September 2, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Official records report that 226,638 men and women from Iowa served in the armed forces. The United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese had attacked U.S. military and naval bases at Pearl Harbor. As men enlisted or were drafted into the war, for the first time ever, American women could also serve on active duty. Iowa women could serve in the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS), Women's Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC) and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). And the major training center for the WAAC was at Fort Des Moines.
Iowa's support of the war effort was largely focused on food production. In 1940, there were 212,318 farms in Iowa with a production value of $561,836,688. In 1945, there were 208,934 farms in Iowa, with a production value of $1,232,010,705. Many factories in Iowa, such as Solar Aircraft and John Deere, were also converted to produce war materials. The state also housed a few prisoner-of-war camps for Germans and Italians in Clarinda, Algona and Eldora. One of the most famous Iowa stories from war was the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo. The five brothers enlisted on the condition that they could serve together, a request which was approved by the Navy. But when their ship was torpedoed, all five were killed. In total, 8,398 Iowans died in the armed forces during World War II.
- Primary Source Sets: Use these primary source sets to view photographs, maps, documents and more cataloging the history of Iowans' involvement in World War II, from fighting overseas, supporting from the homefront and escaping persecution abroad.
- History Alive: End of World War I, Beginning of World War II: Watch this video of historian Ross Kennedy, professor at Illinois State University, as he illustrates the events that led to the end of World War I and the start of World War II. This lecture was part of the interactive History Alive program hosted by the State Historical Society of Iowa for Iowa students in the spring and fall.
| + Goldie at Home Activity: Propaganda Posters
+ World War II Propaganda Posters from the State Historical Society of Iowa
+ Video: Iowan's Account of the Attack on Pearl Harbor
+ Video: An Iowa Veteran's Experience in the Women's Army Corps
+ Video: An Iowan Joins the Tuskegee Airmen
+ Iowa Stories: Iowa's Remarkable Role in World War II
+ Iowa History 101 Series
+ Meskwaki Code Talkers
+ World War II Press Clippings
+ World War II Army Casualties: Iowa
+ Library of Congress Magazine: Voices of War
+ The Goldfinch: War! Can the U.S. Remain Neutral?