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.
Private Harry W. Glenn wrote this letter to his parents while stationed in France. He tells them of the difficulty he has been having with his teeth, including a recent surgery he went through to remove an abscess that formed in his jaw. Glenn writes that he has been diagnosed with Necrosis Mandible, known today as Osteonecrosis, which was possibly caused by exposure to a toxic agent such as mustard gas. Despite the loss of many teeth, Glenn seems to be looking on the bright side, saying he finds ways to help out at the hospital and makes himself useful.
This letter was sent to all the Division Directors of Civilian Relief for the American Red Cross, regarding the need for Reconstruction Aides who would provide occupational therapy for disabled soldiers in hospitals. The Red Cross was looking for women from 25 to 40 years old, 60 to 70 inches tall, and 100 to 195 pounds. These women had to be US citizens, and should have knowledge in basketry, weaving, simple wood carving, block printing, knitting, needle work, and drawing skills.
August 6, 1918.
[...] It is impossible to state at this time just how many Reconstruction Aides in Occupational Therapy the Medical Department of the Army may need during the next year ending June 30, 1919. [...] We have indicated to the American Red Cross that there will probably be a need overseas of two hundred Reconstruction Aides during the next year. [...] The pre-requisites as to age fixed for the present is healthy women from twenty-five to forty years of age. If the Reconstruction Aide in Occupational Therapy is utilized in the hospitals of this country she may be a married woman and may be the wife of an overseas officer of the army. If her husband is overseas she could not be sent overseas under the ruling of the War Department. They must of course be citizens of the United States, physically they must be fit, should not be less than sixty inches in height nor more than seventy inches. They should weigh not less than one hundred nor more than one hundred ninety-five pounds.
Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781
"25,000 Women Nurses Wanted" and "Prohibition Talk Here Tomorrow" - Freeborn County Standard. August 5, 1918
James Thomas Hughes enlisted on August 2nd, 1918 as a Battalion Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion of the 809th Regiment of the Pioneer Infantry. He sailed to France on September 23rd, 1918 and returned on July 16th, 1919. He received the Bronze Victory Medal on September 16th, 1919. This diary entry is from his from his time spent in camps in the U.S before he sailed to France. He also mentions his "pal" Tela, likely Tela Burt, whose draft assignment was posted on August 2nd, and who was also a member of the 809th Regiment.
August 4th, 1918 Arrived at camp 9:30 am Roasted on the march which seemed like a prison sentence. Got Tela as pal. seemed a thousand miles but was only about two. Some [...rab] in all this sand and dust. Nothing to eat until 3:15 P.M.
Citation: James Thomas Hughes Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D640.H84
ATTENTION: The following letter and transcription contain language that is derogatory. We have chosen to include this letter and it's complete transcription as it provides evidence of the racism many African American soldiers experienced while serving during the War. However, it may be offensive to readers.
In a diary entry from this day, Victor Johnson gives insight into race relations in the army. He writes about how an African American soldier and a white soldier from C Company got into a fist fight. Based on Johnson's writings, it seems that the African American soldier came out on top, which led to all of C Company going in search of the man with loaded rifles. In the camp segregated existed, which Johnson called "The Mason Dixon line". Even though African American soldiers were fighting against the Germans and putting their lives against the line just as much as any white soldier, discrimination still remained.
Today they changed the shifts so now we go to work at 1.30 am this week and get thru at 12.30 am. Here in this camp they have quite a few niggers (One Regiment) and some time ago one of the boys in C Co. got into a fight with one of them and got cut up pretty bad. Right then and there, there was Hell a poping (sic). The whole company took there rifels (sic) and went on a hunt for the so said nigger and if they had gotten him before the guards did he would have been one numbered among the dead. Now they have taken the rifels (sic) and amunition (sic) away from them. They gave the niggers a good some as none of them have looked for trouble since. Here in camp they have what is known as the Mason Dickson line (one of the company streets) where the niggers are not allowed to go over to the white side not the whites to the niggers side.
Citation: Victor O. Johnson Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1987
This draft assignment was for Tela Burt sent by the President of the United States on August 1st, 1918. Burt completed a tour of duty in France as a supply sergeant with the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry. He loved music, and after his tour of duty he studied the saxophone and clarinet at MacPhail School of Music.
Citation: Tela Burt Materials. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 142.G.7.4F-2
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
Lee Prentice enlisted at Fort Snelling on August 15th, 1917 as Army infantry and aviation. He was killed in air battle in Vigny while serving with the 104th Aero Squadron of R.A.F.U.S.S.R.C. The night before his death, Prentice wrote a letter to his wife Beth, telling her everything she should do in the event of his death.
Granny starts off this letter with a story about a Danish ship coming into port. When the ship arrived, the soldiers gave them a salute and when Granny saw two Danish girls on the ship he gave them a "good Minnesota smile,'' and blew them a kiss, (proving Minnesotans were charmers even in 1918). He then goes on to give his father several pieces of advice as to how he should interact with soldiers, or "boys in Khaki." He says that a handshake goes a long way, and that he should always make a conscious effort to remember a soldiers name. Granny also said that "the boys" really appreciate when people introduce them to other young peoples or when they make an effort to invite and include them. Granny says that he knows his father already knows this, but reminds him nonetheless, showing the camaraderie he feels with American soldiers all over the world. He closes by wishing his father a "Happy Birthday".
San Leon Aerial Gunnery School,
Houston, Texas, July, 1918.
[...] We saw a ship (steamer) from Denmark to-day pulling into Texas City. We fired a salute and circled around about fifty feet from them and thirty feet above the water. There were two ladies on the bridge, with the captain looking at us through the glasses, so I took off my goggles and helmet and gave them a good Minnesota smile and threw a kiss. The kiss was immediately exchanged for two Danish ones which my pilot claimed when we got down. I let him tell his story and then I explained to whom they were really thrown. [...]
Must close now, as I start flying at 6:45.
Love and birthday greetings.
Citation: Gutterson, Granville. Granville: Tales and Tail Spins from a Flyer's Diary. Minnesota Historical Society. D570.9 .G76
On this day, David Backus took his plane out for a flight. He states he flew for 20 miles and then the "stick" went out at 800 meters. But, being the experienced pilot he was, Backus seemed pretty unfazed by the whole ordeal and says he landed in a field was was okay. Later in the day he and his friends went for a swim in a nearby lake.