupted his work at the bank, and with the country at war Oscar enlisted in the US Army on March 28, 1918 and joined Company B, 527th Engineer Service Battalion. He was cited numerous times for the excellent performance of his duties and professionalism, and was considered for a promotion to the officer ranks. After his discharge from the US Army on July 14, 1919, he returned home and married Amelia Zimmerman. He continued working in the bank, and later moved to Jamestown ND where he started a number of successful businesses. Some of those included car dealerships, credit companies, and sales and service companies.
Oscar passed away on March 11, 1971 in Jamestown, North Dakota.
A special thank you to Sheryl Ramstad and her husband Lee Larson, as well as her brother, former Minnesota State Senator and later member of the US House of Representatives Jim Ramstad for making this display possible. Sheryl and Jim are the grandchildren of Oscar.
The 527th consisted mostly of African American soldiers, commanded by white officers and non-commissioned officers. Some of their duties included building bridges, repairing roads, and providing crucial logistical support for combat units to be able to complete their missions. Many of the engineer units consisted mostly of African American troops, who were strictly segregated, with the exception of a few front-line combat units. The service they provided to the US Army was critical to the success of operations in France. Facing discrimination both at home and in the military, they nonetheless enlisted in large numbers, and by wars end over 350,000 African American soldiers proudly and faithfully served in the armed forces. It wasn’t until 1948 that President Harry Truman signed an executive order that completely integrated US Armed Forces.