WW1 Daybook

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Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future


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

A Typical Day in Army Band

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

Eber Berquist, a member of the Army band, describes the daily schedule of the Army band at Camp Dodge, Iowa. The schedule includes waking up at 5 am, both individual and group practices, medical corps litter drills (carrying stretchers), giving three or four concerts a day, and going to bed at 9 pm.

Camp Dodge, Iowa.
Dear Folks,
[...] Our drill hours are much longer now. This is the bands program for the day:
First we get about five o'clock and play a concert at five-thirty- then we have breakfast- next we lead the whole regiment out the drill field which is about 2 miles. Then we come back and have individual practice for one hour, and the rest of the forenoon we practice together till 11:30. Then we go out to the drill field and eat our dinner. After dinner we play an hour concert while the boys that are drilling are resting. After the concert we go up to the medical corps and have one hour litter-drill (carrying strectchers, [sic]) then we practice together until a quarter to five, and go out and play for the regiment while they pass in review before the Major and his staff. After that we play the star spangled banner and go to the barracks for mess. Then on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night we play a concert from 7:45 to 8:45 and it soon nine o clock and bed time. [...]
Am feeling O.K.
P.S. By the way I've never had to go on sick report since I came so guess I'll make it alright.

Citation: Eber John Berquist Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2786

The Spirit Through the American Army

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

This is the record of Anne Williams, who served with the American Red Cross directing surgical dressings, doing canteen and officers' club work and emergency nursing. After the war, she described one of her most memorable experience that occurred in June, 1918. She was kneeling on the floor trying to help a wounded soldier who had been operated on the night before. He lay on a blanket with his head on a pack, and asked for a pillow. He then said Williams should put the pillow under her knees, as she'd been kneeling next to him for so long. Williams was touched that despite the man's pain, he was most concerned with her comfort. "That was the spirit all the way through of the entire American Army."


[...] There were too many interesting experiences to really choose one. This slight incident that shows the spirit of the American Soldier, with his unselfishness and courage, happened not far from Meaux, during the first Chateau Thierry encounter in June 1918. One, of some one hundred and fifty wounded, who were lying on a hard cement floor of a railroad station, waiting for a hospital train, had an operation the night before. changing of dressing had been impossible, and he was in great pain. He had lain there for some eight hours, on a blanket with his head on his pack. I had spent some time trying to make him comfortable, and there were other things to be done. He asked for a pillow, and when it was brought, said to the orderly: - "Put it under her knees. I should think she'd be tired working over me so long." He never complained- said he had only done his bit.
That was the spirit all the way through of the entire American Army.

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

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


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