Double Enlistee: The Story of Emil Rezek

Emil Rezek (far left with the x) is seen here with a pick and shovel gang during his service in the U.S. Army during World War I.
Staff Writer

Most people who serve in the armed forces, choose one branch to serve or finish out their enlistment with one and enlist in another afterward. World War I veteran and St. Marys native Emil Rezek did things a little differently.

In a book written by his son-in-law, Bill Brown, readers can follow Rezek who was enlisted in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy at once — unbeknownst to the Navy at the time.

As a member of the Army 19th Engineers, Rezek was one of the first Americans to head overseas to fight in The Great War. He and the rest of the engineers were set to work building barracks, bridges and supply depots for the thousands of soldiers to follow in the next several months.

When the Navy arrived in France in the spring of 1918, they brought with them large, long-range battleship cannons mounted on railcars — the same rails Rezek was working on with the Army.

Rezek spent the next two months working near the front lines on the trains, shelling German troops, supply warehouses and rail yards. At the end of those two months, the armistice was signed Nov. 11, 1918. Rezek’s gun fired its last shell at 10:59 a.m., one minute before the cease fire.

Brown, who had already written a book on his brother’s service in World War II, was inspired to write down the interesting story of his father-in-law to preserve the unique history of Rezek’s service.
“I wanted to preserve the memory of him for his relatives who live in the St. Marys, Lima and Dayton areas so I wrote the book to preserve that memory for the family,” he said.

The self-published book “A World War I Soldier And His Camera,” can be found on Amazon in both print and E-book editions.