IOWANS IN THE WAR EFFORT
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, the United States was drawn into the second World War. Over the next four years, this event touched nearly every family in the U.S. More than 16 million Americans served in the military. Of those, over 260,000 men and 4,000 women were Iowans (8,400 were killed).
Residents of our state served their country in other ways as well:
- farmers broke production records in every year between 1941 and 1945;
- factory workers produced war goods at John Deere (tractors), Maytag (aircraft and tank parts), and Rath Packing (canned meat), as well as munitions in Ankeny;
- scientists and other personnel secretly enriched uranium at "Little Ankeny" on the campus of Iowa State College;
- military training centers were set up in Ottumwa, Sioux City, Cedar Falls, Des Moines, and Ames;
- prisoner of war (POW) camps were maintained in Clarinda, and Algona.
STORY COUNTY VETERANS DATABASE
To document and honor the Iowans from Story County who served in the military, members and staff of the Ames Historical Society created this database. Listed are nearly 5,300 individuals who either enlisted or were drafted into the military while living in Story County. The information contained herein is based on records originally compiled by staff and volunteers of the Ames Public Library during the war years. A project to convert the manual records to digital form for sharing on our website was funded by a $4,434 Historical Resource Development Program (HRDP) grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa. This two-year grant was awarded in 2009 and entailed over 650 hours of volunteer time.
The four distinct components represented are:
- Card file of 8,100 3x5 cards listing summary information (name, hometown, relatives, place of training, branch of service, assignments, awards, etc.). Some names bear information taking up as many as three cards; others contain only a name and branch of service. Occasionally, a serial number is recorded.
- Scrapbooks in 26 three-ring binders containing about 2,600 names with accompanying newspaper clippings and some photos (the 3x5 card file and scrapbooks do not always contain the same information)
- Card file of 5 x 8 cards representing 152 names
- Album in wooden covers titled "Service Flag" containing pages representing 155 names with some clippings and photos.
AMES PUBLIC LIBRARY CONTRIBUTION
Letha M. Davidson, Director of the Ames Public Library from 1929 to 1963, initiated an effort (the "Soldier Record Project") in the early 1940s to document the men and women of Story County serving in the military. With great foresight, she recognized the importance to future generations of the creation of a lasting record for these individuals. Accordingly, she organized a project employing library staff and volunteers to clip articles in the two Ames newspapers (Ames Daily Tribune and the Milepost) about local residents (including Iowa State College ROTC students) entering the armed services. The War Department supplied local papers with news releases about entry into service, leaves, assignments, transfers, and news of injuries, deaths, etc. Inclusion was based on the "home of record" (HOR) for these individuals, referring to the place one was living when entering or re-enlisting in the military.
That this effort was appreciated and supported by the community is illustrated by involvement of such organizations as the American Legion, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks clubs, and the Red Cross. Funding from these groups helped finance supplies (notebook binders, pages, 3x5 cards) and staff salaries. Volunteers were recruited to peruse newspapers, clip appropriate articles, date and paste them onto heavy-weight pages, hand-letter names, and file finished pages into 3-ring notebook binders. Read a personal recollection of an Ames High School student volunteer. People also typed up summary information on 3x5 cards, and later created a "Service Flag" album.
These resources had been preserved in the basement Iowa Room of the public library for over 60 years where reference librarians provided mediated searches for the public. For many years, now-retired reference librarian Susan North recognized the importance of preserving the information on the 3x5 cards and in 2005 recruited volunteer Wayne Beal, who, often assisted by his wife Anita, began a massive scanning project which spanned almost two years. Beginning in 2007, the Ames Public Library began a systematic transfer to the Ames Historical Society of primary resources of local history as well as research materials collected and used by town historian, Farwell Brown. At the urging of now-retired reference librarian, Janet Klaas, the library director also authorized the transfer of the four World War II collections in the summer of 2007.
AMES HISTORICAL SOCIETY CONTRIBUTION
In using these materials, it soon became apparent to Ames Historical Society curator, Dennis Wendell, that the fragile, yellowed and brittle notebook pages would not survive heavy usage, and would fade with repeated photocopying. Soon, Society president Peggy Baer and other staff and board members submitted a grant proposal to the State Historical Society for assistance in preserving this valuable resource. Although initially conceived as a preservation microfilming project, the effort soon evolved into a digitization project to allow for wider access to the public via our website. An interim index was created and coded by Janet Klaas and Anita Beal to indicate types of source material available for each service person.
Alan Spohnheimer, computer technician/webmaster/administrator, mastered the intricacies of merging the digitization previously done by the Beals of the 3x5 cards with first-time scanning of the scrapbook, Service Flag album, and 5x8 cards. Proofreading was the final step. Unveiling of the database coincided with Veterans Day 2011.
The individuals below deserve thanks for supporting and accomplishing this project consuming over 650 hours:
Janet Klaas & Anita Beal
Breanne Hunter & Mike Schuster
Thanks to these additional volunteers
- Wayne Beal
- Barbara Budd
- Kathy Corones
- Ben Kocher
Many hours of assistance were also provided by Ames Historical Society Staff members
- Dennis Wendell
- Peggy Baer
- Margaret Vance
- Carolyn Larson
- Alan Spohnheimer