There are reminders that while the First World War was to see an increase in the type of machines used to fight wars, it was still very much a war dependent on animals, particularly horses.  As a result there was a specific need for a particular type of soldier–the veterinarian.

It was important that horses remained in good health in order to carry out the movement of men and supplies on the battlefield.  This standard was not often maintained, until complaints of sickly horses became overwhelming.  For more about this, see the  link:

Now if you have gone to that link, you know the article also deals with the jacket of 2nd Lt. Zara H. McDonnall, 178th Infantry Regiment, 89th Division.  McDonnall entered the army as a veterinary surgeon on August 24, 1917, at Camp Funston.  He had trained as a veterinarian at the then Kansas State Agricultural College in Manhattan.  He served until discharged at Camp Grant, Illinois on September 27, 1919.

Papers that came in with his uniform indicate how things had developed toward the care of the animals.  Veterinarians were charged with regular inspections of the animals and the stables where they were kept.  Reports confirming these inspections were due at headquarters each week.

McDonnall was born November 28, 1886 at Holton, Jackson County (some sources suggest he was born in Nemaha County). Clearly the family moved around a bit before the war. In addition to living at Granada, Nemaha County, they also lived at Goff, Riley County, and he finally attended Kansas State in Manhattan.

After the war he tried farming, first in Wyoming, and he may have been in New Mexico for awhile. He married in Texas in 1922, then came back to Kansas living in Sedgwick County at Kechi, then Wichita.

A 1930 statement shows that he had been gassed during the war and suffered from shell shock. When he registered, at age 56, for World War II, he was listed as 6’3″ and weighing 130 lbs.–an excellent description of being lanky. City directories and census records tend not to show an occupation. Perhaps his gassing had an effect on his health. McDonnall died at Wichita in 1944.

His service as a veterinarian shows the need for such men during the Great War.

Kansas Historical Society Vet’s Uniform podcast:



Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.