About a month ago I wrote this report on a decidedly interesting subject in history. Because it is May Day, I thought it particularly appropriate to post it today. If reading reports on history bores you, or remembering the once-potential threat of Communism throws you into a hysterical state of paranoia, don’t bother reading the following essay. If you’re like me, however, this event chronicled below will be quite thought-provoking. I must mention that when doing research for the paper, I found very little information on it, which surprised me. Any ideas why the mock-Communist take-over of Mosinee, Wisconsin wasn’t well-publicized? Well, without further ado, I give you:

                      Communist Takeover of Mosinee
Andrea M. Lee

     The year is 1950. Although it is the first day of May, the early morning is surprisingly chilly for the residents of Mosinee, Wisconsin. The mayor is still sleeping in his bed when there is a loud knock on his door, followed by his door being knocked down and six armed men barging into his room and dragging the shocked, pajama-clad mayor out onto the snowy streets. There he meets a certain Joseph Kornfeder, who stoically informs the shivering man that he is an “enemy of the people”. After witnessing his chief-of-police being executed in the town square for refusing to give up his position to the newly-founded USSA (United Socialist States of America), Mayor Ralph E. Kronenwetter accepts his defeat and urges the townspeople to surrender as well. With great ceremony, Joseph Kornfeder steps onto a platform emblazoned with the slogan “The State must be Supreme over the Individual” and proceeds to issue a decree nationalizing industry, abolishing all political parties except for the Communists, and outlawing all civic and church organizations. Americans were only vaguely aware of the horrors happening under Communism overseas, but now that reality has set in, they realize they are experiencing their worst nightmare.
     At the height of the second Red Scare, public anxiety increased dramatically in 1949 when Americans learned that the Soviet Union had successfully tested its first atomic bomb.  For the first time in recent American history, the United States faced a realistic threat from abroad. Hysteria was in the air—Americans were uncertain about the future of their country and whether it would be able to efficiently stand against the looming menace of Communism preceding the Cold War. It was during this time that the American Legion began laying out plans for the staged Communist revolution.
     Although the idea for the mock-invasion was formed by the Legion, ex-Communists played a leading role, including Joseph Kornfeder, an immigrant tailor of Slovak origin who had been a Communist from 1919-1934 and had been trained at the Lenin School. The committee chose Mosinee as the town to carry out the coup d’état because of its small size and population; May the first was the chosen day for it is also International Workers’ Day, a Communist celebration of socialized labor. While the citizens were willing to cooperate in the pageant, which the Wisconsin Department of the American Legion hoped would demonstrate to all America what life would be like if the USSR ever did take over America, they truly had no idea what they were in for.
     Following the mayor’s capture and the police chief’s “liquidation”, out-of-town Legionnaires (deliberately unfamiliar to the townspeople) dressed in quasi-military garb and wearing red armbands, marched all resistors to barbed-wire concentration camps. All throughout the day, arrests were made, roads were blocked, red Communist flags were hung over doorposts, and books were banned or burned. One photo shows a young child looking mournfully into a candy shop window displaying a sign that reads: “Candy for Communist Youth Members Only”.
     Other aspects of life were disrupted as well—literature and media was seized and censored by the Communist government, only writing approved by the people’s council of commissars was permitted. Sports fields were confiscated, rationing was enforced, the price of coffee more than quintupled, and only black bread and potato soup was served in restaurants all day. The Mosinee Weekly Times was replaced with the Communist Red Star which hosted the Soviet proclamation along with the extensive list of regulations enforced by this new regime. All private property was confiscated and dubbed “the property of the state by order of the people’s council of commissars”. Some 600 schoolchildren and many adults were led into the village park (rechristened Red Square) by armed security police, and the mayor, who had been temporarily released from the concentration camp, was forced to read a statement urging citizens to comply with this new socialist order.
     After nearly many hours of life under this oppressive system, Mayor Kronenwetter arrived at a rally which would restore democracy to the town. Unfortunately, the mayor suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. Tragically, He died five days later on May 6th, from what his doctor attributed to the day’s excitement and exertion. He was only forty-nine years old. The commander of the American legion post referred to it as a “terrible coincidence.”
     However, what still remains a mystery is the death of the local reverend, who was found deceased in his bed only a few hours after the passing away of Mayor Ralph E. Kronenwetter. Reverend Will La Brew Bennett was said to have radically resisted the Communist takeover of his church, argued with one of his oppressors, who proclaimed, “We confiscate the church as an institution against the working class…hereafter you shall have an atheistic world.” The minister, who was then led to the barbed-wire camps, exclaimed that if America were ever to be taken over by Communists, he would hide his Bible in the church organ.
     This sort of demonstration was the first of its kind in America and was certainly effective in revealing the horrors of the tyrannical life under a socialistic establishment. Although you hear little about this “invasion” today, it is a lesson one should not easily forget. It is too easy to take our freedoms as American citizens for granted and forget that there are people suffering around the world under Communism just as the USSR once did. The lesson we can learn from Mosinee is that we should never take lightly our freedoms to read what we wish, eat what we want, own private property, and most especially to worship God where, when, and how we desire. While it has been sixty years since the “takeover” of Mosinee, the reminder that we are blessed to live in a free country should still be real in our lives today.