My great-grandfather, Paul, served in World War 1. Both of his sons served in World War 2: my grandfather here at home building planes and bombs, my great-uncle in the infantry all over Germany and Italy and France.
If memory serves correct, I believe my grandfather said that he enlisted while his brother, Cliff, waited to be drafted.
I don’t remember if it was Dad or Grandpa who told me that Paul had cautioned Cliff not to let anyone know he spoke German (both Cliff and Grandpa were fluent since that was the only way to communicate with their grandparents, Lena and Ignatz, who never learned English).
In a letter from my great-uncle Cliff, he said he didn’t remember that conversation, but that if it had occurred, he didn’t follow it.
I was interpreter for our company, not because I spoke German so well, but because I spoke better than anyone else. It helped to speak German in France, I guess they liked the Americans more than they hated the Germans.
I often wonder if Paul did give this advice to Cliff, if it wasn’t because he received the same advice from his father before he was shipped off to France in 1917. Anti-German feeling and actions, existing before 1914, grew exponentially after the sinking of the Lusitania (1915) and the discovery of the Zimmerman Note (1917).
More on Anti-German sentiment here:
Anti German Sentiment (Ohio History Central)
Anti-German Sentiment in the United States (Wikipedia)
Internment of German Americans (Wikipedia)
Being German, Being American (archives.gov)
German Immigration (Library of Congress)