Hundreds of men, as well as many women, of Illinois were playing a part in the World War long before the United States entered the war. Some were fighting on the western front, some were Red Cross nurses or welfare workers. Others joined the Lafayette Escadrille (the American aviation unit in the French army), or entered the Foreign Legion. Records compiled by the Office of the Adjutant General show that Illinois gave 351,153 men to the army and navy of the United States during the war. Out of every twelve men in the army one was from Illinois. Illinois furnished more men to the army and navy than any other state in the Union, with the exception of New York and Pennsylvania, both of which had larger populations. The state's own division, the Thirty-third, was the only distinctly Illinois division that saw active service in France.
Money, next to men, was the greatest need of the government and Illinois gave its share and more. About seven percent of the subscriptions received for the nation's war loans, a total of approximately $1,300,000,000 came from Illinois - which, at the time, had about five percent of the population of the United States. Statistics compiled by the State Council of Defense show that the total contributions of the state to various funds raised by war aid and relief organizations was more than $45,000,000. One of the largest Illinois contributions to the war effort by Illinois farmers was the farm crop of 1918. Estimated by the Department of Agriculture to be worth $879,697,000 it was the greatest crop in money value that was ever produced by any state in the Union. As factories were quickly converted into munitions plants the output of Illinois factories in direct war contracts in 1918 was approximately $2,000,000,000.
By the time the War ended, more than 5,000 men from Illinois had given their lives in defense of world freedom and liberty.
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