World War II Research Guide

The impact of World War II on Missourians can be seen in the State Historical Society of Missouri's collections of newspapers, letters, diaries, records, photographs, and memoirs written during or about wartime military service. The collections also offer materials pertaining to civilian life during wartime and information on veterans' organizations. These records help us to understand the effects the war had on Missourians fighting overseas as well as those providing strength on the home front.

Consider donating your World War II papers

If you are interested in contributing your papers to the collection, please see our material donation page for further information.

A Brief History

On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, George Allison Whiteman, an Army Air Corps second lieutenant originally from Pettis County, Missouri, ran to his P-40B Warhawk at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii, as the island came under attack from enemy aircraft. Whiteman’s cockpit was hit by gunfire just moments after takeoff, and his plane crashed and burned at the edge of the runway. He was one of the first Americans killed in battle in World War II.

After that morning attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was thrust into the Second World War, which ultimately involved more than 100 million people from 30 different countries throughout the world. Missourians fought on nearly every front of the war, with around 450,000 Missouri residents serving in the military. About 300,000 of these were draftees, with the rest being volunteers and National Guardsmen. Some Missouri women volunteered as well, serving in organizations such as the Navy WAVES and the Women’s Army Corps. A number of Missourians rose in the ranks to become generals and admirals, including General Omar Bradley, who led the Twelfth Army Group, the largest American army field command in history. And late in the war, in 1945, Harry S. Truman became the first Missourian to be president of the United States, leading the country through the end of the war and making the fateful decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

On the home front, the war profoundly impacted Missourians’ lives. Rationing, scrap drives, and air-raid drills were a part of everyday life, and Missourians spent over $3 billion dollars on war bonds. They grew victory gardens and volunteered for the Red Cross; most of all, they waited anxiously for their friends and family overseas to come home. As it did throughout the country, the war served as an economic stimulus for Missouri, providing enough jobs in military production to eventually create a labor shortage. Women and teenagers entered the workforce in large numbers, and farmers were encouraged to modify their crop production to accommodate war needs. Facilities in Missouri were constructed or repurposed for war needs as well; O’Reilly General Hospital in Springfield housed large numbers of injured soldiers; Camps Clark, Crowder, Weingarten, and Fort Leonard Wood all housed prisoners of war; and Crowder and Fort Leonard Wood provided military training. By the end of the war, over 8,000 Missourians had lost their lives, and countless more had been wounded.

Articles in the Missouri Historical Review

Digital Collections

Digitized collections featuring letters, diaries, and memoirs written during or about military service in World War I. Also material pertaining to the war's impact on civilian life and information on veteran's organizations.

View WWII Digitized Collections

Highlighted Collection

World War II Letter Project - letters from roughly 1,000 military service members now online

Editorial Cartoons

The State Historical Society of Missouri’s collection of editorial cartoons began in 1946 with an important donation of works by Pulitzer-Prize-winning artist Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The collection has now grown to more than 8,000 works and includes many other well-known cartoonists such as Bill Mauldin and Tom Engelhardt. The works graphically and often poignantly reflect attitudes and opinions on contemporary local, national, and international events. Most of the cartoons in the Society's collection that touch upon the Korean War were drawn by Fitzpatrick.

View WWII-Related Digitized Editorial Cartoons

Historic Missourian Biographies

Omar Nelson Bradley was one of America’s greatest generals. He commanded the largest American force ever united under one man’s leadership during World War II. Afterwards, General Bradley became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served as a five-star general and had the longest military service in U.S. history.

Manuscripts

The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collection includes letters, diaries, and memoirs written during or about military service in World War II. Also material pertaining to the war's impact on civilian life and information on veteran's organizations.

View All WWII Manuscript Collections

Newspapers

During World War II, Missourians found detailed information about the war in newspapers. They learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, D-Day, other battles won and lost, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and the atrocities committed in Germany and elsewhere. Alongside news of marriages, crime, local events, and civic affairs, local papers posted lists of casualties and the names of those serving, at times even printing letters home from soldiers.

Papers provided the public with much-needed information about rationing and shortages, bond and donation drives, air raids, and the draft. The State Historical Society of Missouri’s newspapers from World War II provide a detailed record of how the war was viewed from local, national, and international perspectives, and how it affected the daily lives of Missourians.

For a list of all digitized newspapers, visit the Missouri Digital Newspaper Project.

For a list of newspapers on microfilm at The State Historical Society of Missouri, visit the newspaper catalog.

County Collection Title Date Range
Carter Van Buren Current Local 1884-1994
Cole Lincoln University Clarion 1935-1975
Franklin Franklin County Tribune/Tribune-Republican 1887-1919; 1923-1966
Franklin St. Clair Chronicle 1927-1977
Franklin Sullivan News 1910-1966
Franklin Washington Citizen 1905-1939; 1943-1965
Franklin Washington Missourian 1939-1964
Gasconade Bland Courier 1904-1951; 1963-1966
Gascondae Gasconade County Republican 1896-1898; 1903-1922; 1925-1966
Hickory Hermitage Index 1885-1964
Macon La Plata Home Press 1876-1945
Macon Macon Daily Chronicle-Herald/Macon Chronicle-Herald 1926-1956
Macon New Cambria Leader 1914-1958
Marion Marion County Standard 1925-1941
Marion Palmyra Spectator 1863-1956
Phelps Rolla Herald 1877-1953
Warren Warrenton Banner 1868-1872; 1881-1897; 1902-1968

Photographs

Photographs provide a unique window into the daily experiences of those who fought in World War II as well as life on the home front. Journalists, military photographers, and amateurs captured moments large and small throughout the war, culminating in perhaps the most shocking and horrifying revelation in the history of photography: images of concentration camps.

Most images, however, depict the daily life of soldiers, the villages and towns they saw, and the immense amount of destruction they encountered in traveling through areas where bombs had been dropped or battles had been waged. Through these images, we get a glimpse of the war as it was seen by the men and women who experienced it.

View Digitized WWII Photos