WAR LETTERS: DEATH - 1918 France


Nebraska Public Radio and the Legacy Project received letters
written by soldiers who had seen fellow soldiers die or, in one instance,
were writing about the first visit to the grave site of a loved one.

1918 France

Edna Peterson of St. Paul, Nebraska sent us a letter from her uncle, Private Clarence Olsen, written to his mother from France during World War One. Private Olsen died from his wounds on December 2, 1918. Following Private Olsen's letter is one to Mrs. Olsen from the surgeon who cared for her son.

November 15, 1918, France
Letter from Private Clarence Olsen
followed by a letter from his surgeon,  J. E. Olson

November 5, 1918

My Dear Mother:

I had just got through writing a letter to Henry on October 28th and telling how safe we are, but Fritz got the best of me that same evening. I am now in the hospital minus one leg just above the knee and a shrapnel hole through the other one just below the knee. From present indications I am getting along as well as can be expected and lately have not suffered very much

This may be somewhat of a shock that I should put it as plainly as I do, but you might as well know exactly how things are now. Then you won't worry if recovery seems slow later on. Everybody has been treating me just fine, and you can be sure they are doing all they can to put me "back on my feet" in the shortest possible time. I will send Henry's letter as soon as I can find it. It is somewhat soiled, but I think he will be able to read it. I shall try to get letters out as often as I can, but you don't want to expect a large number at first as everybody is busy and I must not burden them too much. Let Hans know about this and have him inform the Kearney friends. Greetings and love to everybody.

Your loving son,

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


January 24, 1919

My Dear Mrs. Olsen:

I am in receipt of a letter from your son, Hans Olsen, written from Bayard, NE. asking in regard to his brother Clarence, and your son.

Clarence was evacuated from an evacuation hospital near the front to Base Hospital No.49, November 15 and came under my care. He sustained very severe wounds about November 9, I think, in a few days before the signing of the armistice.

A high explosive shell wounded him in both legs and resulting gas gangrene made it necessary to amputate both limbs above the knees. This was all done before he entered Base Hospital No. 49, and in it no doubt was the only measure possible to give the poor boy a chance to live. The shock of course was intense. When he came to my care, he had a developing broncho-pneumonia, but he put up a most wonderful fight against the inevitable.

I talked to him each day as we both came from Nebraska and have the same name. He related many interesting, at the same time, harrowing experiences at the front. Although very modest and reluctant in telling his own personal part in it, I could easily see that your son was one of the bravest and most courageous boys in his command.

The tragic part of it all is the fact that he should fight through the war and be cut down when victory was in sight, but he was happy in being able to live and know that the war was over and won, and all due to the American Dough-boy.

He was cheerful throughout, never complaining, a true soldier, even though the worst injured in my wards.

I instructed the nurses to give him extra care, which they were glad to give and spent a great deal of time in adjusting him to protect his limbs and prevent bed sores and do all we could to give him a chance.

He had great fortitude and resistance, but the trial was too severe and he passed away without a struggle or pain December 2, 1918.

He was given a military funeral. Our chaplain - Jasper H. Tancock, Dean of the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Omaha - presided at the grave, and after the sound of the firing squad died away, the remains of your dear boy were laid to rest while taps was blown for him the last time.

Clarence made the supreme sacrifice, and all in all he may have accomplished more by his death than if he had lived.

As you will note, I am now with the 82nd division and no longer with Base Hospital No. 49, but in due time you will receive any belongings or property that Clarence possessed as it is an order from the government.

You may rest assured that your boy did not suffer much, as we did everything to ease him, and he died a soldier in every sense of the word.

A neat cross with his name and regiment, marks his grave at Allerey, France, and it will always be kept in the best of condition as he is sleeping in a government cemetery with many of his comrades in arms.

Hoping this letter will allay to some extent your anxiety and worry, I beg to remain.

Yours sincerely,

J.E. Olson
Capt, W.C. Field Hospital No. 526.
A.P.O. 742



1945 China Sea          1918 France
1940s Philippines          1945 Okinawa