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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

Tragedies At Training Camp: David Backus's Diary

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 20, 2017


David Backus' diary on December 20, 1917 describes an average day that turns tragic as a comrade crashes his plane and dies instantly. Backus describes arriving at the scene of the crash, straight into the ground at full speed just 900 feet away from him and other airmen. He recalls rushing to the site of the crash to find that the pilot, Lt. Paul, had died instantly, and describes as he and the other airmen pulled him from the wreckage. This tragic incident sheds light on the very real dangers soldiers faced, even in a training environment. However, business must continue as usual and later in the day Backus records four "Tours de Piste," or laps, in an 18-Metre plane.

 

Backus diary page
Backus diary page


Thursday Dec. 20-17.
Receved letters from Mother. Some cold, formation 6:30. Trucks over to St. Valentine Field. Well all the 72 of our fellows from Tours got their Active Orders + donned their Officers bars + paraphenelia. We are in 15 Metre Class. Well Lt. Paull, from Phil, just over few weeks, head of our section of 10, took his first + last hop on 15 Metre. Climbed too fast used rudder [ver...] from 120 meters, went into ground with motor full on about 900 feet from us. We ran- I was second man to reach the machine. He was killed instantly forehead severed by cord. We tore what was left of the plane apart trying to get him out. They brought an ax + I chopped iron ports away. We finally got him out, used lower wing for a stretcher. No doctor or ambulance anywhere around as usual. They would not let us fly until after lunch but [...] kept on. Sent over 3 18 Metres, Yong, Sherry, Brad + I had a lot of fun I got 4 long Tours de Piste + drove one machine home.

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

Some Friendly Competition

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 19, 2017


On December 19, 1917 the Omaha Chapter of the American Red Cross extended an invitation by telegram to the St. Paul Chapter to join them in a friendly challenge. The Omaha Chapter reports that only Denver and Dallas have accepted their challenge to secure the most new members compared to population between December 17th and 25th, and extends this challenge to St. Paul. It is unknown if St. Paul accepted this challenge and the opportunity to generate contributions through competition.


 


Western Union Telegram
RECEIVED AT 332 ROBERT STREET, ST. PAUL MINN.
OMAHA NEBR 18
AMERICAN RED CROSS CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE
ST PAUL MIN
OMAHA HAS ISUED THE CHALLENGE THAT SHE WILL SECURE MORE RED CROSS MEMBERS PER THOUSAND POPULATION FROM DECEMBER SEVENTEENTH TO TWENTY FIFTH THAN ANY OTHER AMERICAN CITY OF OUR SIZE OR LARGER ONLY DENVER AND DALLAS HAVE' ACCEPTED THIS FRIENDLY CHALLENGE WHATS THE MATTER WITH ST PAUL
HENRY DOURLY
CHAIRMAN CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE.

Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781

The University of Minnesota Goes to War

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 18, 2017


The University of Minnesota Base Hospital (Base Hospital No. 26 under the American Expeditionary Forces) was officially established in the summer of 1917, but preparations for its formation by the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic began as early as October 1916. In December 1917, the War Department mobilized Base Hospital No. 26, and this unit was assigned to active duty at Fort McPherson, Georgia.

On this day in 1917, the Chairman of the fundraising committee for the Hospital sent out this update to contributors. The letter describes the total contributions and the use that was made of them in purchasing equipment, medical supplies, shipping, and other preparation expenses. It also describes non-monetary contributions, including ambulances, cars, and some "miscellaneous instruments." This letter reports that the doctors of the Mayo clinic contributed almost half of all monetary contributions, and also describes the involvement of the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester Chapters of the Red Cross.

 


To the Contributors to the University of
Minnesota Base Hospital No. 26:

In view of the fact that the University of Minnesota Base Hospital No. 26, to which you made generous contribution some months since, has been mobilized and ordered to Ft. McPherson, Georgia, the Committee in charge of the gift desires to make the following report at this time.

The total cost of the Hospital to date is $32,345.59, of which the Doctors Mayo of Rochester contributed $15,000.00 and citizens of Minneapolis $17,345.59. This money was forwarded to the Red Cross at Washington and placed by them to the credit of Dr. L. B. Baldwin of the University Hospital, Minneapolis, as disbursing officer for the purchse of the proper equipment. The Base Hospital has a capacity of 500 beds. [...]

[Signed]
Chairman of Committee.

Citation: University of Minnesota Base Hospital Committee records, 1917-1918. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2173

​Learn More.

"Teutons Keep Up Drive On Italians" and "U.S. War Council Created" - Freeborn County Standard. December 17, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 17, 2017

"Allies Form Naval Council" and "Two Lightless Nights" - The Daily People's Press. December 16, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 16, 2017

"To Enroll Men for War Work" and "The Negro in the War" - The Twin City Star. December 15, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 15, 2017

David Backus Looks Forward to A Promotion

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 14, 2017


David Backus describes an uneventful day of training in his diary, but looks forward to officially accepting and taking the oath for his position as First Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He also describes target practice and the arrival of a comrade, Stuffy, from his pilot training at Tours, France.

 

Backus diary page


Friday Dec. 14-1917,
Well went out to traps[,] did rotton - 4 out of 15 - then got 10 goose eggs - worse - will have to [ba...]. Laid around all aft. Got [...] from War Dept First Lieutenacy in USA. We take our Oaths and accept tomorrow. Rained this aft. Stuffy [...] came in from Tours.

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

Watch on the Atlantic: Diary of Edward Gilkey

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 13, 2017


Edward Gilkey describes in his diary the continued progess of his journey across the Atlantic, and changes in the weather. In this diary entry Gilkey describes standing on guard with another company from an African American regiment. Gilkey's description of his interaction with another soldier, in which he swindles this soldier with his watch, and his justifications for these actions, give some insight into the state of race relations during this time. More than 350,000 African Americans served during World War I, and they often faced discrimination, even from their fellow soldiers.



 

"Great Drive by Huns Expected" and "Lightless Nights May Come" - The Daily People's Press. December 12, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 12, 2017

"Great German Attack is Believed Impending" and "Lull in Battle on the Asiago" - The Duluth Herald. December 11, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 11, 2017

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