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1st Lt. Nines Simmons: Medical, 339th Infantry


(1st Lt. Nines Simmons - Courtesy of Karen Nix)


Written by Karen Nix.[1]

Nines Simmons was born on November 23, 1889 at the family farm. His parents were Tobias and Antoinette Simmons. They immigrated to the U.S. from Norway and settled in Kindred, ND, choosing North Dakota because it reminded them of Norway. The couple took the opportunity of the Homestead Act and purchased acreage, where they grew wheat and oats, and raised hogs.

Nines was the ninth child born in a family of 13 children. His parents, honoring their son’s birth order—ninth, named him Nines. He grew up working on the family farm and attending a one-room schoolhouse, where he excelled in his studies. Nines transferred in the eighth grade to Bagley, ND, where he went on to graduate from high school. Upon graduating, he was accepted at the University of Minnesota’s Dental School. It was here that he met his wife, Nana Noren, who was working on her degree in Botany.[2] He graduated in 1915, and the couple married and moved to Harvey, ND. Here, he set up his first dental practice. Nines became an active member of the community by being involved in many civic organizations, and his church. He ran for Mayor of the city, and was elected councilman on the Red Cross Board, as well as becoming a member of the Welfare Board.[3]

When the United States entered the Great War Nines sent his application in to become an officer. His petition was approved, he attended officer’s candidate school, and on August 13, 1917, was commissioned first lieutenant.[4] Then, in 1918, 1st Lt. Nines was sent to Camp Custer, MI for training with the Medical Unit, 339th Infantry, in the Dental Corps. At that time he was described as having blue/hazel eyes, stood 5 foot 9, weighed 152 pounds, and had light brown hair.[5] The 339th’s Medical Unit accompanied the regiment’s line companies to New York City, where they boarded transport ships and headed to England. The young medical officer, as his ship passed the Statue of Liberty, commented in his journal, “[I] wonder if I will ever see it again.”[6] The 339th reached England, and from there, traveled to Archangel, arriving on September 4, 1918. Lieutenant Simmons stepped onto Russia soil, ill from having contracted the Spanish Flu while aboard his transport ship.[7]

Simmons served as a dentist, stationed in Archangel, with one of his main responsibilities being mostly extractions, as many of the soldiers suffered gum disease, and needed care before they went out to their companies’ combat positions. Nines set up his dental unit in the Red Cross hospital, where he also worked with the surgeon on injuries of the jaw, and injuries of the face. But Lt. Simmons did not just stay in Archangel. He also traveled to many of the American battle-front locations, arriving by train, boat, and in the winter, by sleigh. Simmons, being a medical officer, also administered aid to the wounded on the battlefield. Plus, he assisted the doctors with surgeries and other lifesaving procedures, including appendectomies.

Lieutenant Nines returned to the United States and on July 5, 1919 was Honorably Discharged.[8] He returned home to his wife, and his dental practice in Harvey, ND. Their daughter, Eleanor was born in 1923. Doctor Nines continued his dentistry in Harvey until 1936, when he established a new dental practice in Grand Forks, ND, his office located in the Red River National Bank Building. Nana Simmons set up their family’s housekeeping in a home on 1208 Reeves Street, Grand Forks, ND.[9] Nines remained a dedicated dentist, as well as becoming involved in many veteran organizations there. He was a popular figure around town, known as Doc Simmons. Nines Simmons passed away December 9, 1972. Nana followed him in 1986. They are both buried in the Grand Forks, ND Cemetery.

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Karen Nix, Nines’ granddaughter remembers, he was a special grandfather to her and her brother, and they knew him as ‘Dop’.

Karen also noted, Nines rarely spoke of his Russian wartime experiences.

Karen Nix has possession of Lt. Nines Simmons’ writings, military papers, and artifacts. She is organizing this treasure and is in the process of chronicling his Russian experience.

--------------------- [1] Karen Nix is the granddaughter of Lt. Nines Simmons. [2] Simmons, Nines, “Further Service In Russia,” 28 May 1919. [3] “Dr. Simmons Will Leave Here Sept. 1,” Harvey Wells Co. Newspaper, Sept. 1936. [4] Simmons, Nines, U.S. Army Commission Papers, 13 Aug 1917. [5] Simmons, Draft Registration Cards, 1917, 1942. [6] Simmons, Nines, Journal, 22 July 1918. [7] Simmons, Nines, “Further Service In Russia,” 28 May 1919. [8] Simmons, Nines, U.S. Army Honorable Discharge Papers, 5 Jul 1919. [9] Grand Forks City Directory, 1953-1958.

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