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Museums of Story City honor WWII veterans with online profiles

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
During World War II, this coconut was sent home by Jeffery Borwick.  The coconut was donated to the Museums of Story City by Darrel Henderson.

It’s been 75 years since the end of World War II, and the Museums of Story City has a special project that went live online recently to honor the community’s veterans.

The project is the work of Kate Feil, museum director, and Hannah Haack, the museums’ intern for the past several months. Haack is a senior at the University of Iowa, where she is studying history and working toward a museum studies certificate.

The internship was mostly online, which allowed Haack to continue to work on the project during the pandemic.

“I wanted to learn more about World War II, and I wanted to look at the impact of World War II on small communities like Story City,” Haack said in one of the museum’s videos.

The WWII project also involved photographing and chronicling all of the war-era items in the museum’s collection. The day Haack and Feil took the photographs was one of Haack’s favorite parts of the project.

“There’s a coconut that was sent home from Hawaii from Jeffery Borwick to his family,” Haack said. “And it’s in great condition considering it’s 75 years old.”

“It’s really cool. They literally just wrote on a coconut and you could ship it that way,” Feil said.

The landing page for the project is on the museum’s website, storycityhistory.org. Under the Exhibits tab. Choose “Story City in WWII” from the dropdown menu.

“We have a full section of our 400 veterans who served from our community,” Feil said. “They are all listed alphabetically by last name.”

The Token and Ration book holder and Ration book #3 with stamps all belonged to Stanton James during the war.

Each veteran’s profile features a photo, if one was available, along with an overview of their service.

“We also keyword searched in the Story City Herald database for each one, so everyone should have some Story City Herald articles on their page,” Feil said. “That will show kind of what was going on for them during the war, where they were at and how it was reported back home on the home front.”

Draft registration cards, other paperwork and photos shared by families are also on each veteran’s profile.

“It’s really a great thing,” Feil said. “I like being able to preserve all this history of all of the 400 veterans who served.

“Sometimes it was hard to come up with photos of our Gold Star veterans. Most of them were young when they were killed in the war, and they hadn’t had a chance to get married and start a family yet. So they don’t have kids and grandkids who are still around to share photos of them.”

The website also offers a “Life on the Home Front” tab, with 10 topics of interest about life in the community during the war. Topics include rationing and Victory Gardens, clothing and scrap drives, women working, Red Cross, and Victory in Europe and Japan.

The Home Front collection draws on more newspaper articles as well as items in the museum’s collection, such as ration books.

Intern Hannah Haack and museum director Kate Feil have recently completed a website honoring the community's 400 World War II veterand.

“We’ve got photos of different ration books that they used throughout the war years here in Story City,” Feil said. “It’s fun to see the different colored stamps and how they were used.”

The museum is still interested in photos and memorabilia from WWII. If you have something you’d like to share, you can contact Feil on the Story City Historical Society’s Facebook page or email storycityhistory@gmail.com.