Memorial Day, while marking the unofficial beginning of summer, is a holiday to honor those that have died while serving in the Armed Forces. In honor of Memorial Day yesterday, here is a circa 1919 photograph of Iowa State College students at a memorial service for ISC students who were soldiers in World War I. The monument, erected in the College Cemetery, reads “To our 117 dead.”
When the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, Iowa State College threw itself into the war effort. Five hundred students left campus — 200 joined the military, and 300 served in war employment. Even college President Raymond Pearson went to Washington, D.C., to serve as an assistant secretary of agriculture, though he returned to finish his tenure at the college after the war ended. Thirty-six students served in the war as part of the Ames Ambulance Unit.
Even for those on campus, life took on more of a military character. Military drill had already been mandatory for male students, but now, in addition to the regular morning drill, many students also participated in an afternoon drill session on Central Campus. Many of the women on campus became involved with Red Cross activities. In April 1918, 500 soldiers came to ISC to train as auto mechanics, blacksmiths, and machinists.
In total, about 6,000 ISU students, alumni, and faculty served during World War I. The Memorial Union was built in 1928 to honor those who died in World War I. Its Gold Star Hall lists the names of 119 people from the Iowa State community who lost their lives in World War I.
For more information about the Iowa State experience of World War I , check out the Department of Military Science Subject Files (RS 13/16/1), and for other World War I collections, check out our World War I manuscripts collections subject guide.