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.
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.
- Brown-Kubisch, Linda and Christine Montgomery "Show Me Missouri History: Celebrating the Century Part 3."
Missouri Historical Review 94 (July 2000): 434-462.
- Burt, Larry W. "Unlikely Activism: O.K. Armstrong and Federal Indian Policy in the Mid-Twentieth Century."
Missouri Historical Review 94 (July 2000): 415-433.
- Dysart, Marjorie. "Missouri's Namesakes of the Navy."
Missouri Historical Review 50 (April 1956): 225-234.
- Flynn, Dorothy Dysart. "Missouri and the War. Parts VI-XV; XVII-XVIII"
First Article: Missouri Historical Review 38 (January 1944): 170-191.
Second Article: Missouri Historical Review 38 (April 1944): 305-324.
Third Article: Missouri Historical Review 38 (July 1944): 430-451.
Fourth Article: Missouri Historical Review 39 (October 1944): 53-74.
Fifth Article: Missouri Historical Review 39 (January 1945): 200-223.
Sixth Article: Missouri Historical Review 39 (April 1945): 333-353.
Seventh Article: Missouri Historical Review 39 (July 1945): 479-504.
Eighth Article: Missouri Historical Review 40 (October 1945): 61-89.
Ninth Article: Missouri Historical Review 40 (January 1946): 215-244.
Tenth Article: Missouri Historical Review 40 (April 1946): 358-406.
Eleventh Article: Missouri Historical Review 41 (October 1946): 56-76.
Twelfth Article: Missouri Historical Review 41 (January 1947): 184-191.
- Gross, Juliet. "Missouri and the War. Part III-V."
First Article: Missouri Historical Review 37 (April 1943): 297-314.
Second Article: Missouri Historical Review 37 (July 1943): 416-429.
Third Article: Missouri Historical Review 38 (October 1943): 44-62.
- Gruber, Bertha. "Missouri and the War. Part I."
Missouri Historical Review 37 (October 1942): 40-56.
- Heath, Jim F. "Frustrations of a Missouri Small Businessman: Lou E. Holland In Wartime Washington."
Missouri Historical Review 68 (April 1974): 229-316.
- Huss, Stephen F. "Milkweed, Machine Guns, and Cows: Jefferson County Farmers in World War II.
Missouri Historical Review 86 (April 1992): 265-281.
- Kenney, Anne R. "She Got to Berlin": Virginia Irwin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch War Correspondent.
Missouri Historical Review 79 (July 1985): 456-479.
- Lanterman, Alice. "The Development of Kansas City as a Grain and Milling Center."
Missouri Historical Review 42 (October 1947): 28 and 33.
- Mrozek, Donald J. "Organizing Small Business During World War II: The Experience of the Kansas City Region."
Missouri Historical Review 71 (January 1977): 174-192.
- Schultz, Gerald. "Missouri and the War. Part XVI."
Missouri Historical Review 40 (July 1946): 531-545.
- Thrapp, Beatrice. "Missouri and the War. Part II."
Missouri Historical Review 37 (January 1943): 169-183.
- Wilson, Don W. "Teaching for the Future By Reaching into the Past."
Missouri Historical Review 87 (October 1992): 48-62.
- Windell, Marie George. "As Benton Sees the War."
Missouri Historical Review 39 (July 1945): 460-467.
"Gillespie Collection of War Letters."
Missouri Historical Review 41 (July 1947): 410.
"Missouriana: Missouri Marches to the Front."
Missouri Historical Review 36 (July 1942): 464-466.
"The State Presents a Silver Service to the USS Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 43 (April 1949): 290.
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.
World War II Letter Project - letters from roughly 1,000 military service members now online
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.
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.
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.
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||Washington Citizen||1905-1939; 1943-1965|
|Gasconade||Bland Courier||1904-1951; 1963-1966|
|Gascondae||Gasconade County Republican||1896-1898; 1903-1922; 1925-1966|
|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|
|Warren||Warrenton Banner||1868-1872; 1881-1897; 1902-1968|
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.