Skip to Main Content

WWI: Minnesota in the Great War: Minnesotans Abroad

A description of major resources on World War I and related topics.

Minnesotans in the War in Europe

Want to Fight? Marine Corps recruiting poster, c 1914-1917

Thousands of Minnesotans served overseas during World War I as soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, nurses, or as Red Cross or YMCA volunteers. Collections related to Minnesotans serving abroad include service records, photographs, letters and diaries as well as published and unpublished reminiscences.

Below are selections of books and archival collections available at MNHS. Many more are available: search our library catalog to discover more. 

Books & Articles

Minnesota in the War with Germany by Franklin F. Holbrook and Livia Appel.
St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society, 1928-1932.
MNHS call number: Reading Room D570.85 M6 H6

History of the 151st Field Artillery, Rainbow Division by Louis L. Collins.
St. Paul: Minnesota War Records Commission, 1924.
MNHS call number: D570.85 .M6 A5 v.1

Minnesota History Magazine
Several articles on the Great War are available to read online or in the library's Reading Room.
Visit the index of the magazine and click on articles listed under the heading "World War I."
You may also search back issues to locate other articles. 


Marion Backus Papers, 1918-1946
Correspondence, certificates, documents, postcards, and related memorabilia of Backus, a Minneapolis Red Cross nurse stationed in France during World War I. They cover her induction in New York City; work with the Children’s Bureau in Paris; service at a field hospital in Beauvais, and with an emergency mobile hospital unit near Chantilly; and recuperation in Paris from bronchial pneumonia following the Armistice. Several letters are censored and a number of documents are in French.
MNHS call number: P1356

Tela Burt papers, 1916-1994
Papers related to the life and careers of a prominent figure in the Twin Cities African American community. Includes materials from Burt's time in France in the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Oscar R. Dahlgren, World War I Journals
Dahlgren’s three volume journal relating his experiences as a private in World War I, detailing his enlistment in February 1918 at Glenwood, Minnesota, into Company C, 349th Infantry, 88th Division; his training at Camp Dodge, Camp Sevier and Camp Mills; his service in Company D, 118th Regiment, 38th Division overseas in France and Belgium, including his participation in battles on the Somme Front and along the Hindenburg line; his return through Charleston, South Carolina, in March 1919 and his discharge at Camp Dodge in April 1919. 
MNHS call number: P2745

Bernard J. Gallagher and Family Papers, 1910-1966
Most of the papers relate to Gallagher’s World War I service, as a recent medical school graduate, in an English military hospital (1917) and with the  Division of the British Expeditionary Force in France, where he was captured (March 1918) and interned in a German prison camp. Included are a notebook of French grammar; Gallagher’s diaries and orders; prison-camp memorabilia; letters from Gallagher’s parents, officers of the  Division, and families of English soldiers; and three letters (1923, 1924) from men he had met in prison camp.
MNHS call number: P487

Oscar Lord Mather in the World War
A reminiscent account of Mather’s experiences (Oct. 1918-Oct. 1919) as an American Red Cross worker in Europe during and following the first world war. Mather’s recollections include detailed observations on European conditions, especially civilian living conditions, food and clothing shortages, and war damage. He comments on goods delivered by the Red Cross, riots and other civil disturbances, his travels by various means, and information on the cities he visited. The descriptions of his Red Cross work assignments begin in Switzerland and move on, after the war’s end, to Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Italy, and Rumania.
MNHS call number: P2256

Lester Allen McPheron Journal, 1918
A photocopied journal describing experiences of a St. Paul MN soldier participating in the final Allied offensive against Germany in the closing days of World War I. McPheron, a private serving in Company E, 360th Infantry Battalion, 90th Division, of the American Expeditionary Forces, describes his experiences at the front lines in France during October and November, 1918. Includes discussion about equipment and provisions, artillery barrages, marches in the mud and rain, gas warfare, the taking of heavy casualties and the deaths of comrades, German soldiers taken prisoner, and the announcement of the cessation of hostilities with the signing of the Armistice.
MNHS call number: P1789

Rollo Lester Mudge Papers, 1917-1972
Correspondence, programs, histories, military papers, and similar files compiled and created by Rollo L. Mudge, Minneapolis, and documenting World War I service of Battery D, 151st Field Artillery, originally a Minnesota National Guard unit. The regiment was a part of the U.S. Army 42nd Infantry ("Rainbow Division"). Mudge served with the unit from September, 1917 until May, 1919. One folder of correspondence and official military papers (1917-1919) was created while the division was in military service. Included are a complete chronology of the activities of the battery (prepared by Mudge) from June 26, 1917 to January 7, 1919; three letters written by servicemen to their families; Field Order No. 5 relating to the 42nd Division’s separation from service (1919); and a notebook, which may have been kept by Lt. Carl Sager, relating to all aspects of artillery techniques, including sketches and illustrations.
MNHS call number: P1643

Helen Scriver Papers, 1918-1919
Correspondence and miscellany relating to Scriver’s World War I service in France with the American Red Cross largely as an organizer of social activities for soldiers in Paris (Aug.-Oct. 1918; May-Aug. 1919) and Marseilles (Oct. 1918-April 1919). Her letters discuss her work, social life, dances for American soldiers, relationships with French families, and descriptions of wartime life in the cities.
MNHS call number: P362

MNHS manuscript collections include other letters and diaries from Minnesotans serving in Europe during World War I. You can search for these records through our library catalog by selecting "Manuscript and Railroad Collections" in the "Catalog Options" menu then searching using the terms "World War 1914-1918."

State Archives

Minnesota Public Safety Commission, Gold Star Roll 1918-1921
Four page form with biographical information for men and women who died in the war. May include clippings, photos and some letters. Online index linked within the digital finding aid.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota War Records Commission, Collected Materials
Materials related to WWI compiled from various sources. Incudes records, sheet music, and personal correspondence received from Minnesota service men and women abroad. Includes some records from the American Legion Auxiliary, Minnesota Dames of the Loyal Legion, Minnesota Hall of States Hostess Committee, St. Paul Red Cross (Fire Relief File), Jewish Welfare Board, Women's Naval Service, Daughters of the American Revolution, and National Guard Company I, and the Third Minnesota Infantry. 
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid 

Minnesota War Records Commission, YMCA and YWCA Records, 1911-1920
Documents related to the local YMCA and YWCA's efforts to raise money and recruit volunteers to serve abroad. Includes files on the Victory Girls program, the United War Work Campaign, and information on the YMCA's work in Italy. 
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

War Records Commission, Military Service Record Questionnaires
These questionnaires were sent by the War Records Commission to service men and women residing in Minnesota after the war. Information reported by the veteran on these forms include name, birth date/place, race, information on parents and pre-military life and residence, information on service during WWI, and data on the individual's return to civilian life. Completeness of the data varies. Some questionnaires are accompanied by photographs, war letters, and other related materials. A set of the same forms was filled out by nurses who served in the Army, the Navy, and the Red Cross; they, too, are sometimes accompanied by related attachments. An occasional nurse’s form may be found in the main set of military service records.  These records are indexed in our Collections Online system.  
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesotans Abroad: Links

Interested in locating military records for an ancestor who served in the war? Visit the library's Military Records Research Guide

MNHS Reference Staff

reading room bookshelves


Gale Family Library
Minnesota Historical Society Library

Located on the Second Floor of the Minnesota History Center
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Library Hours:
Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 4pm
Sunday to Wednesday: Closed

More Information on Visiting the Library


Contact Us:


Email Us

Visit our Main Website

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Hours and More InformationEmail us