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Fort Des Moines

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 9th Grade Class U.S. History Length of Lesson 50 Minutes
Lesson Title Fort Des Moines
Unit Title History of Iowa
Unit Compelling Question In what ways has Iowa contributed to U.S. History?
Historical Context:

2018.052.004 his article was published in the Des Moines Register on July 19th, 1942. The article refers to the WAAC or the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps arrival to Fort Des Moines to take over for soldiers in administrative posts. These women were trained in combat but were in charge of administrative roles in forts such as Fort Des Moines. With things taken care of back at home, the soldiers could join the battlefield.


Fort Des Moines was built in 1843 at the intersection of the Des Moines and Raccoon River. Fort Des Moines established itself as an important military base that played a major role in the Civil War and both world wars. The facility was vacated in 1846. In 1901, Fort Des Moines was revived as the Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School located on the south side of Des Moines. It became the only training site for African American officers in the nation. During the early 1900s, the fort housed the 25th Infantry Prison Guard, as well as the 11th, 2nd, and 6th US Cavalry Regiments. In 1916, these Cavalry Regiments left for service at the Mexican border. In their place, the camp trained 1,250 African American men, all who had college degrees, to become US military officers. These men were paid seventy five dollars in gold coin. A white officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles C. Ballou, commanded all of the African American soldiers at Fort Des Moines. These men would eventually be sent to Europe to fight in the First World War. (Iptv.org)


The fort would play a major role in World War II as well. In 1942 the Army opened an officer training school for women at Fort Des Moines. During World War II, Fort Des Moines served as a military training center for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The fort, as well as other neighboring facilities, started with 11,000 new female recruits and successfully trained 72,141 women including a small contingent of African American female officers. After the war, Fort Des Moines became a separation center for the WAC. (Schwieder, 280-281)


Eventually the fort would become a post for the US Army Reserve. The fort also became a National Historic Landmark in 1974. During the Vietnam War, Fort Des Moines would become the location of the Des Moines Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station. The fort closed its doors in 2008. (Militarybases.com) Today, the buildings serve as a Correctional facility, as well as apartment buildings. There is also a Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center.




~ Sean Riley, University of Northern Iowa
Lesson Supporting Question In what ways was Fort Des Moines revolutionary for its time in the first training of the WAAC? (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps)
Lesson Overview

Fort Des Moines in Des Moines has a played a large role in not only Iowa History, but in U.S. History as well. Along with being a training facility among the first for African American soldiers in WWI, it was also used in WWII for training WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps). At first only white women were accepted into training but soon women of all races were accepted at Fort Des Moines for training. During this time, most of the United States was very segregated and at first Fort Des Moines started out that way too with separate barracks for White women and African American women. The Army insisted that WAAC training was not discriminatory and any women who had enlisted would be getting the same training. Shortly after the women of the WAAC arrived, they decided to no longer segregate the women. The WAAC training and desegregation was huge for its time and should be celebrated along with other ways that Iowa has impacted U.S. history positively. This lesson would be a good way to educate students on parts of Iowa history that they might not be familiar with and help them see Iowa’s connection with the rest of the nation in National events.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed

Primary resource news paper text. (see attached) handouts for the whole class

This can be found on this site:

Shane, G. (1942, August 19). Army history to be made by 800 at Fort Des Moines - first of WAACs arriving. The Des Moines Register. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from

A projector or smartboard to play the YouTube clip

You tube clip about Fort Des Moines

C-SPAN Cities Tour - Des Moines: Historic Fort Des Moines . (2014, July 18). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpEvix6FS-8

Handouts of the worksheet

File fort_des_moines_handout.docx
Lesson Target
  • Students will understand how Fort Des Moines was instrumental in training women for WWII .
  • Students will analyze the language used in the newspaper article and understand the historical language and context of the time to realize how it relates to gender at the time.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
  • Teacher will begin the lesson introducing today’s topic.
  • Ideally this could connect to the top of WWII that was previously discussed in a different unit
  • Explain that today the class will be focusing Fort Des Moines and the WAAC training that went on.
  • Explain that WAAC is the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and was the first of its kind for training women for the Army. Fort Des Moines was the first place for training women for the Army in 1942
  • Make connections to Jim Crow south or post ablution with segregation. Explain that even in the North there segregation and Iowa as no exception.
  • Fort Des Moines and the army trainers there emphasised that training would be equal and they also desegregated the barracks which was also revolutionary for the time.
  The teacher will use a powerpoint or prezi to explain some of the background information for the students.
YouTube Clip

This video is a good resource to talk about the 3 different operations Fort Des Moines went through in different time periods but for this lesson the teacher should focus on WWII and therefore can start at 4:10 for the video clip.

This clip shows interviews and video footage of day to day operations at Fort Des Moines during WWII.

It also talks about the Des Moines community at the time surrounding Fort Des Moines.

  The teacher will play the video clip 4:10-6:00 end.

After the students have seen the clip, the teacher should ask if there are any questions.

After that, the teacher should ask some discussion questions such as interesting things they noticed or connections they see with previous WWII unit.

  The teacher will ask discussion questions about the video clip
Primary Source

Teacher will pass out copies of the primary source to the students while also putting it on the projector.

Students will be also given a hand out where they will be told to analyze the document while looking for the themes discussed in the instruction

  Students will analyze the primary source while working on their worksheet
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • Ask questions periodically to check for understanding.
  • After the clip, ask discussion questions to gage where the students are at in their connections and understanding.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • There will be a handout that will have questions that will be answered while the students are reading the primary source. The handout is found at the end of the lesson plan.
Author Information
Author Chad Timm Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 07/22/2018 Last Edited 08/22/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College

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