WW1 Daybook

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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

Happy Father's Day!

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

This small lapel pin features a shield over a brass cross, with a screw fastener on the back. Inside the shield it reads, "AMERICAN / WAR / DADS" on red, white and blue enamel.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 70.12.19

"My Dear Son, Please Come Home"

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

This is a sign asking for information on David Cochran, a 16 year old who left home on this day. A picture and physical description of him are given, as well as a public letter from his father to him, begging him to come home. It is unknown why the young man ran away, as he was too young to be drafted, though he may have been attempting to enlist.


the whereabouts of
Whose photograph is here shown
[...] MY DEAR SON:
If you should happen to come in contact with this advertisement, please read the following very carefully:
We want you to come home, where no one else can ever take your place. Hold your head up like a man, as there is nothing whatever against you, only that you left your dear father and mother, sisters, brothers and hosts of relatives and friends to mourn because they do not know where you are or what may befall you. Everything that belonged to you is still yours, and even more. It would make you rejoice to know what we have at home for you, so son come on home. If you have no money with which to come home on, write or wire your father at once and he will send it. [...]

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

Beginning of the Battle of the Piave River

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 15, 2018

Willard W. Bixby was stationed in Italy as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross. In letters to his family (written June 16 and July 21, 1918), Bixby describes a major battle: the Battle of the Piave River, which lasted from June 15 to June 23, and his work driving an ambulance during the battle. In his letter from June 16, written during the fighting, Bixby states that "I have been on the go every minute and have had about 6 hrs. sleep in the last 48." In the letter written July 21, Bixby goes into more detail about the experience and mentions that he was "wending my way warily and scarrily [sic] thru pitch dark roads accompanied by the thot that when I got back to the sucistamento or dressing station, I might be pleasantly surprised by a welcome from our friends the Austrians." Bixby also mentions that he doesn't think they'll ever see a battle like that again, as many of the ambulance drivers who had been in Italy for a year had never had an experience like that one.

Somewhere on
the Piave
Dearest Mother,
The anticipated attack started yesterday morning about 1 A.M. I have been on the go every minute and have had about 6 hrs. sleep in the last 48. I am well and safe but have certainly seen the thick of it. I have just a few minutes to write so I will cut this short. I have a machine now as we all have to be on duty as it is a night and day affair. The things I have seen and the things I have thot [sic] I will not describe now. I have been assigned to section five and will be in Milano in a couple of weeks I expect, if this thing lets up before then. I will cable from there So that after you get this letter the cable will be more appreciable. I can see shrapnel bursting from my window and believe me it is not the most pleasant of sounds. Must be off will write more extensive letter.
Load of Love

Sunday, July 21, 1918.
Dearest Dad and Mother,
[...] Your last letter was of June 13th and of course the attack started two days latter. Little did you reck when you thot [sic] of me speeding thru France in my classy little motor ambulance that I was more likely wending my way warily and scarrilt [sic] thru pitch dark roads accompanied by the thot [sic] that when I got back to the sucistamento [sic] or dressing station, I might be pleasantly surprised by a welcome from our friends the Austrians. But that is over now and I doubt if we will ever see anything like it again. Many of the boys that have been over here a year in France and Italy, never had an experience like those 8 days. We all feel more that fortunate that we were able to get in on it but I haven't heard anyone say they were very anxious to go thru it again. [...]
With love,

Citation: Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624

"President Goes on Record" and "Food Situation is Growing Serious" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. June 14, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 14, 2018

"French Make New Gains in Center, but Retire East of Oise" and "150,000 Czechs to Quit Russia and Join Allies" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. June 13, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 13, 2018

A Soldier's Thanks

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 12, 2018

This thank you letter was sent by Private George L. Bucklin to the Saint Paul Chapter of the American Red Cross to thank them for everything the Red Cross does for soldier; from providing them with Comfort Kits to giving soldiers knit wear when things get cold, to welcoming soldiers to their new home and reminding them of their old ones.


Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind.
June 12, 1918.
St. Paul Chapter American Red Cross,
Friends All:
We, the Regiment to which I am fortunate enough to belong, expect to leave before the month for "Over There", and before leaving I want to thank the American Red Cross, and St. Paul Chapter, for the wonderful work they are doing.
I inlisted [sic] in St. Paul April 16th and had use for my Comfort Kit almost at once, for one used his drinking cup about the first thing, and from that time on it seems there is something in that little Kit that comes in handy every day, and invariable it is something that not one man in a hundred would think of buying until he needed it. It seems about the last one a soldier sees is a Red Cross representative when leaving home, and they are the first to greet him inhis [sic] new home. [...] Thanking you again and again for what you have done for me, and assuring you every soldier feels the same as I do towards the Red Cross and Y.M.C.A., and wishing you double the reward you are sure to receive for doing your "Bit" by helping to send a happy, healthy, clean, bunch of men "Over There" I am.
Respectfully yours,
Pvt. Geo. L. Bucklin,

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

Besieged by Urchins

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 11, 2018

This is an excerpt from the diary of Edward Gilkey which was taken off his fallen body and returned to his parents by his commanding officer First Sergeant Clifford Brundage, after he was struck by a high explosive shell in The Second Battle of the Marne. His parents had the diary published in memory of their son. In this entry, Gilkey talks about riding the train into Paris. He comments on the beautiful scenery, but his views of the city are tainted when he gets to the station. He states there were several young children, (which he calls urchins,) selling a plethora of different things. The soldiers were swarmed by them the moment they stepped off the train.


Tuesday, June 11 - Train stopped for breakfast about eight o'clock, didn't cover much ground because of some delay to a train in front of us, headed in direction of Havre, but turned off for Paris, which city we reached about 4:30, twenty kilos before we reached Paris the country became more beautiful the villages gave way to homes, more like those in the states, being scattered and not grouped, houses more beautiful and grounds more luxurious, extensive, beautiful gardens which were carefully taken care of, I got a seat on one of the wagons, and had a fine tour, greeted by Mdlles ["Mesdemoiselles"] all along the way while near Paris, stations crowded with pretty Mdlles, dressed in best styles, they sure did give us a royal send off, we sang and yelled all the way to Paris, we only went through the St. Denis section, but got a good view of Paris, of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, part we passed through wasn't much different from the railroad yards of any large American City, stopped for half an hour, was beseiged [sic] by urchins and girls selling wines, oranges, ect., if the fellows had been paid they would sure have done some business, people sure some excited, kids dirty and barefooted run along side of train begging for souvenirs and cigarettes, finally left Paris, disappointed with what we had seen of it, from Paris headed in general direction of Rheims, through the Marne country here thickly wooded and very thinly populated, we arrived at Monturail at 10:30 but stayed in box cars 'till morning.

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

Duties of an Ambulance Driver

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 10, 2018

Willard W. Bixby, an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, sent this letter to his Mother while stationed in Milan, Italy. In it, he describes his duties as a driver, such as transporting wounded soldiers between the front lines and different hospitals and rotating with other drivers to stay on the front lines in case there is a need for an ambulance. He reassures his family by telling them he is in little danger as an ambulance driver, aside from gas attacks, and he mentions that all drivers have gas masks to protect themselves. Half-way through the letter, Bixby comments that his pen "gave out".
Included are three photographs, one of Bixby and his friends on their way home, another of an armored car that was blown up only 30 minutes after the picture was take, and a photograph of Bixby sitting on his ambulance on a Saturday night.


"A last examination to the machine guns of an armored car, before it makes a dash through the Austrian lines. Half an hour after this picture was taken, this car was annihilated, only one of its four occupants escaping."

Citation: Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624

Typical Day on the Front

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 9, 2018

This entry depicts an average day in the life of a soldier. Most of the time it was a lot of sitting around and small excitements to make the days go by. The only thing of note that happened to Fraser today was that he saw some cute girls at the Y in the evening; otherwise it was a very uneventful day.


Rain in morn. Did some more packing. 5 Harrow sisters were at the "Y" in the evening were fair.

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

Promoted to Director of Physical Training

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 8, 2018

Paul Thompson wrote this letter to his sister describing his stay in Italy. He announces that he has been named as the Director of Physical Training for the district of Rome - and expects to have business cards made stating such. He is asking his sister to send viewpoints of the war from the American perspective, (if it is allowed,) as he is curious to hear how those who are not fighting in the war feel about it.


June 4-1918
Dear Ruth,
Your letter of May 4 came in today and I was much relieved to find that you knew I did not sail in the torpedoed boat. [...] I could have sailed on that boat but my trunk was at Muele Ge guie [sic] and I didn't have time to get it after I learned the boat was to sail. So I lost an interesting experience altho there were two encounters with submarines by a destroyer on our trip - one of which I stood on the deck and saw. I am now director of Physical Training for the district of Rome. In a few days I will have business cards printed to that effect. [...] You can imagine the job I would have if I were in charge of all military athletics at Mpls & Ft. Snelling. Then add to that all kinds of hospitals for all kinds of sick and wounded and the worst to be done by interpreter and you will get an idea of what I am to tackle. I am to start out at once to organize athletic committees in the military units and start the work going. [...] You had better consult the postmaster about sending printed matter to me here. If it is allowed you can help me a great deal by sending pictures and books of American views as these are of much interest to the people here. [...]
My best wishes to you all.
Your loving brother,

Citation: Paul Thompson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/T475 4/19-8/19


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