James T. O'Connell of New York City participated in World War I as a member of the 305th Infantry, 77th Division. The diary begins after O'Connell's induction into the Army and his reporting for active duty (September 10, 1917) and ends with his discharge in May, 1919. Sgt. O'Connell was the uncle of the donor.
Throughout the diary there are many colorful accounts of O'Connell's activities. He graphically describes his training experiences at Camp Upton, New York, and the contempt felt by most of his fellow soldiers toward the English crew on the ship taking them to Europe. Upon arrival in Europe, he was assigned to several British and French units to learn the duties of a forward observer. O'Connell aptly describes the daily problems and activities of soldiers in the trenches.
The diary also reflects the personal combat experiences of O'Connell. He describes patrolling in "no man's land," his experiences with gas attacks and his sometime comical relations with officers. Serving as a forward observer, O'Connell capably describes the activities of his unit in the Argonne offensive (1918) and combat action along the Meuse River.
After receiving news of the Armistice (November 11, 1918), O'Connell's unit finally left France on April 18, 1919, arriving at New York City six days later. The diary concludes with his discharge on May 19, 1919.
Included in the diary are two news articles. The first reports that New York City mayor LaGuardia had vetoed a proposal to rename a street after O'Connell and the second article reports the death of James O'Connell.
Also included within the O'Connell papers is a short letter (April 13, 1919) from O'Connell's commanding officer expressing his appreciation for loyal services rendered.