World War I Navy uniform enhances exhibition

The Wilton Historical Society’s current exhibition, Dr. Seuss, Political Cartoons & the Battle over Isolationism vs Intervention, is enhanced by a display from the society’s permanent collection — a 1918 enlisted man’s standard dress uniform, which belonged to Wiltonian Carl Yoder’s father, Leonard.

When the United States entered WWI in April of 1917, the American military was only a fraction of the size of the European forces already fighting overseas. As a result, there was an immediate need to grow the Army and Navy into a sizeable and capable fighting force.

Leonard Yoder was one of more than two million men who would either enlist or be drafted by the end of the war in November 1918. A native of Ohio, Yoder enlisted in the Navy in Cincinnati in May 1918. Although he was not dispatched overseas, he served his country during the war as an electrician at U.S. Navy bases in Newport, R.I., and Norfolk, Va.

Yoder received his discharge at Hampton Roads, Va., in February 1919. His uniform, on display, was the standard dress uniform of an enlisted man, comprising bell-bottom pants, a shirt known as a jumper, a cap, and a black neckerchief. This gift to the permanent collection of the Wilton Historical Society was made by Elfriede and Carl Yoder.