Finding “named” service flags, those that belonged to the original family with a name attached, is a rare occurrence especially when the flag is over 100 years old. This service flag hung in the window of the Jacobsen family home in Long Grove, Iowa during WWI.
Private First-Class Carl Jacobsen served in Battery D, 126th F.A. part of the First Iowa Field Artillery. Beginning in August of 1917, his unit trained at Camp Cody in Deming, N.M. for almost a year before mobilizing to Fort Sill, OK for ten more weeks of intense training.
Fully trained, Carl’s unit boarded the H.M.S. Kashmir, a British cargo liner requisitioned for service as a troopship by the United States, at the Port of Embarkation in Hoboken, N.J. on September 25th, 1918 and set sail for France.
It was the Kashmir’s third voyage ferrying soldiers across the Atlantic. This trip, however, would permanently bond its name to a dreadful maritime disaster. In the same convoy of ships crossing the Atlantic was the Otranto, carrying with her 665 American troops and a crew of 362 men.
The storm began on the morning of October 4th and by Sunday the 6th, it had swelled to a Force 11 storm as measured by the Beaufort scale, with waves exceeding heights well over 50’. Visibility was so bad that accurate navigation was all but impossible and it positioned the two ships on a deadly collision course.
In the high seas with winds pounding both troop transports the Kashmir crashed into the Otranto on the port side. With a 20' deep and 16' wide opening in its bulkhead, the Otranto was in serious trouble. While the Kashmir would limp its way to shore, the casualty list aboard the Otranto would include 372 American soldiers.
Miraculously, with no casualties aboard the Kashmir, the troopship docked in Glasgow, Scotland where the men of the 126th Field Artillery disembarked. By rail, the unit traveled to the village of LaMarque for a short rest and then marched to Camp DeSouge where they arrived on November 2nd. Before the unit would be engaged in the fighting, the war came to an end. But it was during this time, that Private First-Class Carl Jacobsen, son of Charles and Elizabeth, would die of the influenza on October 27, 1918. He was just nineteen years old.
One of the most cherished and sentimental pieces of history is the Gold Star Mother’s mourning armband. Consisting of a three-inch wide black band, a gold star is sewn in the center for each member of the family whose life is lost in the service. For Elizabeth Jacobsen, her mourning armband exhibited a single gilt gold star for her youngest son Carl.
Laying neatly folded beside one another was Elizabeth's Gold Star Mothers armband and the American flag. Both from a mother who experienced loss on the grandest of scales.
While one represents the greatest of sacrifices a mother can endure, the American flag is the symbol under which those sacrifices are made.
Elizabeth's son Carl, was one of 116,516 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I.
Carl P. Jacobsen is interred beside his mother Elizabeth, father Charles, and his sister Dorothy in the Long Grove Cemetery, Scott County, Iowa.