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Frank Severin Erickson
Ernest Julius Erickson
Andrew Anders Sebran Erickson
American Expeditionary Force 1918 - 1919
Out West & North Dakota

It took a few years to figure out the correct details on this beauty of a photograph. My grandfather Private Frank Gustaf Severin Erickson is 15th soldier from the left in the bottom row. Frank is marked with a ^ below where he is sitting. I discussed the photo with a couple family members that knew Frank well, but nothing could be specifically discovered at the time. The mystery continued until recently when it all fell into place.

Frank was born in Sundsvall, Sweden on December 12th, 1892 and immigrated to North Dakota in 1903 as a 11 year old boy with his family. In 1917 he and his two brothers signed up to serve with the AEF (American Expeditionary Force). Both Frank and Ernest Julius signed up in Oregon and Anders Sebran of 101st Aero Squadron signed up in North Dakota. All three served in France.

Oldest brother Ernest Julius served in the 361st Infantry and trained at Camp Lewis near Tacoma, Washington before being shipped overseas in July of 1918 to France. Frank trained with the 160th Infantry of the 40th Division in Company H also at Camp Lewis where this photograph was taken in June of 1918.

Frank and H Company traveled down from Washington to Camp Kearney in Southern California and then by train in late June across country to the east coast. Their destination was Camp Upton in Yaphank (Long Island) New York and they arrived in early July. They continued their training there and then moved onto Camp Mills, the embarkation area for troops heading overseas.

Frank and Company H were now part of the 308th Infantry and the 77th Division. On August 8th Frank & Company H left from the Brooklyn Harbor by ship and ten days later ported in Liverpool, England. By mid-late August Company H was in France about to be thrust into combat. The Meuse Argonne Offensive was about to percolate on September 25th, 1918. Ernest Julius would also be part of the same engagement with the 361st Infantry.

By early October Frank found himself and Company H in the precarious fiasco that became known as the 'Lost Battalion.' Frank survived, barely and was fortunate in that.

The Lost Battalion, the name given to the nine companies of the United States 77th Division of the American Expeditionary Force, consisted of 554 men that were surrounded by Germanforces in the Argonne Forest in France between October 2nd through the 8th of 1918.

Roughly 197 were killed in battle and approximately 150 went missing in action and or were taken prisoner. Only 194 remaining men were lucky to escape out of 'The Pocket" of the Argonne.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. It was fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice on November 11th, 1918, a total of 47 days.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which inevitably brought the war to an end. The battle cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force. The AEF was commanded by General John J. Pershing.

The photograph below was rolled up for 80 years and then flattened and kept safe by my father, Ernest Anders Erickson. When I got a hold of the photograph in 2013 I restored it to what you see. Further work is needed. I am grateful Frank is clear as bell in the photograph.

Frank ended his service in the late Spring of 1919 and came home to North Dakota and lived a good long life. He married my grandmother Clara Amelia (Nelson) and had two children, Ernest Anders and Dian Marcella Erickson. Frank worked hard and enjoyed his life hunting fishing and building things in his spare time. He and his brother Anders 'Andy' and my father Ernest Anders built their home in Bismarck in the mid 1930s.

Unfortunately for my uncle, Ernest Julius was shot and killed by a sniper on October 10th, 1918 while in action in the Argonne Forest during the Meuse Argonne Offensive. Ernest Julius along with another soldier of Company C, Pvt. Jesse A. Keene had been given orders to deliver a message to the commander of Company B of the 362nd Infantry.

They were well underway when they came under attack by snipers. Both men attempted to run for cover when Ernest Julius was shot. Pvt. Keene witnessed his partner getting hit and laying motionless for 5 minutes on the ground out in the open.

Pvt. Keene then withdrew and headed back to safety, giving his report of the incident to the Company commander. At some point later Ernest Julius's body was retrieved and over time brought back home to Dakota.

Found on Ernest's body was his blood stained diary which he wrote in regularly and his last entry ended abruptly. He had began a new sentence, very likely written that morning and Ernest had just written the letter s, when the writing ended there, forever silent.


Pvt. Jesse A. Keene's Report on Pvt. Ernest Julius Erickson

Below also two photographs, one of Pvt. Ernest Julius Erickson during training at Camp Lewis and one of Frank with members of Comapny H in France soon after the 'Lost Battalion' period.


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Mark Erickson 2018 All rights reserved.

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