ISU Gold Star Hall ceremony honors fallen World War I soldier from Hamburg

AMES, Iowa -- A Veterans Day observance at Iowa State University will honor four former students who served and died in military service -- one from each major conflict of the 20th century. Their names are engraved on the walls of the Gold Star Hall, the war memorial in the university's Memorial Union.

One was a soldier from Hamburg, John Hubert Woodward, who died in World War I. Woodward was the first serviceman from Hamburg to die in World War I. The community named Legion Post 156 for him.

Former students are eligible for name placement in Gold Star Hall if they graduated from or attended Iowa State full time for one or more semesters, and died while in military service in a war zone. The university recently discovered that Woodward's name had not been included in the original 1928 engraved list of World War I fallen soldiers who had attended Iowa State. As names become known, they are added to the wall and the soldiers are remembered in the Gold Star Hall Ceremony on Veterans Day.

Iowa State is able to memorialize Woodward this Veterans Day thanks to the help of his nephews, Bill and John Woodward of Hamburg, who shared family memorabilia.

John Hubert Woodward was born in 1892 to the farming family of John and Sarah Woodward. After graduating from high school, he attended a one-year dairy science program at Iowa State from the fall of 1911 to the spring of 1912. In 1915, he moved to nearby Sidney.

Woodward was drafted by the Army and reported for induction in Sidney on Feb. 24, 1918. He joined C Company of the 350th Infantry Regiment, constituted at Camp Dodge. In April, he was re-assigned to L Company of the 117th Infantry Regiment, a National Guard division primarily made up of men from Tennessee and the Carolinas. After completing basic training, Woodward arrived in France on May 11, 1918. Two months later, he was promoted to Private First Class.

On Sept. 27, Allied troops won one of the most important victories of the war when they broke through German fortifications at the Hindenburg Line. One of the most formidable battle lines known to history, the Hindenburg Line was built two years earlier by more than half a million German workers and Russian prisoners of war. It consisted of multiple layers of defense, including steel-reinforced concrete forts and blockhouses, an anti-tank ditch, barbed-wire barriers, another line of forts and blockhouse with machine guns and an intricate system of zigzag trenches. Because the German command believed the line was impregnable, they reduced the number of troops in the area. The Allied victory there hastened the war's end.

Woodward's unit advanced through the now-broken German line on Oct. 1 and 2. The next day, Germany and Austria sent peace notes to President Woodrow Wilson requesting an armistice. At the same time, Woodward's unit prepared for an attack to realign the front. It is likely that Woodward lost his life during the advance on Oct. 6 near Ponchaux, France. The Armistice was signed just five weeks later.

Woodward was buried Oct. 10 at Sevier Cemetery and later moved to the American Somme Cemetery at Bony, France. Although the family was not able to bring his body back to Iowa, his mother visited his grave in France.

Kathy Svec, retired ISU Memorial Union marketing director, researches each person through local newspapers, genealogical and historical societies, yearbooks, phone directories and online resources to track down family members and piece together each soldier's life story.