The War Service Register records are now open for research at the University Archives!
Used to the compile the original Golden Book housed at the Indiana Memorial Union (listing every IU alum who served in war), the War Service Register of Alumni and Former Students provides information on Indiana University alumni and former students who served in U.S. wars between 1860 and 1945 (i.e., the Mexican War, Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the first World War, or the second World War).
The Alumni Office requested that each alum provide his or her name, degree, class year, dates of service, date of discharge, rank, and record. The amount of information provided, however, varies from student to student.
For those students serving in World War II, the material is much more comprehensive and often includes newspaper clippings and correspondence between IU and the enlistee and/or his or her parents. There are records for dozens of female enlistees. The Record (filled out by alumni) included, among other things, blanks for present service address, previous stations, and the question “are you receiving the alumni magazine?” In addition to the paper records, photographs were frequently sent to the Alumni Office (now housed in IU’s photograph collection).
History of the Register
The Office of the Alumni Secretary, led by Humphrey M. Barbour in the 1920s, compiled the initial (pre-World War II) War Service Register of Alumni and Former Students, which provided information about Indiana University alumni and former students who served in a U.S. war between 1860 and 1920. The Alumni Office collated the register using alumni responses to a memo requesting information sent in the early 1920s.
During and after the end of World War II, the Alumni Office, then under the charge of George F. Heighway, repeated this same process. Besides serving as a tool to encourage subscription to the IU Alumni Magazine, the letters were also used to find out information about soldiers listed as “missing in action.”
Heighway often wrote to parents of MIA or POW soldiers expressing his concern and asking for updated information. There are many instances, such as the letter at left, when families wrote back with good news that their son was found alive. Not all replies, however, were positive.
According to some counts, 288 former IU students were killed in action during the war. The Alumni Office requested that families of the deceased fill out a special form listing service information as well as place of burial. Most families also mailed photographs with the other information (such as the two shown below, Iceal Alford and Bernard Cederholm).
On a personal level, these photographs were the most striking. The soldiers killed in action are indistinguishable, of course, from the rest of the photographs sent to IU. Yet, viewing their photographs, I already know how their lives ended. For those who survived, however, these records detail just a few years of their life. The rest of their life remains a mystery.
The finding aid and scans are available here. If you have any questions, contact the University Archives!
Leave a Reply