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Pvt. Dick Steenhoek

Company K Runner, 325th Infantry, 82nd Division

WWI 1917-1919

Dick Steenhoek was born on October 13th 1894 in Marion County, Iowa four and a half miles from a little town called Pella on his grandfather’s farm. His parent’s names were Arie Ariese Steenhoek and Johanna Van Ryswyk both of Iowa but of Dutch heritage. The name Steenhoek is a Dutch name meaning “Stone Corner.”

Dick Steenhoek’s father Arie Steenhoek was born in September of 1867 likely in or near Lake Prairie Township of Marion County, Iowa. When Arie was 12 years old his family lived on a farm there. Arie’s father was a farmer and his name was Gysbert G. Steenhoek born on August 17, 1837 in the city of Old Beyerland, Netherlands. When he was 18 he immigrated to America and settled in Pella, Iowa. Gysbert enlisted in the 17th Iowa Infantry Company on February 1, 1862 and took part in the battles of Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, and Vicksburg. Gysbert was severely wounded at the latter battle; and was in the hospital at Memphis and Jackson barracks where he was discharged from the Army. Gysbert’s wife was named Hendrika Klyn also born in Holland about 1846. The family of Gysbert and Hendrika consisted of 14 children, 8 girls and 6 boys, one child died as an infant, Arie being second eldest. Gysbert and Hendrika were married on July 18, 1865 and lived on two farms they owned. One farm was 179-acres and the second was a 90-acre farm. On the Northwest part of the 179-acre farm was the Battle Ridge School where all of Gysbert and Hendrika’s children were educated. Gysbert was the Road Supervisor and also the School Director of the Battle Ridge School for five years.

Dick’s mother, Johanna Van Ryswyk was born in March of 1871 in Iowa and judging by her name she too was of obvious Dutch heritage. She married Arie Steenhoek on March 16, 1892. When Dick Steenhoek was 5 years old his family lived in Lake Prairie Township of Marion County, Iowa, which was on the 90-acre farm of his grandfather Gysbert Steenhoek. Dick Steenhoek’s father was also a farmer and Arie and Johanna Steenhoek in June of 1900 had 4 sons at that time. The four boys in the family were eldest son Gysbert A. born April of 1893, Dick born October 13th of 1894, Henry born March 3rd 1897 and Pete born in November 11th of 1898. On the 1900 Census form Dick’s name is spelled “Dirk” and he was known as Dirk in his early years as Dirk is Dutch for Dick. The family expanded after 1900 to include 5 more children, Henrietta born in 1901, Jenny born in 1903, William born in 1907, Orpha born in 1915 and Ruth born in 1918. There were 3 children who died in infancy. In January of 1910 the family had moved from Lake Prairie Township to a farm in Jasper County, Iowa and son Gysbert had by then moved away on his own.

Dick recalls this story about the old Battle Ridge School: “My father Arie who served as the school director one morning found a big hole burned in the floor in front of the stove that heated the school. It was lucky that the schoolhouse was not burned to the ground. There were no telephones, and I remember my father went to Pella to get whatever lumber they needed and to get a carpenter. I do not remember just what year this was, but I do know that it had to be before 1904.” Dick’s brother Henry only went through the 8th grade and then went to work on the family farm.

Dick (Dirk) was baptized in the Christian Reformed Church in Pella in 1894 and joined the Christian Reformed Church in Prairie City in 1917 before entering the Army. Dick attended the Battle Ridge School and school in Marion and Jasper Counties. Dick worked as a farm hand and in the Prairie City Garage. As America entered into the First World War three of the Steenhoek brothers, Dick, Henry and Peter registered for the draft. It is known that Dick and Henry both were in the service during WWI.

Dick registered for the draft in Monroe, Iowa on June 5th, 1917 and at the time he worked as a farm hand for E. C. Livingston and was single. Dick was Medium height and slender build with dark blue eyes and dark hair. It is interesting that when Dick Steenhoek signed his name on the Draft Card he signed, “Dirk” so he was still using the Dutch spelling by that time.

Exactly one year to the day Henry registered for the draft in Newton, Iowa, after struggling to get to Newton due to the muddy conditions of the roads at the time. Henry worked for his father as a farm hand. The family farm was located at Rural Route #2 in Prairie City, Iowa. Peter Steenhoek registered for the Draft on September 12 1918 also at Newton, Iowa. Peter, like his older brother Henry work for his father Arie Steenhoek on the farm. Dick and Peter both had blue eyes but Henry had brown eyes.

During World War I, Henry Steenhoek (service No. 4817102) served in the U.S. Army in the Ambulance Corps. He sailed to France on January 28, 1919 and was assigned to the 163rd Depot Brigade from enlistment until October 8, 1918. Sailed to France on the 28th of January 1919 and then was reassigned to the Evacuation Hospital No. 33 until February 11, 1919 when he was again moved to Base Hospital 69. On June 10, 1919 Henry was moved again this time to Hospital Train No. 43 and was with this unit until discharged. Henry Steenhoek returned from the war, married on February 14, 1923 and raised a family of nine children, five of which lived to adulthood. Henry’s wife’s name was Vera Pauline Berkenbosch and she was born about 1901. After their marriage Henry worked as a hired hand for Albert Van Howeling near Otley, where Beverly and Willadean were born. They later had their own farm, west of Monroe, and farmed like his father and grandfather before him. In the 1930’s Henry became the Town Marshall in Monroe, Iowa where his duties among being a peace officer was to maintain the Streets, Parks and the towns water system. He then went to work for George Orcutt raising seed corn at the Orcutt farm, which was located on the north side of Monroe. The Orcutt Seed Co. expanded and was later sold to Pfisters Associated Growers. Hank worked 30 years for Pfisters, retiring at the age of 69, after being injured on the job. He did work seasonally (spring and fall), at Pfisters for about five years after his retirement. After he retired he became a Boy Scout leader, taking boys camping and fishing and was involved in voluntary work for the church relief society. He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints of Newton. Henry was a charter member of the American Legion and Past Commander of the Monroe Chapter, and of the Jasper County World War I Veterans. He also was a member, for 35 years, of the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department. Henry’s favorite pastimes were gardening and fishing and he passed away in February of 1981 in Jasper, Iowa.

Dick Steenhoek (service No. 2153440) entered the Army shortly after he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. Dick was first assigned to Camp Dodge, Iowa where he was assigned to the 350th Infantry in the Machinegun Company. At Camp Dodge on April 1, 1918, 5,000 men were selected and Dick was among those selected and was reassigned to Camp Gordon in Atlanta, Georgia where the 325th Infantry was being formed. The 325th Infantry was part of the famous 82nd Division and Dick was a Private in Company K, 325th Infantry. During April of 1918 the 325th Infantry was moved to Camp Upton, New York for final preparation before sailing orders. Those orders came and on the 25th of April 1918 the entire 325th Infantry was moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. Each man called his name as he walked past the Embarkation Officer up the gangplank. In order to expedite the loading of the ship, the men were sent on different routes when they reached deck. Consequently all were mixed in the holds called "compartments" below. It seemed impossible for the required numbers to get into the space allotted, much less to live there. But officers and men must stay below until the ship was completely loaded. Every man was soon busy fixing his hammock to the hooks in the ceiling and adjusting his life belt, assuring himself of whatever comfort and safety was available for the voyage. The 1st and 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry consisting of 58 officers and 2,082 enlisted men went aboard the British ship HMS Khyler Baltic and the 3rd Battalion of the 325th with 45 officers and 1,406 enlisted men went aboard another British ship the HMS Karmala.

As the convoy of 14 troop ships and their escorts sailed out to sea Pvt. Steenhoek took one last look and the Statue of Liberty as she grew ever smaller on the vanishing horizon. Thoughts of when he would ever see that lady Liberty again must have been running through the mind of the farm boy from Iowa. As soon as the ship had cleared the harbor the men came up on deck. The few English-speaking men of the crew were busy answering questions. The crew was made up of Portuguese and East Indians. Pvt. Steenhoek found himself sailing on a British ship. The Karmala had been in the India freight service and her true character, "Tramp Ship" came out a little later as she was a slow ship and had trouble keeping up speed in the convoy. Port side was on the right, starboard on the left as you faced the direction in which the ship was going. It was hard to get the decks figured out.

The convoy finally reached the other side of the Atlantic and they were unloaded at Liverpool, England. During the brief stay in England the 325th Infantry Regiment on May 11, 1918 was paraded for King George, as the Regiment was the first US troops to cross through England before going to France. King George presented a letter of thanks, which was handed out to each man. This letter read: “Soldiers of the United States, the people of the British Isles welcome you on your way to take your stand beside the Armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom. The Allies will gain new heart and spirit in your company. I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you and bid you God speed on your mission. George R. J.”

Within a few days Pvt. Steenhoek found himself and his Regiment sailed again this time for Le Harve, France. The 325th Infantry saw its first action along the Toul Sector when they were put in the line from June 25-August 9th. They saw the next actions along the Marbache Sector also near Toul, France from August 17-September 11th. During the St. Mihiel offensive, September 12-16, which was the first action made by a totally American Army, Pvt. Steenhoek received a medal for helping save the town.

In the fall of 1918 there was a new large offensive planned to launch against the Germans in the Meuse-Argonne region. The 325th Infantry was to take part in this great offensive in which one out of every ten men would be wounded or killed. The start of this offensive was on the 26th of September but the 325th took part in the fight from October 6-31st. As the 325th was marched from the St. Mihiel area to the Meuse-Argonne they had to cross several rivers one of which had to be crossed on foot as the bridge was blown out. Pvt. Steenhoek recalls that he had to wade through waist deep mud and for the next 18 days he had wet shoes and socks.

On the 10th of October 1918 at 4:00 A.M. the 325th Infantry had taken positions on the line relieving elements of the 327th and 328th Infantry poised for the attack but the Corps Headquarters postponed the attack until 7:00 A.M. At which time the attack was launched behind a heavy artillery barrage, and supported by direct overhead machine-gun fire. Little resistance was encountered and the 325th Infantry reached the Corps objective. Acting under instructions from the Corps, the 164th Infantry Brigade, at 10:35 a. m., ordered the enemy driven beyond the Aire River. Support companies were passed through the front line and patrolled to the river but no enemy infantry was en-countered. On the right, Company G and two platoons of Company H established themselves at Martincourt Ferme. The other two platoons of Company H took positions near point 177. These troops established an outpost line and patrolled to the Aire River. Pursuant to orders of the 164th Infantry Brigade, Company K, 325th Infantry, which was then in reserve near Hill 223, was directed to establish a combat-liaison post between the 1st Division and the 82nd Division. It took up a position near the crossing of the Fléville-Baulny and the Exermont-Châtel-Chéhéry roads. Pvt. Steenhoek was a runner for the 3rd Battalion and saw action carrying messages back and forth. He remembers that several men were lost during this time including two Captains. It was here that Pvt. Steenhoek soon would also become causality. Steenhoek recounts: “At last count only 100 survived out of 1,000 in out unit. If the Germans would have known that, they would have come through, though they may have been down that many soldiers too.”

On October 11th The 327th Infantry was in position for the attack at 5:00 in the morning. The 3d Battalion, less Company K, which had been broken up due to heavy losses was assigned to other companies of the regiment, was to pass through the 2d Battalion. The 2d Battalion was then to follow in support. Just before 5:00 A.M. instructions were received to postpone the attack to conform to field orders of the I Corps. These instructions were relayed to the advanced troops, who attacked from the Sommerance-St. Juvin road at 7:00 A.M., without artillery support and no tanks arrived to support the attack. Relatively good progress was made, and the leading elements of the 3d Battalion, which, with both flanks exposed, crossed the ridge southeast of St. Juvin and penetrated the enemy wires northwest of Hill 230. Enemy resistance was too strong, however, for these advanced positions to be held, and a under cover of machine gun fire a withdrawal to the vicinity of the Sommerance-St. Juvin road was ordered about 9:30 A.M.

The 2d Battalion of the 325th Infantry was put into the line along the road, on the right of the 3d Battalion, with all four companies in line. About 11:40 A.M. the 164th Infantry Brigade ordered a withdrawal, under cover of machine-gun fire, to positions, which could be held. Further withdrawal was made to the positions of the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, south of the road. The movement was completed about 1:00 that afternoon.

About 5:00 P.M. the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, advanced as ordered, passing through elements of the other two battalions and the right of the 325th Infantry, and gained its objective about 7:00 P.M. Some of its troops withdrew from the summit of the ridge during the evening, but returned before midnight and organized the crest for defense. Units of the 325th Infantry were outpost on the right of this line. Liaison was secured with those units of the 325th Infantry, which were to the left.

Early in the day, Company K had been sent across the Aire River to maintain liaison with the 1st Division. Shortly after receipt of the brigade orders, the 325th Infantry directed its 3d Battalion, less Company K, which was still in reserve in the, vicinity of Hill 223 to march via Fléville in time to reach the line of departure by 5:00 A.M. the next morning.

On the 14th of October, the 326th Infantry attacked at 8:30 in the morning. In the course of the advance, portions of the 2nd Battalion reinforced the 3rd Battalion from time to time, until the two were practically merged. The attack of the 77th Division did not succeed in crossing the Aire River during the morning and consequently, when the 3rd Battalion attempted to extend west to the divisional boundary, it received heavy fire from St. Juvin, which had not been taken. About 10:00 that morning two platoons of Company K, a detachment of the Machine-Gun Company, 325th Infantry, and portions of Company A, 320th Machine-Gun Battalion raided the eastern edge of St. Juvin. They silenced machine guns in that part of the town east of the ridge, but did not remain in the village.

By the 18th of October what was left of the 82nd Division was organized along a line from Châtel-Chéhéry, to Marcq and Champigneulle with the 78th Division on the west end.

At 4:00 in the morning, on the extreme left of their line, the 2d Battalion, 325th Infantry, which had been released from brigade reserve and attached to the 326th Infantry, commenced the relief of troops of the 78th Division on Côte 182. The relief was completed about 7:00 in the morning. Company G was placed west of the Agron, about 900 meters north of Moulin d'en Bas, where it established contact in that vicinity with support troops of the 78th Division, and liaison, by patrols, with the front line of that division in the southeast corner of Bois des Loges. The positions taken over by the remainder of the battalion were in contact with those of the 2d Battalion, 326th Infantry, which was still attached to the 325th Infantry, on the eastern slope of the hill, and extended east and west about 600 meters along the military crest of Côte 182. The 2d Battalion, 325th Infantry, did not advance beyond the lines formerly held by the 78th Division.

It was here on the 18th of October that Pvt. Steenhoek while dug in with what remained of his regiment was wounded. He was hit in his leg with bullets and they were only flesh wounds but at the time the Germans were putting over poisonous gas. As the attack continued Pvt. Steenhoek was hit again but this time his gas mask canister was hit with a bullet fragment and rendered it ineffective against the gas. Steenhoek was overcome by the gas and taken to the aid station. While Steenhoek was taken to the aid station he was surprised that another friend also was in the same ambulance with him. Steenhoek recalls meeting this same friend again four months and three hospitals later at a rest camp.

Pvt. Dick Steenhoek would spend the next four months in three hospitals in New Chateau, Isedain and Blois, France recuperating from his wounds. Dick Steenhoek was following the same life path as his grandfather Gysbert Steenhoek, many years before him who also had joined the Army during the Civil War and had been wounded in battle. Dick too would recuperate from his wounds and like his grandfather return to Iowa and raise a family. According to Joe Williams of Prairie City, Iowa who was a neighbor of Dick Steenhoek, Dick was in poor health most of his life and it was said that it was due to him being gassed while in France during WWI.

The 82nd Division saw 105 days total on the front lines in combat and also had 1,413 battle deaths and 6,664 battle wounded during combat. The 82nd was the division that Sgt. Alvin York was in. York was in Company G of the 328th Infantry, 82nd Division. York won the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions where he killed at least 30 and captured 132 Germans. In the aftermath of York's remarkable exploit, he received several decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the French Legion of Honor, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. But, perhaps the greatest of all his honors concerned a tribute paid to him by French General Ferdinand Foch, who was also the supreme commander of the Allied forces of World War I, when he said of York, that the latter had "accomplished" what amounted to "the greatest thing…by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe."

After the Armistice was signed the 82nd Division was sent home and during April, May and June 1919 the Division sails for home and during May 1919 the Division is demobilized. It is not clear if he returned with the 82nd Division but if he did spend 4 months in the hospitals he would have had time to return to his regiment before they returned to the States. It is known that he left France and returned to the United States on the 20th of March 1919. Steenhoek stated that he sailed from Marseilles, France and it is known that the 82nd Division units sailed home from ports in Brest and Bordeaux, France but not from Marseilles, France. So it is quite likely that Steenhoek returned with wounded soldiers and not with the 325th Infantry. He did return back to Camp Dodge, Iowa the place that he had began his journey almost 2 years before.

Steenhoek recalls that the Army sent telegrams back home informing his family of his condition. He recounts that the army gave the troops “the best suits in the world so we would look good when we got home.” Just before he boarded the train on his homeward leg of his journey Steenhoek was able to telephone his father to tell him he was coming home. Steenhoek tells how his “father had to drive the team [of horses] through the mud to pick me up. My father and girl friend were waiting at the depot when I arrived." Upon his discharge he was reported 10 percent disabled in view of his occupation before the war.

Dick Steenhoek returned home to Prairie City, Iowa where his family attended the Prairie City Christian Reformed Church and shortly after his return a “Welcome Home Social” was held in the church in Prairie City in which, item No. 4 on the program was “A Talk on War Experiences” given by Dick Steenhoek. After Dick’s talk on his war experiences item No. 6 on the program was “Demobilization of the Service Flag” Henry Steenhoek is listed among those who took part in that ceremony. It is likely that this was the last time Dick ever wore his uniform. As many years later when Rick Lytle purchased the uniform of Dick Steenhoek, Rick found in the pocket of his uniform the folded program from the “Welcome Home Social.” If that uniform could talk it must have a thousand stories to tell of times “Over There” long, long ago.

On Christmas Eve of 1919 Dick and Dorotha C. De Bruyn were married in the home of Dorotha’s parents in Prairie City. Dorotha was born in Prairie City, Iowa on July 17th 1899 and her parents were John L. De Bruyn born February 14th 1856 in the Netherlands and Engeline Mary Van Arkel born 14th February 1861 in Herwijnen, Netherlands. Together Dick and Dorotha had two girls: Engeline Johanna born January 22nd 1924 and Irene Marie born July 29th 1927. Irene Steenhoek was likely named after Dorotha’s sister Irene De Bruyn born October 22nd 1891 and Engeline was named after Dorotha’s mother. Dorotha was one of 9 children that were born to John and Engeline De Bruyn.

At the start of his marriage Dick went back to farming and he had a Steam Threshing Rig until 1939 when in a freak farm accident he lost one kidney. Due to the loss of the kidney and with his War disability he had to quit farming. For a short time Dick worked as a salesman for W. J. Raleigh Co., in Warren County and lived in Milo, Iowa for two years. Then he moved back to Prairie City, Iowa where he owned and operated for several years the local Phillips 66 gas station, which was located on the corner of Marshall and Jefferson Streets.

Dick Steenhoek along with the help of the Prairie City and Colfax businessmen to get the Hwy 117 between Prairie City and Colfax widened from 66 ft. to 100 ft. and made into a modern road. Dick served two times as Prairie City Councilman and was president of the Commercial Club. He was Republican Committeeman in Prairie City for several years and secretary of the Central Committee for 1941 and 1942 also being a delegate to the County and State Conventions.

In 1942 Dick was elected Jasper County Treasurer being re-elected seven times. Then in 1955 he was appointed Postmaster in Newton, Iowa, retiring September 24, 1965. In an article in the February 23, 1950 edition of the Waterloo Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Jasper County Treasurer Dick Steenhoek served notice on the Maytag Company of Newton, Iowa for payment of $45,244 for credit taxes from 1946-1949.

Dick was a member of the Newton Lodge 59 AF&AM order of the Eastern Star Chapter 100. He was a charter Member of the American Legion and of the American Legion 40 & 8 Voiture 283, American Legion World War I Last Man’s Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1655 the Veterans of World War One Barracks 1503 and the National Association of Retired Federal Employees and was active in the Jasper County Historical Society. The August 9th 1948 edition of “The News” from Mt. Pleasant, of Henry County, Iowa reports on the meeting of the American Legion and 40 & 8 in Des Moines, that elections were made and among the 9 men elected as the Grand Cheminot of the Iowa District, was Dick Steenhoek of Newton, Iowa.

The “Y” Book club of Lone Tree, Iowa, which was probably a card club reported in the Tuesday, May 3rd 1955 edition of the “Iowa City Press-Citizen” that euchre awards were given at its last meeting. There was also a note that the weekend guests of Mr. and Mrs. John Kral were Mr. and Mrs. Dick Steenhoek of Newton, Iowa.

Dick and his Family were members of the Christian Reformed Church in Prairie City and after moving to Newton, which did not have a Christian Reformed Church they transferred to the First United Methodist Church in Newton, Iowa. In March of 1981 Dick and Dorotha transferred to the Community Reformed Church in Newton because Dorotha could not climb the stairs in account of Arthritis and there were no steps at the Community Reformed Church. Dick reflected about this move: “We did not have any bad feelings in the United Methodist Church and we have a lot of friends there.”

On January 26th 1983, 66 years after he was wounded in the Argonne Forrest in France Steenhoek was awarded his Purple Heart Medal. At the request of his family Dick Steenhoek contacted Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and within a few weeks was presented with his medal.

Dick and Dorotha Steenhoek lived out their remaining years in Newton, Iowa and Dorotha passed away in 1983 at the age of 84 years old. Dick lived another year and on October 2, 1985 at the age of 91 passed away in Des Moines, Iowa. Both Dick and Dorotha are buried in the Newton Union Cemetery.

Images of Dick Steenhoek and Family

The Arie Steenhoek Family taken in 1917. Front row: Peter, Orpha, Arie, Johanna and William. Second Row: Jenny, Dick, Gsybert, Henry and Henrietta

Battle Ridge School picture about 1908 Dick, Gysbert and Henry are the three boys in the back row on the right. Their sister Henrietta is in front of them. Pete is on the far left in front.

Pvt. Dick Steenhoek in uniform at Camp Dodge, Iowa 1917

Henry and Dick Steenhoek in uniform likely taken in 1919 after they returned from France, as on the right sleeve of Dick’s uniform is a wound stripe.

This photo taken in France shows from the left;
Clifford Mall, Raymond Legan, William Linfor and Henry Steenhoek.

Henry Steenhoek & Vera Pauline Berkenbosch taken on Valentines Day 1923 on the day of their wedding.

Brothers Dick and Henry Steenhoek taken in 1969

4th of July 1970, Henry Steenhoek and Carl Crane are honor guard during a 4th of July Ceremony.

Dick and Dorotha Steenhoek taken in December of 1969 on the occasion of their 50th Wedding anniversary.

Dick Steenhoek shows his Purple Heart Medal after it was presented to him 66 years after he was wounded in 1983.

The gravestone in the Newton Union Cemetery of Dorotha and Dick Steenhoek.

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