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
An excerpt from my uncle Ernest Julius Erickson's diary dated Tuesday, June 5th, 1917 goes simply:
"Went and signed up for Uncle Sam today, so if he wants me, I’m ready to go."
Ernest Julius joined up for sure and as this photograph shows he took his training duty serious. He was stationed at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington beginning in the Fall of 1917. He was a soldier in training in the"American Expeditionary Force" and eventually became a member of the 361st Infantry. Ernest Julius trained at Camp Lewis until he and his company were sent to France in the Spring of 1918.
After his arrival in Europe my uncle would soon enough with his Company C be in combat in France. By the Fall of 1918 he would be in the midst of the Battle of the Argonne Forest, in a military operation referred to as "The Meuse - Argonne Offensive." His diary entries are testament to the ordeal he came upon in early October of 1918.
"The Meuse - Argonne Offensive" was fought from September 26th 1918, until the Armistice on the the 11th of November 1918, a total of 47 days. The 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 brought an end to the war.
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 (AEF), which was commanded by General John J. Pershing.
Fort Lewis (named after Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) consisted of 87,000 acres of prairie land cut from the glacier-flattened Nisqually Plain, it was the premier military installation in the northwest and was the most requested duty station in the army.
Fort Lewis began as Camp Lewis in 1917 when the citizens of Pierce County voted to bond themselves for $2 million to buy 68,721 acres of land. They donated the land to the federal government for military use. The only stipulation was that the tract be used as a permanent army post. Unfortunate for the Nisqually Indians, a portion of the land was taken from the tribe's reservation.
Captain David L. Stone and his staff arrived at the camp site on May 26th, 1917 to begin construction. In 90 days, Stone had supervised the construction of a "city" of 757 buildings and 422 other structures, all lighted and heated for 60,000 men.
My uncle Ernest Julius Erickson was one of the first recruits to move into the new barracks on September 5th, 1917 to begin his military training.
The following two years saw tremendous activity at Camp Lewis as men mobilized and trained for war service. Thousands of the nation's young men became familiar with Camp Lewis, Tacoma and the state of Washington.
By the Spring of 1918 Pvt. Ernest Julius Erickson along with the 361st Infantry were on a ship setting out from the Brooklyn (NY) Port out into the Atlantic and heading for combat in France.
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