River Falls in the World Wars

World War I

army training

Gathering of the SATC in front of North Hall (South Hall in the background), Oct/Nov. 1918

During WWI, UW-River Falls, then known as the River Falls State Normal School, was designated as a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) site. (read 1918 RF Journal article about SATC)  Barracks were built on campus and soldiers trained in the yards in front of North and South Hall. Visit the University Archives collection inventory for the SATC (UWRF Series 29) to read more and view photographs.

arnett wi soldiers

The first active involvement for River Falls in World War I came as a response to the Belgian Relief Appeal in late 1914. The city raised a total of $983.12, $126.50 of which came from UW-River Falls students and faculty, toward the relief campaign for the war torn populous of Belgium. Like cities all across the country, citizens of River Falls observed rationing protocol and collected paper (newspaper drive in River Falls elementary classes, 1917) and other items for the war effort. Local newspapers published a plethera of articles, advertisements and regular columns addressing war preparedness, personal responsibility and patriotism. Read a 1918 River Falls Journal article on the United War Work Campaign Day for Wisconsin pupils.    

war prade

Patriotic Day parade, downtown River Falls. April 27, 1917

The Area Research Center & University Archives' collections contain many World War I era documents and artifacts. A few examples: 

  • Personal effects of a local soldier, George Banta, who was stationed in France as a clerk during WWI including French rations coupons, identification cards, and pay record booklet (River Falls SC 411)
  • Personal diary, American Legion memorial program, and a Western Union telegram announcing the death of Eldon C. Kinne, a local soldier serving in the 342nd Infantry while stationed in France and England during WWI (River Falls SC 256) 
  • Personal diary of Floyd R. Leseman, Wisconsin soldier and recipient of the Croix de Guerre for courageous action in France during WWI (River Falls SC 409)  
  • Letters home to parents as well as guard and fatigue detail rule cards from Charlie Corcoran, River Falls resident, during his army training in Rockford, IL, and during military service overseas during WWI (River Falls Mss EP). Also included are pieces of correspondence that have been inspected and stamped by military censors as well as a handwritten letter from Windsor Castle by King George V of England, welcoming US soldiers to the battle in Europe.
  • World War I patriotic themed postcards, collected by Ella Toby of River Falls (River Falls Mss EL)




Common war-themed newspaper clips from River Falls Journal, 1918

World War II

Most people in River Falls learned that the US had entered into WWII while listening to a radio speech by President Roosevelt calling for a formal declaration of war in a joint session of Congress the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Students at the college, then known as the River Falls State Teachers College (RFSTC), listened over a special radio hook-up in an assembly at North Hall.

Leading up to that declaration, locals had already been preparing for the possibility of war. National Guard members from River Falls had already been called up for active duty. The Boy Scouts and Pierce County Defense Council held aluminum scrap metal drives. After war was officially declared, the local high school and the RFSTC began offering evening classes for farm youths to prepare them for anticipated machinery shortages. Classes also included weekly "Farming for Defense" instruction which provided information on how to produce the most dairy and meat products to meet national demand during wartime. The River Falls Journal (RFJ) was again an important point of contact for citizens hoping to hear about soldiers overseas and to learn about issues enveloping the homefront. [View a war bond advertisement from the RFJ, 1943.]

 girls  meat  farm  paper  tank

Soldiers who died in WWII from: Burnett County, Pierce County, Polk County and St. Croix County

WWII had a large impact on the enrollment at RFSTC and at the population of young males in general. Below, some of the River Falls student soldiers who were posthumously awarded Gold Stars for losing their lives during WWII

 donald johnson  alvinanderson  robert mraz  stanley torgerson

 Donald Johnson

 Ward Randles

 Robert Mraz

 Stanley Torgenson

 malcolm rockwell  thosgill  alvinanderson  jerome sobotta

 Malcolm Rockwell

 Thomas Gill

Alvin Anderson

 Jerome Sobotta

The Area Research Center & University Archives' collections contain many World War II era documents and artifacts. A few examples:

  • Copies of YANK, the Army Weekly. First published on June 17, 1942 and lasting through December of 1945, Yank was a magazine staffed entirely by enlisted-soldiers in World War II. ARC Vertical File. 
  • Flight logs and pilot training manuals for the A26-Invader and the B26 Marauder used by Howard B. Christenson, a pilot in the 17th Bomb Group of the 37th Squadron, U.S. Army Air Force of Pierce County, WI (River Falls Mss ES). 
  • Letters and postcards between soldiers and their family, friends, and professors back home. View "sailor's prayer" postcard. Deloris Buckley, Front Line Nurse. 


Contact Us

University Archives and Area Research Center
170 Chalmer Davee Library
(715) 425-3567 

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