The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.
Heart Stopping Experience in Trench Warfare
Oscar Dahlgreen moved to the frontline in Ypres, France in August of 1918, where he experienced "No Man’s Land" and trench warfare for the first time. He wrote in his diary about some close calls he experienced during this time, saying that the experience is hard to explain and only those who have experienced it can truly know and understand.
[...] We finally found us getting near the front line trenches. We could see the flares of the vary lights got up and iluminate the sky. And we certainly felt funny to know that we now look out upon no mans land at last for the first time. The sight and feeling of such a time is hard to explain and only those that have experienced it can know. [...] Myself was on the first relief as guard on post together with an English Soldier a young lad. I started the watch on no mans land. The English soldier instructing me as to go at it. As it was terribly dark it was no easy matter to see as there were stubs of trees shot off and brush and werds and one almost thot we seen Germans prawling [sic] everywhere. The Eng. soldier told me not to look over the parapit too long at a time as it would strain the eyes so you would see Germans where there aren't any. [...] The enemy swept the trenches now and then with their machine guns and many times the bullets whistled close to my head. In places the trenches were so low that my whole body was exposed. [...] I bumped up against two men so suddenly and unexpectedly no knowing whether enemy or friend quick as lighting I grabbed the one and shoved him up against the other one. for along time we hung onto each other at least it seemed ages. Finally the flare light went up on us and I found one I held was trying to run a bayonet into me. The point was at my [he...th]. O God I could not utter a word or a cry. Finally the others started to say whats the matter whats the matter and then I realized they were English and I said the password which was whiskey that night. [...]
Citation: Oscar R. Dahlgren World War I Journals, 1917-1919. . Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota. P2745