WWI memorial honors survivors, victims, heroes of 1918 ship sinking ahead of its unveiling

Sculpture on display through mid-June
WWI memorial honors survivors, victims, heroes of 1918 ship sinking ahead of its unveiling

We’re getting a first look at a World War I memorial three years in the making this Memorial Day, six months before its official unveiling in Baraboo.

Artist Homer Daehn is putting the finishing touches on his clay sculpture before he sends it to a foundry for bronzing. Until he ships it mid-June, Daehn is allowing visitors to see it from noon to 3 p.m. daily at his studio, located at the intersection of Neuman and Clingmans roads in Baraboo.

“I’ve been so involved in it,” said Daehn. He has been carving a place into history for “The Baraboo 21” for three years now, working days, nights , and weekends to get the job done.

“They want to be remembered for what they did,” Daehn said.

The Tuscania was a luxury liner torpedoed in 1918 by the German U-boat UB-77 while bringing American troops to Europe. It sank, killing 213 people. British soldiers and villagers rescued dozens of Americans onboard, including 21 Baraboo natives, “The Baraboo 21.”

Local high school history teacher Steve Argo is behind the push for a local memorial , honoring the sinking ship’s victims, survivors and heroes.

“You hear that one-liner, ‘Freedom isn’t free,'” said Argo. “And as I grew up, I thought about that a lot. It didn’t make much sense. Because for me, it was free. But as I thought about the families of servicemen
that died in America’s wars, I realized freedom isn’t fair. It’s free for guys like me, but it’s not fair and not equally shared by members of our society.”

The bronze statue and monument depicting the sinking’s aftermath and a list of victims will be dedicated and displayed at Lower Ochsner Park this November.

Until then, photography of the statue is limited to preserve its “wow factor.” News 3 was only allowed to video close-up, individual pieces of the art.

Boosters are still working to raise the roughly $75,000 it’ll cost to create the memorial. They’ve raised $40,000 so far. Anyone interested in donating can visit the Tuscania Memorial’s website here.