From Surviving Records maintained by the National Personnel Records Center, St Louis, MO.
PFC Carlson's official records were partially destroyed by the fire in St Louis on 12 July 1973. The below is based upon information in the surviving records provided by the NPRC.
Certificate of Military Service
This certifies that Charles August Carlson, 1 183 428, was a member of the United States Army from December 12, 1917 to February 18, 1919. Service was terminated by Honorable Discharge.
PFC Charles A. Carlson accepted enlistment at Havre, Montana.
He enlisted in the US Army Air Service, Signal Corps at Fort George Wright, Washington on 12 December 1917 for a "Period of the emergency unless sooner discharged".
His enlistment assignment was the 23d Balloon Company, Air Service and was initially assigned the 2nd Training Brigade, Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.
Upon completion of his training at Kelly Field, he was assigned to Camp MacArthur Waco, Texas with the 23d Balloon Company in March 1918.
On 1 May 1918, the 23rd Balloon Company was stationed at Post Field, Fort Sill, Oklahoma and started their training schedule which included Field Service Regulations, Manual of Interior Guard Duty, Infantry Drill Regulations, Telephones, Windlass, Balloons and Machine Guns. Training was scheduled to be completed by 1 July 1918. (Aerial Age Weekly Vol 15, Page 374, 26 June 1922)
Records indicated that his foreign service was from 21 October 1918 to 21 January 1919. He departed France from the port of Brest in January 1919 and assigned to Camp Devens, MA. From Camp Devens,he was transferred to Camp Lewis, Washington for the purpose of being processed for discharge. He was discharged on 18 February 1919.
I remember him telling me that his duties in France were to man the machine gun which guarded the base device which held the observation balloon. As I recall he said they landed in Brest and were stationed in the vicinity of Nancy.
I wish I had been more interested at the time to try to extract information from him. SGM Charles R. Carlson (his son)
World War I
April / 1917
November / 1918
Description The United States of America declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily but acted alone in diplomacy. The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived in large numbers on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. They played a major role until victory was achieved on November 11, 1918. Before entering the war, the U.S had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and the other Allied powers. During the war, the U.S mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including 43,000 due to the influenza pandemic. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. military. After a slow start in mobilising the economy and labour force, by spring 1918 the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to United States entry into the war.
Although the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, it did not initially declare war on the other Central Powers, a state of affairs that Woodrow Wilson described as an "embarrassing obstacle" in his State of the Union speech. Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 17, 1917, but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various Co-belligerents allied with the central powers, thus the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central, eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
The United States as late as 1917 maintained only a small army, smaller than thirteen of the nations and empires already active in the war. After the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1917, it drafted 2.8 million men into military service. By the summer of 1918 about a million U.S. soldiers had arrived in France, about half of whom eventually saw front-line service; by the Armistice of November 11 approximately 10,000 fresh soldiers were arriving in France daily. In 1917 Congress gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans when they were drafted to participate in World War I, as part of the Jones Act. In the end Germany miscalculated the United States' influence on the outcome of the conflict, believing it would be many more months before U.S. troops would arrive and overestimating the effectiveness of U-boats in slowing the American buildup.
The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join with the British Grand Fleet, destroyers to Queenstown, Ireland and submarines to help guard convoys. Several regiments of Marines were also dispatched to France. The British and French wanted U.S. units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and not to waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. The U.S. rejected the first proposition and accepted the second. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to break up U.S. units to serve as mere reinforcements for British Empire and French units. As an exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to fight in French divisions. The Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the French 16th Division, earning a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions at Château-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Séchault.
Impact of US forces on the war
On the battlefields of France in spring 1918, the war-weary Allied armies enthusiastically welcomed the fresh American troops. They arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, at a time when the Germans were unable to replace their losses. After British Empire, French and Portuguese forces had defeated and turned back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive of March to July, 1918), the Americans played a role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive of August to November). However, many American commanders used the same flawed tactics which the British, French, Germans and others had abandoned early in the war, and so many American offensives were not particularly effective. Pershing continued to commit troops to these full- frontal attacks, resulting in high casualties against experienced veteran German and Austrian-Hungarian units. Nevertheless, the infusion of new and fresh U.S. troops greatly strengthened the Allies' strategic position and boosted morale. The Allies achieved victory over Germany on November 11, 1918 after German morale had collapsed both at home and on the battlefield.