m a r k e r i c k s o n p a i n t i n g s Frank Severin Erickson Ernest Julius Erickson Andrew Anders Sebran Erickson American Expeditionary Force 1918 - 1919 Out West & North Dakota
Standing straight and tall in a photo studio portrait, my uncle Pvt. Andy Anders Sebran Erickson of the Air Corps, 101st Aero Squadron when he was serving with the American Expeditionary Force in 1918.
Andy was a memorable guy, he stood 6 foot 4 inches, had a great smile and was a gentle kind man. When I was a child and into my teens visiting Bismarck we would always spend time with Andy and my aunt Klavdia. Knowing him as my grandfather Frank's younger brother was always fascinating to me. Of all Frank's brothers, Andy was the sweet uncle. Frank was a serious man, smiles came infrequently and he kept that cowboy mystique I always pictured him to be going till the end.
Among Frank's other three brothers, Ernest Julius was killed in the war, Alphons passed before I could ever know him and Helmer to me as a young boy seemed distant or was just another quiet Scandinavian. Ernest Julius was the one I really wished I had a chance to know. Maybe the most fascinating family member I got to know only through his writings and photographs.
I had seen the family photographs of Andy in the Air Corps and the family images with Andy and Klavdia and alongside his parents and siblings. It all stuck in my thoughts as I was growing up. It left an impression, one that still lingers.
Andy served with the 101st Aero Squadron in France. Frank was a very fortunate survivor of the famed 'Lost Battalion.' He'd been a runner rifleman with the 308th Infantry that culminated with his participation in the Meuse Argonne Offensive that had commenced in late September of 1918.
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 German forces 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 walked out alive.
Both Frank and Andy returned home to the Dakotas in the Spring of 1919 and their older brother Ernest Julius Erickson was killed by a German sniper on October 10th, 1918 in the Argonne Forest while on a mission. Helmer never served that I know of and Alphons was too young.
Andy and Frank were born in Sundsvall, Sweden in 1896 and 1892 respectively and immigrated to the states in 1903 and lived most of their lives in the Dakotas. A few years after the war Andy married one of the nicest gals, Klavdia Khalflova who was born in Krasnodar, Russia. They had two children, Zena (Zenaieda) Abbie (Henninger-Wanner) and Donald Erickson. Frank married my grandmother Clara Amelia Nelson in 1921. They had two children also, Dian Marcella and Ernest Anders Erickson.
The second photograph below is rare image of the 101st Aero Squadron of the U.S. Expeditionary Forces, based at Issoudun Aerodrome, near Bourges on Field 5 in 1918. The groups planes, the Nieuport 24 BIS (Bosch Injection System) bookend the airmen. American's flying French aircraft with German engines bombing Germany and France! So the crazy story of wars go.
Interesting to note is the Reconnaissance Observation balloon hovering over the hangars on the left. Also there is a military pitch tar burner smoking in the background with the men at work on the roofing of the hangars. The plane behind the men on the left with the red nose is from the 31st Aero who shared the adjoining strip on Field 5.
Andy was ground crewman and engine mechanic, he also repaired the fabric covering and the wooden spars on the wings and sides of the planes when they came back battered in combat. When the Squadron was grounded Andy became the driver for the commanding officers.
The 101st has its origins at Kelly Field, Texas, coincidentally where my father Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson would complete his training as a pilot of a B-17 in 1942-1943. Being organized officially as the 101st Aero Squadron on August 20, 1917 as part of the American Expeditionary Force and would eventually serve in France. The 101st existed from February 1917 through June 1919 and primarily was involved with Daylight Bombardment. Assigned to 2nd Day Bombardment Group, the 101st was demobilized on June 30, 1919.
The personnel were composed of new recruits from various Recruit Barracks, including Fort McDowell, Vancouver Barracks, Fort Sam Houston, Columbus Barracks, Fort Williams, Fort Warren and Fort Oglethorpe. After training was complete on October 29th, the squadron was ordered to overseas service, reporting to the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island.
The 101st arrived at Camp Mills for debarkation to Europe on November 3rd, 1917. In December of 1917 the squadron received orders to report to the Port of Entry, Philadelphia for immediate transport to France, sailing on the SS Northland on December 4th.
The Northland arrived in Liverpool, England on Christmas Day, after spending a week at Halifax, Nova Scotia, having waited to form up with a convoy for the cross-Atlantic voyage. After a few days at a Rest Camp near Winchester, England, the squadron moved to Le Havre, France. The unit then traveled by train to the Replacement Concentration Center in St. Maixent, France arriving on January 1st, 1918.
Soon after the 101st was assigned to the Issoudun Aerodrome near Bourges where the squadron carried out bombardment missions until the end of the war. The 101st remained in Issoudun after the Armistice with Germany in November of 1918. It returned to the states in early April of 1919. The 101st arrived at Mitchel Field at Hempstead Plains of Long Island, New York, where the squadron members were demobilized and returned to civilian life. Andy headed back to North Dakota.
Thanks to my cousin Mark Henninger of Bismarck, North Dakota for supplying the original photograph of his grandfather Andy and the 101st. He was kind enough to go through the archives of his mother Zena's. Images of the family going back to the late 1800s in Sweden.
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