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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.

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WW1 Daybook

"Exceptional Coolness and Accurate Firing" - Soldier Awarded Certificate for Gallantry in Action Days Before Death

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 25, 2018

Ernest G. Wold enlisted in the Army- Infantry but trained towards aviation. On July 25, 1918, First Lieutenant Wold earned the Certificate for Gallantry in Action during the Chateau-Thierry offensive. While on a reconnaissance mission his plane was surrounded and attacked by seventeen enemy planes. Thanks to his "courage and tenacity", Lieut. Wold was able to to complete the mission, obtaining "information of the greatest possible value". A few days after these events Lieut. Wold was killed in action on August 1st, 1918 while on a photographic mission.


France, 23 July, 1919.
[...] 1. The award of the Certificate for Gallantry in Action to your son, 1st Lieutenant E.G. Wold (Deceased) 1st Aero Squadron, was based on the following recommendation made by the 3rd Army Air Service Commander on 10 February, 1919: "On July 25, 1918, during the Chateau-Thierry offensive, Lieutenant Wold with Lieutenant Corley, as Observer, while on a reconnaissance mission, was attacked by a patrol of seventeen enemy planes. The enemy patrol descended through a hole in the clouds and had surrounded Lieut. Wold's ship. In spite of the overwhelming odds, Lieut. Wold, through exceptional coolness and accurate firing, succeeded in eluding the enemy, shooting one down out of control. Although the enemy remained in the immediate vicinity, he recrossed the line three times more, being driven out each time. Due to the courage and tenacity of Lieut. Wold the mission was finally completed and information of the greatest possible value obtained. Lieutenant Wold was killed in action 1 August 1918, while on a photographic mission. He was driven out several times by hostile patrols. On his fourth attempt he was attacked by five enemy planes and although wounded twice by machine-gun bullets, he recrossed the lines but his controls had been shot away and the plane fell in vrille."
For the Commander-in Chief:
F.L. Whitley
Adjutant General.

Citation: "Wold, Ernest G." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.7.1B

Balloons Carry Propaganda into German Territory

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 24, 2018

On July 23, Ingvald D. Smith wrote in his diary about seeing two French balloons floating across enemy lines that were most likely carrying German propaganda. Unmanned leaflet balloons were created by Mr. A. Fleming in 1917. They were hydrogen balloons that would drift over no-man's land to land in the enemy trenches where they would drop propaganda onto the enemy. One example of this is the British dropping postcards from German prisoners of war about their conditions, general propaganda against the Kaiser or German generals.


Tue. 23
I rolled out at 6:30 a.m. and had mess. As soon as I had finished my meal I snuggled into my blankets and went to sleep again awaking at noon. This afternoon the company received orders to roll packs and be prepared for a two day trip. After camp was broke it commenced to rain so the men sought shelter in two nearby barracks until the rain had ceased. At about 6 P.M., I observed two miniature balloons drifting toward the Hun lines which were evidently carrying propaganda into Germany. At 10:30 p.m., the company formed and then hiked to Vauthiermont a railroad station lying about 4 kil. distant. Here the troops were placed on the train and were crowded from 40 to 50 men into each car. The cars were packed to sucn an extent that a large number of men were not fortunate enough to find a place to seat their selves. I did not think that I would enjoy traveling in such a manner so Reisdorf and I after consulting the cooks were given their permission to ride on the car that was carrying the kitchen. We had no sooner arranged our blankets for a good nights sleep when several officers who had noticed us came over and ordered us off the car. We were a trifle disappointed but not giving up hope we crawled on to a flat car that was loaded with supply wagons.

Citation: Ingvald Smith papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1754

Service Flag used in Lewis Park

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 23, 2018

his Service Flag is made from white cotton with a red border and felt starts attached to the center. It features one gold star and 28 blue stars. Flags such as this were used to represent family or organization members who were in service during the war. This particular flag was used by the Lewis Park branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The gold star in the middle is for David Neary, who was killed at Soissons, France on July 19, 1918. The other stars are meant for Selma Hendricksen, Fred Otto Ramond Rosen, Tom Brodie, Forrest Neary, Axel Dolan, Leif Bachke, Birger Bachke, Emmett Hollin, Albert Krinsky, Imey Krinsky, Mr. Mordle, Hjalmar Westlund, Melvin Pharson, Russell Betelsen, Harry Lundstrom, Wilhelm Sandin, William Edward, George Kimmerensy, Henry Holmgren, Carlos Hansen, Emmett Christesen, Carl Bennett, David Bennett, Fritchof Gill, Edwin Gill, Sigurd Gill and William Hennesey.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 8526

Career Soldier Falls in Battle of Soissons

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 21, 2018

Sergeant John Frydenlund immigrated to Minnesota from Norway and joined the United States Army shortly after arrival. He trained at Fort Snelling, then served in Cuba, the Philippine Islands, Alaska and the Mexican border before going to France with Pershing's first expedition. Frydenlund was a year and a half away from honorable discharge with 30 years service and retirement pension at the time of his death. He was in the famous 28th Regiment- the first American Regiment to go "over the top" in the Battle of Cantigny. His file includes a newspaper clipping.

Citation: "Frydenlund, John O." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.3B

"This Sure is Some Life" - The Last Letter of Edward Gilkey

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 20, 2018

This was Edward Gilkey's final letter home, written on the day of his death. In it, he tells his father that "Jerry" has been making several heavy drives at them recently, but that he is enjoying being a part of the action. Gilkey also says that they've had a couple run ins with gas recently, but said it was good sport dealing with it. It seems as though Gilkey is truly in the thick of it at this moment. He ends the letter by saying he will write again soon once Jerry calms down, but that would never happen for Edward Gilkey.


On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Forces
July 20, 1918.
Dear Dad:-
Jerry made it quite hot for us the past week, but I guess we got him on the run. Have been in luck to get in on the ground floor of the year's two biggest drives. Have passed thru some experiences during the last few days, experiences I would have deemed impossible a year ago. I certainly am glad that I've passed through them, although I doubt if I would care to go thru again. Had our first real experience with gas during the last days, Jerry has been sending beaucoup gas shells over and as a result we have almost lived in our masks (It's great sport). The last few days has seen some terrible shell fire--almost a steady roar. When our batteries open up the roar is deafening, ground shakes so almost impossible to sleep. Every night the front is the scene of huge fireworks display with flares, skyrockets, signals; ect. This sure is some life. Our company sure had its share in this last drive - have been working day and night, everybody in high spirits and I never felt better. Yesterday we had afternoon off, hiked back of lines, got aboard trucks and were taken back to our traveling "cootie-izer," where we got a good hot shower bath and new underclothing. It felt great as we have been living under-ground in trenches most of time last week. The other night was on outpost on top of a high hill overlooking valley; with field glasses could watch our shells landing on Jerry's hill, and watch Jerry's guns landing in the small towns in valley. Had an opportunity to watch over fifty French tanks going into action; could follow them with glasses. Later got a chance to look inside one. They certainly are a wicked looking machine. On the whole I am enjoying these last few days, although there are times when we have it pretty hard. Will write again soon unless Jerry makes it too hot for us. We will probably get a rest after Jerry "calms" down.
Your loving son,
Edward Normal Gilkey
Co. B. 6th Eng.; A.E.F.

Citation: Gilkey, Edward. Edward Norman Gilkey: His Diary of His LIfe in the War Zone, France. Minnesota Historical Society. 114.D.4.3B

The Sorrow of a Brother - "Another Jew has Given His Last Full Measure of Devotion for the Country He Loved"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 19, 2018

Solomon Isaacs enlisted in the Marine Corps with his brother Nathan, and the two stuck together all through their training and battle experience until Solomon was killed on this date during the Battle of Soissons. Nathan wrote a letter home to their mother in September, overcome with grief at the loss of his brother. He says that despite his sorrow, he is glad his brother died fighting for the most worthy cause he could think of. He also reminds his mother to change one of the red stars on her service flag to a gold star so that everyone knows that she sacrificed her child for freedom and democracy.


Somewhere in France, Sept 5.
Dear Mother and All:
I haven't heard from you for such a long time that I don't know what it would feel like to get a letter. Also I didn't have the heart to write, because of a very sad incident that has happened but of which you have already heard. Yes mother, I suppose you have already heard about the sad fate of my brother Sol. The dirty square heads got him - in a great battle on July 19th. Mother, Sol is dead and nobody can feel it worse than I can, even Alma his wife and you. Because Sol was just Sol. To me he was more than a brother. He was a brother, pal and sweetheart to me. We would gladly have done anything for me, and I would have been equally as glad to do as much for him. But now he is dead and even through my great sorrow it fills me with pride to know that he died fighting - fighting for his country and the greatest cause the world has ever known. It is the most honorable death anyone can die. Now Mother, I don't want you to take this to hand. I must bear it as a soldier - as a Marine. And I want you to bear it as the mother of a Marine, and Alma as the wife of a Marine. Replace one of the two red stars in your service flag by a golden one, to let the world know that you have sacrificed your son, your best son for the cause of humanity; to let the world know that another fighting jew has given his last full measure of devotion for the country he loved. Well, Mother, will write more later. As ever your loving son,

Citation: "Isaacs, Solomon." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.F

German Plane in Disguise

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 18, 2018

William Fraser had an eventful day on this date in 1918. In the afternoon he thought he saw a French plane flying over him, but it turned out to be a German plane, so he had to hide under a water cart to avoid being shot. In the evening he made several trips on horseback to an echelon to communicate orders and to stand guard.


July 18, 1918 Ran a line in morning in after noon went out to P.E. Under fire. Out there I saw a aeroplane and thot [sic] it to be French and asked a Frenchman and he said it was a French but he circled around and came down at us firing at us and my horse I jumped under a water cart. After supper made another trip to new eschelon [sic] came back and went to bed at 10.30 heard we had to saddle up and move, made another trip to eschelon and told them the orders came back and got my equipment and went back to new eschelon for guard and see that things are going all right.

Citation: William K Fraser Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1943

Stained Glass Window Fragment

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 17, 2018

This fragment of a stained-glass window, consisting of two dark blue panes and one frosted light green pane with brownish cross-hatching, was a part of the Reims Cathedral, which was bombarded by the Germans in 1914. The cathedral suffered considerable damage and most of the windows were blown out in the attack. The fragment was found by Frances M. Rogers, who was serving as a nurse with the American Fund for French Wounded, while she was stationed in the city in 1918. The fragment stands 4 3/4 inches tall and 5 1/4 inches wide. The Reims Cathedral is known today as the Notre-Dame de Reims in Reims, France.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 8594.2

The Smell of Rotten Oranges

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 16, 2018

In this entry Edward Gilkey gives a very detailed description of the second battle of the Marne. He states that they had to camp right next to the camp of K Company of 38th, who were hit with gas while they were sleeping. Gilkey describes how he can see the bodies there, boots and belongings untouched, as the gas snuck up on them before they could do anything. None of them made it out alive. Gilkey's company had to be careful, too, as there could still be some gas present. They were advised not to take the dead soldier's blankets, as they were full of gas, but some men took razors and other belongings. This is the cruel reality of war and the effect of weapons like mustard gas.


Tuesday, July 16 - Cramped and stiff, can't stretch out and can't get out, can't even move, prospects anything but bright, K company of 38th had just pitched tents and hadn't dug in, were caught last night and gassed and completely wiped out, everything just the way they went to bed with shoes by the side, all their equipment, clothes and personal property here, captain gave orders to leave blankets alone as full of gas, fellows are stocking up on razors, etc., anything but pleasant sleeping here by tents of the fellows, everything just as they left it, gas sure powerful, has smell of rotten oranges, makes your nose run and makes you sneeze, lots of gas around here yet stirred it up by cutting trees, sat in trenches all day, shells coming over all time, whole woods being shelled, some landing too close for comfort, haven't had anything to eat yet since yesterday noon, fellows sure tired and sore, timed 6-inch shells coming over, average every 30 seconds, knocks trees on us, threw dirt all over, one landed near 4th platoon trench, shell shocked a couple, Pratt killed by piece in stomach, had to keep in trenches til 10 o'clock when everybody ordered out, one platoon sent after rations, our section out on burying detail while rest of company digging and building dugouts, [...]

Citation: Gilkey, Edward. Edward Norman Gilkey: His Diary of His LIfe in the War Zone, France. Minnesota Historical Society. 114.D.4.3B

Exploring Dinard

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 16, 2018

In this diary entry, David Backus recounts going on an excursion with his captain to St. Malo. Backus met up with a woman named Yosette, who showed him around Dinard, the city across the channel from St. Malo. He spent the night on a bench, as there were no hotel rooms available.


Monday - July 15
Out - flew - Gang went to Paris lunch cleaned up - read - dinner. Drive over to Uptham with Captain Bval - Choffeur [sic] drove me to station - caught 10.08 p.m. train - changed at Remmes got into St. Malo - 9:25 took boat across to Dinard. Meet Yosette Aghion and her mother and sisters - went swimming - water was wonderful - great. Up to the Aghion's for luncheon talked. Yosette showed me the beauties of Dinard - most picturesque. Caught the 5:00 train changed Remmes. Meet Bob Laree. he just got back from Amerca [sic] we talked until three when I got to Chartus. Slept on a bench - no room in hotel. [...]

Citation: David Backus Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F


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