If there had been any doubt as to the advisability of the creation of the Land Grant institutions, that doubt was destroyed for all time by the Great War. – War Records Committee. “A Short History of Iowa State College in the World War.” (RS 13/16/1, box 2 folder 1)
World War I began in the summer of 1914 and ended in 1919. The United States joined on April 6, 1917 with a declaration of war on Germany. When the United States joined it had a standing army of 133,000. By early June 1917 approximately 9.5 million men had registered for service.
114,000 Iowans enlisted and Iowa State students, staff, faculty, trainees, and alumni formed around 6000 of those serving in World War I.
Training Specialists for the War Effort
Iowa State University responded by providing space, expertise, and infrastructure for training soldiers in a number of areas the largest being infantry, engineering, artillery, aviation, and “special.” The majority of these were men, but 29 women from Home Economics also served. 11 were nurses, 10 were dietitians, two were laboratory technicians, and one was a yeoman. One of these women, Pearl Wesley Yates, is remembered with a Gold Star.
The Story of the Gold Star
The symbol of the Gold Star was chosen to represent fallen soldiers when President Wilson approved a suggestion by the Women’s Committee of National Defenses for women to wear black arm bands with a gold star for each family member who had died during the war. The campus community in the post-war period formed a not-for-profit corporation (the Memorial Union Corporation) to raise the funds for the building of the Union. Near the Union is a rock plaque inscribed “Dedicated to the men whose lives were lost in World War I.” 119 Iowa Staters killed during World War I are remembered in Gold Star Hall. You can find out more about the lives of the 119 through the informational kiosk at the Union. The kiosk is intended to provide more context and personal information about each person memorialized in the Hall. It was developed by Iowa State graduate student Stelios Vasilis Perdios and based in large part on material found in Special Collections.
Service to Veterans
Iowa State continued working with the military after the war was over by developing retraining programs for disabled veterans. These courses were designed to provide support to veterans who had not previously had college preparation. The classes were primarily focused on agriculture with topics such as “Elementary Beekeeping” and an individualized course of study in Animal Husbandry.
Want to Learn More?
Iowa State University Special Collections has many manuscript collections relating to World War I: http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/collections/MSsubject.html
Our Department of Military Science Subject Files (Record Series 13/16/1) is a great resource for understanding the University’s role in the War. The collection has multiple folders of correspondence related to the World War I (as well as other wars), including several folders of correspondence with soldiers on active duty: http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/rgrp/13-16-1.html
Don’t miss our previous posts in this blog:
- “Iowa State Soldiers in World War I” – https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/cypix-iowa-state-soldiers-in-world-war-i/
- “Russian World War I Soldier’s Memoirs and Photographs Available in the Special Collections Department” – https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/russian-world-war-i-soldiers-memoirs-and-photographs-available-in-the-special-collections-department/
- “A World War I Experience in Honor of Veteran’s Day” – https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/a-world-war-i-experience-in-honor-of-veteran%E2%80%99s-day/