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Legacy of World War I Vet Dallmann Lives On

Oak Creek resident was killed in France.

Editor's Note: Local author Tom Mueller presents the story of some familiar local names in a special Oak Creek Patch series leading up to Memorial Day. Today is part 4: Emil Dallmann, whose name is part of American Legion Post 434.

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Emil Dallmann died more than 90 years ago, but family members a generation down the road look at his picture and readily see that their own grandchildren share some of his facial traits.

Dallmann, 22, of Company H in the 39th Infantry Regiment in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, was killed in France on Oct. 10, 1918, in the last month of World War I. He died in giant fighting known as the second phase of the Meuse-Argonne offensive by the American Expeditionary Force. More than 1.2 million Americans were involved.

Franz Dallmann and his wife, Emilie Oldenburg, ran a 40-acre farm, on E. Oakwood Road east of the railroad tracks, which was sold in the 1950s and is now a subdivision. Franz was born in 1837 in Pomerania in Germany and had two previous wives. One of the many children and stepchildren on the family tree also had been named Emil, a son of Franz and his first wife. That child died in a fire in South Dakota along with a brother.

Franz and Emilie Oldenburg had seven children of their own. Emil Dallmann the soldier was No. 5.

“He resembled my uncle Ernst,” says Janet Johnson of Milwaukee, one of his many nieces. A nephew, the late Bob Dallmann, bore a strong resemblance to the soldier, too, according to Mildred Dallmann, his wife. Mildred says Emil’s nose, eyes and hair color are evident in some of her grandchildren, and that his gentle features also were carried by her husband – “they were mad at him in the Army because he needed to shave only once a week.”

The Dallmann farm had a postal address of Rural Route 1, South Milwaukee, and Emil is listed as being from that city in the 1925 book “Wisconsin's Gold Star List: Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Nurses from the Badger State Who Died in the Federal Service during the World War.” The listing also spells his name with one “N,” a mistake that often still happens today, family members say.

The family received this Western Union telegram from the Army on Dec. 1, 1918, several weeks after Emil was killed: “Deeply regret to inform you that Sergeant Emil Dallmann infantry is officially reported as killed in action October fourteenth.” Later correspondence amended that to Oct. 10, but the Gold Star book retained the earlier date.

Months later, on May 23, 1919, the family received a letter from Capt. R.W. Norton of Dallmann’s 39th Infantry Regiment saying the American Red Cross had provided this description of what happened to the Doughboy (again misspelling his name; it also was wrong on his temporary grave in France):

“During the early phase of the attack, Sergeant Dallman saw an enemy machine gun crew set its gun into a position which meant practical death for an entire platoon. Running with a squad of three others in the direction of the machine gun, it was seen to be impossible to reach the gun before it got into action. Sergeant Dallman dropped to one knee and fired into the crew, killing one. The machine gun opened fire. Sergeant Dallman was killed instantly, as was the remainder of the squad.”

Norton continued: “In previous actions Sergeant Dallman had distinguished himself greatly, coming from a private to a sergeant in the first two engagements and won a reputation which was second to none.”

The letter does not give a specific location other than in the Argonne in eastern France, but the Gold Star book puts the site as Norroy, St. Thibault. The commander of Dallmann’s 4th Division was Lt. Gen. George Cameron, and the division was in the 3rd Corps.

Dallmann is mentioned in an article this month in the Quarterly Journal of Military History. The article by Alfred S. Bradford Jr. is entitled, “Killing Machines at Meuse-Argonne, 1918.” The article is a narration of fighting by the 39th Regiment in late September 1918 by the author’s uncle, Lt. Francis (Bud) Bradford, of Appleton.

The lieutenant’s account says Bradford and Dallmann’s “H Company went into the first lines with a smash. By 9 we had advanced two kilos (kilometers) under terrific shrapnel, high explosive, and machine gun fire mixed plentifully with gas …. I can hear those bullets yet! I put on my mask. Inside of five minutes I had completely lost my bearings. We took off our gas masks and got through somehow.

“We passed a high railroad before I realized that I was way in the lead of the regiment. Just at that moment a German machine gun opened on our right flank and another in our front, at 700 yards. To charge them across the open would have been suicide; to stay where we were on the nose of the hill, worse. We were partly concealed in brown weeds about a foot high.

“I didn't pull any hero stuff. I ordered a withdrawal 100 paces to the railroad track to reorganize. We started, but just then the Boche artillery got our range and the heavens opened. Machine gun bullets were coming as thick as holes in player piano (music rolls). One got me in the right foot. I turned to (First Sgt. Emil) Dallman and said, "Get the men back; I'm hit." Then all the bells in the land broke loose – I grabbed my head with my hand; blood poured down my face and blinded me. I lay there for several moments betting on whether I was dead or alive.

“A bullet had gone through the middle of my tin derby. After I got the blood from my eyes, I wrote the captain a message of our predicament and turned to the runner on my left. He was sure hugging the ground. I hit him with a stone. He didn't move. He was dead. I turned to the man on my right. He was lying on his side and I saw him hit twice more,” Bradford says.

He eventually crawled to safety, and his men had thought he was dead because of the hole in his helmet.

The Allied offensive came in the region of the Meuse River and the Argonne forest, and marked by far by heaviest American losses in the war. The Americans were in the fighting from April 1918 to the Armistice on Nov. 11 of that year.

The first phase began Sept. 26 and ended Oct. 3. The second phase began the next day. For Oct 4, 5 and 6, Dallmann’s “4th Division, attempting to scale the Cunel Heights on the far right of the attack, gained scarcely a mile, and were still overlooked by the Germans on the Heights above. Right across the line the same story was told: unparalleled resistance, very heavy casualties, little or no advance,” according to the 2000 book “The Doughboys,” by Gary Mead. All told, 1.2 million Americans were in this battle.

One ordinary American Doughboy became famous right in that area two days before Dallmann was killed: Alvin York of the 82nd Division. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions of Oct. 8, with the citation saying: “After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and the other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with four officers and 128 men and several guns.”

On Sept. 26, the Allies fired 1.842 million artillery rounds, and 853,000 the next day. The rate then “fell” to between 200,000 and 491,000 per day, and on Oct. 10 it was 244,000, Mead’s book says.

Dallmann first was buried near the battlefield, and at his family’s request the body was returned to the United States, arriving in December 1921. He and his parents are buried in Oakwood Rest Cemetery in the 200 block of W. Oakwood Road. This time, the spelling on his tombstone was correct, with two Ns.

Those who remained behind in France were reinterred at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, where there are 14,246 graves and 954 names on the MIA wall. The cemetery, like that of in the Philippines, who was profiled earlier in this series, is run by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Dallmann’s nephew Bob Dallmann was a combat engineer in World War II in France (in the same general region that Emil had been killed in), Belgium, Holland and Germany.

Bob served as commander of the Oelschlaeger-Dallmann Legion post in the 1950s, and Mildred also was president of the auxiliary. They then lived in several other states.

 Tom Mueller, author of these reports, has called Oak Creek home since 1978 and has been writing for nearly 30 years about those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice. His two books are “The Wisconsin 3,800,” about men and women buried overseas or MIA from World War II, and “Heart of the Century,” about Korea and other events in the news and daily life between 1949 and 1951. His author website is www.warbooks.webs.com

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