Private Frank Gilbert Dann
- Unit: 33rd Division, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Company F
- Date of Birth: September 27, 1895
- Entered the Military: January 31, 1918
- Date of Death: October 10, 1918
- Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa
- Place of Death: south of Bois de Chaume, France
- Cemetery: Plot C, Row 34, Grave 4. Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-Sous-Montfaucon, France
Nashua-Plainfield High School
Home on the Farm
On September 27, 1895, Franklin Gilbert Dann was born at home on the family farm west of Cedar Falls, Iowa, the second child of eight to Frank William and Lillian Mae (Myers) Dann. Dann attended country school in Cedar Falls Township #2, where he received an eighth grade education, as was typical for boys from midwestern farm families.
After completing his education, Dann immediately began farming with his father full-time due to the manpower and muscle needed to sustain a family farm before the total mechanization of agriculture. Upon the death of his grandfather in 1915, Dann’s family sold the family farm to settle the estate and moved to Saratoga Township in Howard County, where they bought another farm. Dann resumed farming with his family and remained living on the family home as he was still single.
A Picture Worth a Thousand Words
The Dann family farmhouse served as the setting for a significant family photograph, the only one Dann’s sister Helen had of her brother, Frank. In her written journal reflections, Helen (Dann) Springer described how important the photograph was because it was taken during his final days at home on the farm before leaving for war. The picture shows the family seated at the kitchen table where Dann, who had been drafted, gave his mother a pitcher and six glasses with gold trim as a parting gift. Shortly afterward, in February, 1918, the family drove Dann to Cresco, where the 22-year-old boarded a train to fulfill his military obligation. It was the last time the Dann family ever saw their brother and son.
We Want You
The tight-knit Dann family had strong military ties dating back to the Civil War where Frank Dann’s grandfather, Charles H. Myers, proudly fought for the Union with the 7th Illinois Cavalry, Company B. Keeping with family tradition, both Frank and his older brother, Ralph, served in the First World War. Frank Dann registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 at age 21.
According to the July 27, 1917 edition of the Cresco Plain Dealer, Dann was 1 of 481 names drawn in the draft lottery for Howard County. The September 14, 1917 edition of the same publication indicated the local board of Howard County selected Dann from that pool for military service. Notations made by his mother, Lillian, on a card in a recipe box handed down through the family, indicated that Dann left for the service on February 24, 1918, as a private with the 33rd Division, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Company F.
From Farm to France
Dann served in the 132nd Infantry Regiment, which consisted of mainly Illinois militia units assigned to the 33rd Infantry Division. Dann and rest of his regiment trained at Camp Logan, Texas and then were transported to France on the USS Mt. Vernon, arriving at Brest Harbor on May 24, 1918. Around this time Dann’s mother, Lillian, received the final letter from her son, Frank, dated May 6, 1918.
In France, the 132nd Infantry Regiment, under the direction of Colonel Abel Davis, participated in many military engagements, including fighting alongside Australian soldiers at the Battle of Hamel in France, and with French troops in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On October 9, 1918, the 132nd Infantry Regiment collaborated in a frontal attack of the Meuse Heights following French troops attempting to capture Consenvoye. The 132nd Infantry Regiment started the day just south of Bois de Chaume. While the left battalion advanced methodically, the right flank, including Dann’s company, got cut off and caught in heavy enemy fire. Undeterred by heavy shell and machine gun fire, the 132nd Infantry Regiment continued toward its objective and captured Consenvoye.
Later, Colonel Davis received the Distinguished Service Cross citation for his leadership and courage. However, the heavy losses suffered during the engagement, including mortally wounded Private Dann, tempered the infantry’s celebratory mood.
News No Parent Wants to Receive
On November 10, 1918, Dann’s parents, Frank William and Lillian, received a telegram from Colonel Davis informing them that their son had been injured October 9, 1918, on a battlefield in France and was receiving medical attention in a field hospital. It went on to inform Dann’s parents that others fighting alongside their son spoke of his gallantry and heroism in battle. Colonel Davis promised to forward the Danns further details about his condition when available.
As was standard practice in small, midwestern towns, the Lime Springs Herald published the telegram on December 19, 1918, along with a note that the family had received another telegram only two weeks after the first, with the news no parent wants to receive: their son Frank died of his wounds on October 10, 1918, only one day after he had been wounded.
Final Resting Place
Private Frank Dann is buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, located atop an area where the heaviest fighting took place. Dann’s parents had the opportunity to repatriate their son’s remains but chose not to do so. In her journal, Dann’s sister Helen remarked that her mother chose to leave her son buried overseas because she was unsure if she would actually get his body or that of someone else, since the caskets of soldiers were never opened when the soldiers were sent home. On three separate occasions in 1929, 1930, and 1931, Lillian Dann had the opportunity to visit her son’s grave in France at government expense as part of the Gold Star Mothers program but she declined. Instead, Lillian Dann found solace in a painting of her deceased son, Frank, that became her prized possession until her own death.
Private Frank Dann, like so many other American soldiers, sacrificed his personal goals for the greater good. Until now, his story has largely lived in the shadows of history, unknown and subsumed by the accounts of a few heroes and military moments of significance. In the larger scheme of history, however, the sacrifice of soldiers like Frank Dann, and of families like the Danns from rural Iowa, have maintained the promise of freedom.
33rd Division, 132nd Infantry Operations; MG Co. Report Bois de Fays Operations Oct 6-12, Record Group 120 (Box 19); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
33rd Division, 132nd Infantry Operations; Station List of Unit Since Arrival in the American E.F., Record Group 120 (Box 18); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
33rd Division, 132nd Infantry Operations; Confidential Memo No. 36, Nov 15, 1918, Record Group 120 (Box 19); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
33rd Division, 132nd Infantry Regiment; Field Messages Oct 8-10, Record Group 120 (Box 18): National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Adelmund, Jerry. Email interviews with the author. May 22, 2018 and July 24, 2018.
American Battle Monuments Commission. 33rd Division – Verdun-Fromereville Sector, September 8-25, 1918 – Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 26-October 21, 1918. Map. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944. University of Texas Libraries. legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/ww1/index.html.
American Battle Monuments Commission. 33rd Division Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944.
Cochrane, Raymond C. “33rd Division Along the Meuse.” Gas Warfare in WWI: Study Number 8. U.S. Army Chemical Corps Historical Study. Maryland: U.S. Army Chemical Center, Office of the Chief Chemical Officer, 1958. www.33rdinfantrydivision.org/documents/74477484-WWI-33rd-Infantry-Division.pdf.
Cresco Plain Dealer. “Names Drawn For New Army.” July 27, 1918. www.newspapers.com/image/174737155.
Cresco Plain Dealer. “Selected For Military Service.” September 14, 1917. www.newspapers.com/image/174740039.
Dann Family Photographs. 1918-1939. Courtesy of Jerry Adelmund.
Frank Dann, Burial Case File, Department of the Army, National Archives and Records Administration – St. Louis.
Frank Dann. World War I Draft Registration Card, 1917. Digital Images. fold3.com.
“Frank G. Dann.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed July 14, 2018. www.abmc.gov/node/330832#.W0ppZ2b1nOQ.
Helen Springer Journal. Courtesy of Jerry Adelmund.
Lime Springs Herald. “Concerning Frank Dann.” December 19, 1918. www.newspapers.com/image/36905731.
Rugel, Michael. “Over There-Abel Davis.” National Museum of Jewish American History. Last modified October 20, 1917. Accessed July 24, 2018. nmajmh.org/2017/10/over-there-abel-davis/.