Section 1: Introduction

War is a state of armed conflict, usually between nations, that happens when one group or nation tries to impose its will on another nation. Often, each warring nation has several allies that join in the war. The United States engaged in several major wars in the 20th century. All of these wars took a great toll on the nation. Nevertheless, whenever the United States declared war, North Dakotans enlisted to help with the war effort.

North Dakota’s soldiers fought in World War II (1941-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), and the Vietnam War (1964-1973). Women, too, enlisted to serve as nurses and in military, non-combat positions. On the home front, war disrupted family life, disturbed the national economy, and challenged us to think about the place of the United States in the world.

Although North Dakotans responded when the nation asked for their service, North Dakota has had a deep-rooted commitment to peace. Perhaps because North Dakotans place a high value on family and home, we were reluctant to accept war except as a last resort. On the other hand, with relatives in Germany and Russia, many North Dakotans thought carefully about the dangers of war for their relatives overseas.

Although these wars were fought overseas, the realities of war came home to North Dakotans every day. War changed individual families when their sons/fathers/brothers/husbands were wounded or died. War changed our society as we struggled to cope with wartime economic stresses, new ideas about foreign relations, and concerns about soldiers returning home from combat.

War presents us with many challenges. We all agree that peaceful relations with foreign nations are beneficial, but sometimes peace fails and war is the result. When that happens, we need to understand the war and what kind of impact it will have on our lives and our communities. We learn to identify an enemy, but later we must learn to accept that nation as a friend or an ally when peace returns. Perhaps most difficult for many people is the idea that we can hate war while we honor and respect those men and women who accept their nation’s call to fight.

World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were fought in different places and at different times. The reasons for going to war were different each time. Each war left a legacy of change that has shaped our nation and our state.