Letters From WWI

Young Max Ottenfeld, Age 15

Read Max’s Biography

This resource collection is centered on twenty-eight letters home written by First Division soldier Max Ottenfeld. In order to provide a broader context to the letters, it also includes records from his archival collection at the First Division Museum, newspaper articles, photographs, video, audio recordings, and clips from a 1991 oral history interview where Max Ottenfeld recalled his experiences in WWI.

The materials are arranged by topic below to highlight various aspects of the war Max Ottenfeld experienced. Exploring his letters and the supplemental sources helps to underscore the human element of global warfare.

“Don’t forget to write every day and I will try my best to do the same. Tell Rose and Marcus to write also…To get an answer to a letter will require at least a month so if we both write every day our letters will be up to date because we will be getting one every day. The only address that I know for you to write is A.E.F. Cont. write, “via New York” after the A.E.F.”
Max Ottenfeld
March 14, 1918
Letter 16


In his letters, Max Ottenfeld kept his family informed about his health and wellbeing. Explore how, as evidenced by Ottenfeld’s experiences, surviving the Great War was difficult as soldiers faced both injuries and illnesses.

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Leisure Time

Max Ottenfeld wrote to his family, in great detail, about how he spent his time while not on duty. From site seeing, to swimming, and watching movies, Ottenfeld’s letters show that leisure time was essential for and important to soldiers serving in the Great War.

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When Max Ottenfeld joined the army he, along with millions of other men (and thousands of women), begin training for the various military duties needed to launch a successful war effort. Click below to explore how people like Ottenfeld performed both mundane and extraordinary activities as part of their regular responsibilities as soldiers and servicepeople.

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Scholars argue the Great War was unlike any previous military conflict in history for a variety of devastating reasons. Click below to explore how both civilians and soldiers utilized traditional and innovative technologies to navigate the complexities of the Great War.

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