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World War II

Learn more about Iowa's involvement in this World War.

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 inspired Iowans to join the military in near-record numbers. Over 262,000 Iowans were mobilized between 1941 and 1945. With battlegrounds spread over the entire globe, every hand was required to defend democracy against the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

Women, Native Americans and African Americans played a greater role in the military than ever before. Black officers were trained at Fort Des Moines, WAVES did their boot camp in Cedar Falls, and members of the Meskwaki Nation served as "code talkers."

Some troops spent the entire war in combat zones. Over 8,400 Iowans gave the ultimate sacrifice, and hundreds more were imprisoned in POW camps in Europe and Japan.

"It always bothered me how I was going to know who is a Japanese and who isn't. 'Sergeant, how do you know a Japanese from a Filipino or someone else out ahead of you.' He said, 'You don't have to know. Whatever is out ahead of us is the enemy.'"
— Private Henry Leonard, 158th Regimental Combat Unit, U.S. Army