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ILLINOIS AND THE GREAT WAR
April 6, 1917 to June 28, 1919

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Soldiers of the US 132nd Infantry, 33rd Division, holding the line on the west
bank of the Meuse, opposite Consenvoye.  Signal Corps Photo.

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.


Illinois Speakers' Bureau 

Need a speaker for an event? Here's a list of speakers that can address topics on the First World War.

 

 UNITS COMPOSED WHOLLY OR IN LARGE PART WITH ILLINOIS MEN

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 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.



84thDivisionThe 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.

 

86thBadgeThe 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.

 

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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

N.B. There are many significant collections, online exhibits, and resources available in cultural institutions throughout Illinois. This is a representative selection and is not intended as a comprehensive list.

 

  • World War One Resources at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. (LINKOne 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 James Edward Myers World War I Sheet Music Collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  (LINK). The World War I music contained in the James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection documents not only what was produced by Midwestern publishers but also offers a compelling cross-section of popular musical practices and tastes across the Midwest during the War. The music, lyrics, and graphic art illustrations in this collection are intended to provide insights into American life during and after the War. Multiple copies of the same song title were included in this collection to document how publishers marketed and repurposed their sheet music for different regional consumers over time.
  • The James Francis Driscoll Collection of American Sheet Music at the Newberry Library (LINK). The Driscoll Collection of American Sheet Music, housed at the Newberry Library, Chicago, is one of the largest and most representative collections of its kind. Driscoll arranged his collection of approximately 80,000 pieces of sheet music by topic. One important sub-collection (boxes 173 to 170), is of music issued during or about World War I, which is often regarded as the most musical war in US history. Each item in this and the above collection is accompanied by extended metadata, researched and written by William Brooks, Professor of Music at the University of York
  • The DeWitt County World War I Collection(LINKLetters 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.
  • Pullman in the First World War. (LINK). Documenting the extensive history of the Pullman Company and surrounding neighborhood in Chicago during the First World War.

MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS COMMITTEE

COMMITTEE CHAIR: Ms. Jeanne Hamacher: Educator

COMMITTEE MEMBERS:

  • James Balcer: 11th Ward Alderman (Retired), City of Chicago
  • Tina Beaird: Reference & Genealogy Librarian, Plainfield Public Library
  • Professor William F. Brooks, Associate Professor of Composition, Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Andrew Bullen: Library Automation and Technology Coordinator, Illinois State Library
  • Theresa A. R. Embrey, Chief Librarian, Pritzker Military Museum and Library
  • Dave Fornell: World War I Reenactor
  • Dr. William Furry: Executive Director, Illinois State Historical Society
  • Suzanne Germann, Director of Grants & Easements, Landmarks Illinois
  • Kristen Hoeker: Special Events Coordinator, Midway Village Museum
  • Greg Jacobs: World War I Camp Grant Historian
  • Dave Joens: Executive Director, Illinois State Archives
  • Edward Kelly: Chair, Military Affairs Subcommittee, Union League Club of Chicago
  • Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, Public Affairs Director, Illinois National Guard
  • Jan Lorys: Manager, History Muzeum Polskie w Ameryce
  • Michelle McCrillis, Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Outreach Programs, Honors College, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Dr. Christopher McDonald: Professor, Social Sciences, Lincolnland Community College
  • Susan Mennenga: Pritzker Military Museum & Library World War I Centennial Project Manager
  • Jess Ray: University Registar, Illinois State University
  • Stewart Reeves: Executive Director, Illinois State Military Museum
  • George Reinke: World War I Reenactor
  • Colonel Eugene F. Scott, U.S. Army (Ret.)
  • Adriana Schroeder, Illinois National Guard, Command Historian, Camp Lincoln

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OUR MISSION STATEMENT

Records compiled by the Office of the Adjutant General show that Illinois gave 351,153 men to the armed forces of the United States during the war, the third highest total number. To commemorate the centenary of our involvement in the Great War, the Illinois World War I Centennial Committee has a mission to:

ADVOCATE. Encourage other entities in Illinois to recognize the contributions of Illinois to the First World War.

EDUCATE. Develop tools to educate others about the contributions of Illinois to the First World War.

FACILITATE. Support other entities that are recognizing the contributions of Illinois to the First World War.

ELEVATE. Recognize and celebrate Illinois veterans and civilians for their sacrifices and contributions to the First World War.

PARTICIPATE Join other states in a national effort to recognize veterans and civilians for their sacrifices and contributions to the First World War throughout the United States.


ILLINOIS INSTITUTIONS IN THE GREAT WAR

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A growing number of institutions, companies, and universities are contributing their wartime stories for posterity. Learn more about them here.

 

COMMEMORATIVE ACTIVITIES IN ILLINOIS

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An interim report on commemorative activities at Illinois cultural institutions can be found here.


PRITZKER MILITARY MUSEUM & LIBRARY
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Illinois is fortunate indeed to be the home of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, whose commitment and sponsorship of Illinois and National World War One centenary commemoration efforts has been both tireless and unswerving.


PROCLAMATION ESTABLISHING THE COMMITTEE smCeremonial Proc WWI Centennial


On April 1, 2016, Governor Bruce Rauner issued a proclamation officially recognizing the Illinois World War One Centennial Committee

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