ISU will honor fallen soldiers from WWII and Vietnam in Gold Star Hall ceremony Nov. 9

For Thee They Died

Photo by Bob Elbert.

AMES, Iowa -- A family celebrating a reunion stopped by Iowa State University's Memorial Union one day last year. They wanted to see the name of their fallen soldier engraved on the wall of the Gold Star Hall. They found Walter Wilson listed among hundreds of Iowa State students who had died in World War II.

On Monday, Nov. 9, Wilson's widow, daughter and sister will be in the audience when the university honors its casualties of war in the annual Gold Star Hall Ceremony. The ceremony will be at 3:15 p.m. in the Memorial Union Great Hall. Wilson and two former students who died during the same Vietnam War operation will be remembered through personal stories and photos. A reception will follow the ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.

Iowa State's Memorial Union was created in 1928 as a memorial to Iowa Staters who died in World War I. Their names are engraved in the walls of the union's Gold Star Hall. Former students' names are inscribed if they attended Iowa State full time for one or more semesters and died while in military service in a war zone. As names become known, they are added to the wall and the soldiers are remembered in the university's Veterans Day observance.

Although the names of this year's honorees were previously engraved on the memorial wall, their lives and sacrifices have not yet been recognized in a Gold Star Hall Ceremony.

  • Walter Wilson, Lake City, graduated from Iowa State in 1941 and enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942. Stationed in the South Pacific, he died in a bombing mission over Japan in July 1945.
  • Ted Rule, Cresco, and John Shelby Pooler, Wheaton, Illinois, were involved in the same battle at Loc Ninh, a village near the Cambodian border. The area was the scene of several battles as the North Vietnamese used it to build an offensive outpost only 75 miles northwest of Saigon. Rule attended Iowa State for three years before enlisting in the Army in 1968. He was an infantry unit commander when he died in a heroic act at Loc Ninh, Nov. 29, 1968. Pooler, who had been an English major at Iowa State, died in the same operation on the same day. He was trying to save the life of a fellow soldier when he was killed.

A living memorial

In 1928, the names of 117 Iowa Staters who died during World War I were carved into the walls of the Gold Star Hall.

  • In 1969, 10 bronze plaques bearing the names of 369 Iowa State men who died in World War II were mounted on doors to the Gold Star Hall.
  • In 1984, the bronze plaques were removed when names from World War II, Korea and Vietnam were engraved in the limestone walls.
  • Name additions have also been made in 2003, 2006 through 2011 and 2013, adding overlooked servicemen from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, as well as Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.