From the Homefront to the Frontlines: Mississippi in a World at War

World War I, also known as the Great War, began in Europe in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria during a visit to Sarajevo. The United States entered the conflict in 1917 after Germany adopted unrestricted submarine warfare and attempted to build an alliance with Mexico. New military technologies and trench warfare led to extraordinary levels of bloodshed and destruction and the loss of more than 16 million civilian and military lives.  According to The Mississippi Encyclopedia, Mississippi contributed 57,740 individuals to the fight; roughly three fourths of this number was drafted.

World War II, which spanned from 1939-1945, is the largest and deadliest armed conflict in history to date. The war took place over six continents and each ocean and claimed an estimated 50 million lives. This number includes military and civilian casualties as well as the 6 million Jewish people slaughtered by the Nazis. The United States entered the war in December of 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Once again, Mississippi sent many men and women off to fight at the front.

These letters, drawn from manuscripts collections held by the Special Collections Department of Mississippi State University Libraries, were written by men and women, including many graduates of the University, who served in these great conflicts or who lived in hope that their loved ones would return to them after the war. The soldiers’ thoughts on getting accustomed to the pace and structure of military life and missing their homes, families, farms, and favorite foods, like Mama's chocolate cake, are recurrent themes in their letters; their voices, as well as the voices of their loved ones, are represented in this exhibit.