ILLINOIS AND THE GREAT WAR
April 6, 1917 to June 28, 1919
A number of Illinois men and women were playing an active role in the World War long before the United States entered the conflict. Some were fighting on the western front, some were Red Cross nurses or welfare workers. Others joined the Lafayette Escadrille (the American aviation unit in the French army), or entered the French Foreign Legion. Records compiled by the Office of the Adjutant General show that Illinois gave 351,153 men to the Army, Navy, and Marines of the United States during the war. Out of every twelve men in the Army one was from Illinois. Illinois furnished more men to the armed forces than any other state in the Union, with the exception of New York and Pennsylvania, both of which had larger populations. The state's own division, the Thirty-third, was the only distinctly Illinois division that saw active service in France.
Money, next to men, was the greatest need of the government and Illinois gave its share and more. About seven percent of the subscriptions received for the nation's war loans, a total of approximately $1,300,000,000 came from Illinois - which, at the time, had about five percent of the population of the United States. Statistics compiled by the State Council of Defense show that the total contributions of the state to various funds raised by war aid and relief organizations was more than $45,000,000. One of the largest Illinois contributions to the war effort by Illinois farmers was the farm crop of 1918. Estimated by the Department of Agriculture to be worth $879,697,000 it was the greatest crop in money value that was ever produced by any state in the Union. As factories were quickly converted into munitions plants the output of Illinois factories in direct war contracts in 1918 was approximately $2,000,000,000.
By the time the War ended, more than 5,000 men from Illinois had given their lives in defense of world freedom and liberty.
Starting in March, there are a number of commemorative events all over Illinois. Here is a complete list (LINK)
UNITS COMPOSED WHOLLY OR IN LARGE PART WITH ILLINOIS MEN
The 33rd Infantry Division was the only distinctly Illinois division that saw active service in France. Activated on July 1917 as a National Guard Division from Illinois at Camp Logan, Illinois, it began operations in France in May, 1918. The Division fought in Le Hamel, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the Somme offensive, and at St. Mihiel. Losses to the Division were high: 691 killed in action, 6,173 wounded in action. After the end of hostilities, it returned to Illinois, and was deactivated on May, 1919, at Camp Grant in Rockford.
The 84th Infantry Division was comprised of personnel from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. It was formed in 1917, and formally activated in August, 1917. It was deployed to France in October 1918 to serve as a training formation for replacements which would be sent to the Western Front. At the war's end, the formation was recalled home and, without having seen combat actions, and was inactivated in January 1919.
The 86th Infantry Division saw no combat in World War I. It was activated August, 25 1917 at Camp Grant in Rockford. It went overseas in August 1918, returned to the United States in November 1918, and was deactivated in January 1919. Individual units within the Division, particularly the 171st Infantry Brigade and 172nd Infantry Brigade, were used to reinforce or replenish frontline units.
The 88th Infantry Division was comprised of personnel from Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Illlinois. It was formed at Camp Dodge, Iowa on August 5, 1917. It shipped overseas on September 7, 1918. While it never participated as a Division, soldiers from its ranks were used to reinforce or replenish frontline units. It lost 12 soldiers killed in action, and 66 wounded in action. It was inactivated on June 10, 1919 at Camp Dodge, Iowa.
RESOURCES FOR THE STUDY OF ILLINOIS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR
- World War One Resources at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. (LINK) One of the largest collection of World War One reference materials and information in the U.S.
- World War One Documents at the Illinois State Library. (LINK) A treasury of contemporary official documents and histories, published by the State of Illinois and the Federal Government.
- Music of the First World War. (LINK) The First World War is considered to be the most musical of all of America's wars. This exhibit uses optical musical recognition software to digitize the World War I sheet music in the collection of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library and added it as playable .mp3, MIDI, and AIFF files.
- The DeWitt County World War I Collection. (LINK) Letters and service records of men and women of DeWitt County who served in World War I.
- A University Goes to War, World War I Women. (LINK) The materials in this collection, dating from 1917-1919, document the participation of the students, alumni, faculty and staff of Illinois State Normal University in World War I.
- Answering the Call (LINK). An online exhibition of digital images of World War I posters held in Illinois State University Milner Library’s Government Documents World War Poster Collection.
- A Seaman's Diary of World War I (LINK). Sverre O. Braathen (1895-1974) grew up in the Red River Valley of the north, North Dakota. His handwritten diary from his time on the U.S.S. Kearsarge during World War I is part of the Illinois State University Milner Library collection.
- Radio station WJBC maintains a digital Memorial Wall (LINK). They provide a section for McLean County and Livingston County residents who served and perished in the conflict of World War I.
- A history of McLean County. (LINK) McLean County, Illinois, in the World War, 1917-1918. By Edward E. Pierson.
MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS COMMITTEE
- Mr. James Balcer: 11th Ward Alderman (Retired), City of Chicago
- Mr. Kenneth Barber: Executive Director Cook County, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Mr. Robert Bland III: Dept. of Homeland Security, Illinois National Guard
- Mr. Andrew Bullen: Library Automation and Technology Coordinator, Illinois State Library
- Alderman Edward Burke: 14th Ward Alderman, City of Chicago
- Ken Clarke: President & CEO, Pritzker Military Museum & Library
- Dr. Mark DePue: Director of Oral History, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
- Mr. Jay Dogherty: City Club of Chicago
- Mr. Dave Fornell: WWI Reenactor
- Dr. William Furry: Executive Director, Illinois State Historical Society
- Mr. Scott Fuzer: Director, West Monroe Partners
- Ms. Jeanne Hamacher: Educator
- Dr. Paul Herbert: Executive Director, First Division Museum
- Ms. Kristen Hoeker: Special Events Coordinator, Midway Village Museum
- Mr. Greg Jacobs: WWI Camp Grant Historian
- Mr. Gary Jenson: Assistant Adjutant, American Legion
- Mr. Dave Joens: Executive Director, Illinois State Archives
- Mr. J.D. Kammes: Public Programs Manager, First Division Museum
- Mr. Edward Kelly: Chair, Military Affairs Subcommittee, Union League Club of Chicago
- Dr. Carla Knorowski: Chief Executive Officer, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation
- Mr. David Kohn: Executive Director of Public Affairs, Union League Club of Chicago
- Mr. Brad Leighton: Illinois National Guard
- Mr. Kevin Leonard: University Archivist, Northwestern University Library
- Mr. Jan Lorys: Manager, History Muzeum Polskie w Ameryce
- Lt. Colonel Kevin Lovell: Deputy District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Enginners
- Dr. Christopher McDonald: Professor, Social Sciences, Lincolnland Community College
- Ms. Susan Mennenga: Pritzker Military Museum & Library WWI Centennial Project Manager
- Colonel Andrew Mogado: Naval Station, Great Lakes
- Ms. Emily Muskovitz Sweet: Executive Director, JRC & Government Affairs, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
- Mrs. Alice Palmer: The Palmer Institute
- Mr. William Pishotta: Director of Veterans Outreach, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk Illinois
- Mr. Jess Ray: University Registar, Illinois State University
- Mr. Stewart Reeves: Executive Director, Illinois State Military Museum
- Mr. George Reinke: WWI Reenactor
- Dr. Mark Roehrs: Professor, Social Sciences, Lincolnland Community College
- Ms. Alison Ruble: President & CEO, USO of Illinois
- Ms. Susan Sacharski: Archivist, Northwestern Memorial Hospital
- Ms. Adriana Schroeder: Historian, Illinois State Military Museum
- Mr. Scott Schwartz: Director and Archivist for Music and Fine Arts, Sousa Archives & Center for American Music
- Captain Dave Truitt: Chicago Marine Heritage Society
- Mr. Frank Valadez: Exec. Director, Chicago Metro History Education Center
- Mr. Duane Watts: People Program
- Dr. John Williams: Professor, Political Science, Loyola University Chicago
- Mr. Joseph Weishar: Architect, WWI Memorial
- Mr. Pete Zaper: WWI Historian
The Fourth of July Memorial Donation Appeal
Help us build the National WWI Memorial at Pershing Park in our nation’s capital. We need your help to speak for these American veterans who sacrificed so much, 100 years ago. They are not forgotten if we remember. Thank you!
More information: (LINK) and link to a description of the Memorial: (LINK)