Remembering The Great War
September 11, 2014
September 11, 2014
With the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I getting a lot of attention this year, Jesse Saunders thought it might be interesting to look in the Southwestern archives and see what existed related to the war.
After several hours of research, he found a wealth of materials, including an old scrapbook showing how the campus was transformed into a training ground for recruits and a large flag with a gold star for every student and faculty member who died in the war.
Saunders, who serves as a digital initiative and special projects librarian in Special Collections, found the material so interesting he decided to digitize it and make it available online for others to see. Emily Russell, a Georgetown resident who is working on her master’s degree in library science, assisted with the digitization and did additional research on the 167 items in the collection. She and Saunders have also collaborated on putting together an exhibit titled “The Great War at Southwestern” that will be on display in the library foyer from early October through Homecoming and Reunion Weekend Nov. 7-9.
As soon as America entered the war in April 1917, many Southwestern students, faculty and staff signed up on their own to join the war effort. On Aug. 20, 1918, the Secretary of War announced the formation of a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) to train men as officers and technical experts in the army. Colleges that had at least 100 able-bodied men over the age of 18 were eligible to host a training program. Documents in the Southwestern archive include typed lists of all the male students who were ages 18, 19, 20 and 21 at the time.
According to a history of Southwestern published by University Historian Bill Jones, chemistry professor John Godbey and four students went to Fort Sheridan in Illinois from July 18, 1918 through Sept. 16, 1918 to become trained as instructors for the SATC program. When school opened in the fall, they were joined by a small staff of regular army personnel.
Students in the SATC received training in digging trenches, putting up barbed wire, and bayoneting dummies. The university was also required to offer a course on “Issues of the War,” but schools were given flexibility to develop their own curriculum. A letter in the archives says the course should include the study of “Geography of races in Europe, with particular consideration of the failure of national boundaries as drawn before 1914,” “Mineral and agricultural resources of the various countries,” “Systems of transportation,” “Trade relations” and “The struggle for colonial expansion.” Southwestern’s collection includes an oversized map titled “Subject Nationalities of German Alliance Geographical Map” that was probably used in teaching this course. (need link to map)
The Issues of the War course was to be combined with English Composition, in which students would be trained in how to write the reports that would be required of them as officers.
Mood Hall served as the barracks for students in the program and a photo in the collection shows the words “S.A.T.C.-Barracks” spelled out in stones in front of the building. Other photos in the archives include one of the SATC induction ceremony, recruits parading in front of Mood Hall, trenches that were dug on campus, and barbed wire entanglements.
The large flag that was found in the archive is believed to have been hung in the Cullen Building during the war. It has 16 gold stars on it to signify students and faculty members who died in the war.
The SATC program at Southwestern had just gotten into gear when the war ended and the need for military training evaporated. During its existence from Oct. 1, 1918 through Dec. 15, 1918, 154 men were enlisted in the program.
Although the SATC program was short-lived, university officials credit it with helping keep enrollment up during the last year of the war. In a report to the Board of Trustees in 1919, Charles McTyeire Bishop, who was president of Southwestern at the time, estimated that without the program, enrollment of male students would have dwindled to 50 during the fall 1918 semester.