Mission Statement

The Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center will preserve, promote, and perpetuate the sacrifice and service of the Black Officers of World War I, the WAC women of World War II, and that of all others whose lives have been connected to Fort Des Moines.

Museum History

The Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center, a National Historic Site, offers visitors a one-of-a-kind experience; a chance to explore and learn about two seperate but equally ground-breaking U.S. military programs.

Here in central Iowa, Fort Des Moines was the site of the U.S. Army’s first and only officer candidate class for African American men. Formed in response to America’s entry into World War I, 639 men graduated as commissioned officers in October 1917. These men defied skeptics, including President Woodrow Wilson, who believed African Americans lacked the courage and intelligence to lead troops to combat. Most of these men served in France and when they returned to the United States, many of these men such as Charles Houston, who litigated over sixty Jim Crow cases for the NAACP, went on to become civil rights leaders in their communities and across the United States. That same year, 104 doctors and 12 dentist earned commission as the first African American medical officers in the Army. In this training class was Dr. Louis T. Wright “Mr. Harlem Hospital” who became a prominent surgeon in Harlem, New York.

During the Second World War, Fort Des Moines hosted the formation of the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), training 72,000 troops and commissioning the first female officers for non-combat duty between 1942-1945. Among the 436 initial WAAC officers were 39 black women who graduated as 3rd Officers (2nd Lieutenants) on August 29th, 1942, and served in England and France in 1945. Fort Des Moines produced 118 black female officers and 3,656 enlisted women by war’s end, representing 4% of all WAC troops. The success of the WACs freed 250,000 male soldiers for combat duty in Europe and the South Pacific.

Upcoming Events

Massing of the Colors

Saturday, November 3, 2018 11:00 A.M.
*Colors please arrive at 10:00 A.M.

Massing of the Colors is a patriotic ceremony held to rededicate our faith in the United States, and to present our support to the National Colors and the Servicemen and Servicewomen those Colors represent. These ceremonies usually involve color guard units from:  Active-Duty, Reserve and National Guard military units; Senior and Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps  (ROTC) units; armed services auxiliary organizations; state militias; veteran and civic groups; police, sheriff, and fire departments; and Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations.

(from The Military Order of the World Wars’ (MOWW))

Invitations to participate and attend are being extended to members of the above-mentioned organizations, along with a general invitation to everyone in the community and specific invitations to veterans, community service workers, and students of Central Iowa area middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities.  We will be gathering the colors together to prepare for the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I later in November.  There will be a brief program at 11:00 and the opportunity to meet, greet, thank, and interact with the attendees after the ceremony.

Color Guard Sign Up Here

Make a Donation

Donations will allow for:
  • Re-opening the Museum with regular hours
  • Repairs to the heating and cooling systems
  • Hosting student tours of the Museum
  • Developing new exhibits
  • Starting an endowment for future operating expenses
Museum Hours
By Appointment Only

School & Group Visits
To schedule a group visit please e-mail curator@fortdesmoines.museum or registrar@fortdesmoines.museum.

The museum is free to all.

Free parking is available in the museum parking lot.