Posted by: Laura | November 11, 2010

A World War I Experience, In Honor of Veteran’s Day

We have a number of veteran’s collections here documenting both alumni and other Iowans’ service to our country.  In addition, we also have records related to Iowa State’s Department of Military Science (see the 13/16 listing in our online inventory).  One way of finding some of our veterans collections is through our subject guides, which contain a listing of manuscript collections related to the Civil War, World War I and Word War II.  One of our veteran’s collections include the Fred O. Gordon Papers (MS-666).  Gordon served during World War I, and we have a small collection which provides a brief view into his service in Europe.

Fred Otto Gordon was born October 24, 1894.  His parents were George and Martha (Hyde) Gordon, and the family lived in Arlington, Iowa.  He enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 9, 1918.  After completing a training course for electricians at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and sent to Europe in July 1918.  He was assigned to Battery F, 119th Field Artillery.  Wounded on October 1, 1918, he returned to the United States in April 1919 and was discharged from the Army on May 20, 1919.

Two pages from the collection’s photograph.  In addition to the photograph album, there is also folder of loose photographs.

The World War I material includes a diary, correspondence, selective service and training certificates, a pay record book, newspaper clippings, and photographs.  The diary covers the time from Gordon’s enlistment until his discharge and records events such as the sinking of a submarine while on ship for Europe, artillery action, and being wounded and taken to the army hospital.  The diary, containing very brief entries at the back of the notebook, also includes notes about conventional signs and army codes.  Although only a few pages in length, Gordon’s diary contains enough detail to give the reader a window into one Iowa veteran’s experience.  For instance, one day’s entry states that he was in Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower, and the next entry (thirteen days later – August 29) he has experienced his first bomb and shell fire.  In addition, many of his entries contain the length of marches, or “hikes,” as he often calls them.  Many were impressively long for a single day, and there are quite a number which were done in the rain.

If you are interested in taking a look at this collection here in our department, please visit the collection’s online finding aid, which will provide you with a more in-depth description and folder listing of the collection’s contents.

We have a few personal papers of our veterans here in our department, but the national military service records are housed at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.  Check out the blog post by our Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, to find out about the process of requesting a copy of a military service record – and a little about Ferriero’s own military service record housed at the NHPRC.

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