Our Iowa Its Beginning and Growth



Iowa's help in the World War was entirely different from the part she played in both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.  In those wars nearly all of Iowa's soldiers were organized into local companies and served as Iowa companies in the war.  In the World War, Iowa soldiers were scattered through many companies and it is not so easy to give them full credit for all that they did.  Iowa played a large part, however, in the money, food, and other supplies which she furnished.

When the war broke out, our state was enjoying good times.  Since many of Iowa's people had come from some of the European countries that were in the war, an unusual interest was taken in the conflict.  The Red Cross made appeals to our people for help and raised large sums of money for relief work in Europe.


After the European countries had fought for three years, the United States was drawn into the struggle.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and some smaller countries were fighting against France, Britain, Russia, Italy, and their allies.  Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.  Great preparations then were necessary.  Men had to be obtained for a large army, and money had to be raised.  Three of Iowa's National Guard regiments had just returned from guard duty on the Mexican border.  One of them, the Third Iowa, was chosen to go to Europe as a part of the Rainbow Division.  men were taken from the First and Second Regiments and added to the Third to give it a war strength of 3,600 men, which was required for the regular army.

In August, 1917, the Third Iowa Regiment was made a part of the United States Army.  It became the 168th United States infantry in the famous Rainbow Division, which was one of the first to go to France.  The men landed on French soil, Dec. 9, 1917.  They had been trained in America but were given more training in France.  They went into the trenches in February, 1918, and were in much of the hardest fighting from then until the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918.  Of the men who belonged to the 168th in the spring of 1917, more than half were later killed in battle, died of disease, or were wounded and sent to the hospital.

Not all of Iowa's soldiers were in teh 168th infantry.  More than 113,000 of her men served in the United States Army, the navy, and the marine corps.  Over 2,000 of her soldiers and sailors were killed in battle or died from disease during the period of the war.  Merle Hay of Glidden was the first Iowa soldier to be killed in battle.

The United States Government built  a large camp near Des Moines in which to train soldiers.  It was named Camp Dodge.  More than 40,000 soldiers were in training at Camp Dodge during June, 1918.


Millions of dollars had to be raised to carry on the war.  Congress levied new taxes and increased old ones, but taxes alone would not bring in enough money.  The Government had to borrow large sums.  To do so, it offered to sell the people "Liberty Bonds."  In these bonds the Government promised to pay a certain amount of money later to the persons who bought them.  Five great "Liberty Loans" were made by the United States, and Iowa's response in them was as follows:


First $  30,740,600                     60,000
Second     83,047,400                   288,080
Third   119,021,200                   687,242
Fourth   162,093,900                   643,889
Victory   114,031,900                   364,303
TOTAL $508,935,000  


Campaigns were also put on to raise money as gifts to such organizations as the Red Cross, Y.M.C.A., Knights of Columbus, and others.  These organizations were working for the comfort of the soldiers and for the relief of the suffering people in Europe.

To sell the bonds and to get the gifts, great drives had to be organized and carried through.  More than 2,500 Iowa men and women were regular speakers on war topics.  They spoke at theaters, in churches, and wherever meetings were held.


Herbert Hoover, a native-born Iowan and later our President, was a leader in relief work.  He was in London on business when the war broke out.  While there he was asked to take charge of the relief work for thousands of families in Belgium and France who were without food.  Mr. Hoover worked at this task for nearly three years without salary and paid his own expenses.

After the United States entered the World War, President Wilson asked Mr. Hoover to become Food Administrator.  His task was to get farmers to raise more food and to have the people save wheat, flour, sugar, and meat, in order that it might be sent to Europe.  Iowa farmers did their best to help and raised large crops.  Thousands of city people who had never done any gardening and people in small towns had "war gardens" where they raised many vegetables.  Food was needed for other armies and peoples as well as our own.


On November 11, 1918, the Germans agreed to an "armistice" and fighting was stopped on the western front.  The news reached Iowa early in the morning and the largest celebration that our people had ever known was held over the victory.

Most of the organizations that had been doing relief work for the soldiers stopped their activities soon after the war ended.  One new organization, however, was formed and has continued to do excellent work for the "buddies" who were in need of help, particularly because of wounds or disease.  It is called the American Legion.  Iowa has many active legions and legionnaires.


~ source: Our Iowa Its Beginning and Growth; Hubert L. Moeller, New York, Newsom and Company, 1938