SW Missouri Mining's Role in World War I

Published 07/22 2014 07:21AM

Updated 07/22 2014 07:24AM

JOPLIN, Mo. -- This month marks the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War 1.   It conjures up images of trench warfare, destruction and ultimately an Allied victory. But local mining in southwest Missouri played a pivotal role in the war.  Tons of iron ore produced  in the mining region of far southwest Missouri helped with the efforts.

"The two minerals of lead and zinc were pivotal in the victory with the Allies," said Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum.

That included the countless bullets fired as well as the artillery itself.

"That's a tough one to quantify but clearly, all the metal that had a zinc coating on there, so it would not rust. And lead was very prevalent in much of the ammunition," said Belk.

No other area provided more lead and zinc than local mines.

"In some cases, almost like say around 50% for the entire world, that would be obviously with the Allies. But, while America was neutral, I would assume they were sending these minerals to whoever needed them," he said.
It meant that business was booming for the Ti State Mining Region, and it also meant that many local men weren't drafted into service.

"Because they were so critical, the two minerals of the lead and zinc, they did get deferred. Many of the men did not have to go to war. They were fighting underground in the sense of pulling these lead and zinc minerals that were so important to the winning effort," he said.

There was a very real economic impact for this area. Demand for ore was up, at the same time, the government was subsidizing the price of lead and zinc. There was a cost in lives lost. Just in Joplin, the numbers show more than 3,700 men were part of the initial draft, 83 died as part of the war effort. 

(KODE, Joplin)

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