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March 10, 2017

World War I - summary of CIT campus activity in 1917

The United States officially entered World War I on 4/6/1917. This galvanized actions at Case School of Applied Science (CSAS) and Western Reserve University.

President Charles S. Howe
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In the CSAS President’s Annual Report for 1916/1917, President Charles Howe wrote:

“For some time previous to the declaration of the war there had been a great deal of interest among our students in military matters but it had not crystallized into any being. the National Defence Act [sic] of June 1916 made it possible for students in college to form voluntary organizations and for the government to send military officers to institutions where such organizations existed. Engineering students are always very busy with their college work. The demands upon them during the four years of undergraduate life are very much more severe than upon the students in academic colleges. It is, therefore, not surprising that only a few students were willing to take upon themselves work that was not required. After this situation had been explained to the Board [of trustees] a committee was appointed, consisting of two members of the Board and the president of the faculty [Howe]. The committee was asked to thoroughly investigate the question of military drill and the establishment of such military drill as a requirement in Case. The committee had several meeting one with the Secretary of War in Cleveland and another with him in Washington, the latter at his invitation.

“An effort was made to have a military unit established but it was not successful because the number of officers in the army was limited and all of them were needed in the new army about to be raised. We were, therefore, informed that our application was on file - that it would receive consideration just as soon as it seemed possible to supply an officer but that until that time nothing could be done. The committee also endeavored to find out whether it would be possible for us, with our engineering and scientific equipment, to train men as officers for particular scientific departments of the army, or rather, departments where engineering skill is especially needed, as, for instance, in the engineer corps, the ordnance department, the signal corps, etc. Our suggestions were very coldly received by the heads of bureaus but seemed to please the Secretary of War very much. He could, not, however, force the heads of bureaus to attempt work of this kind without their hearty consent and so we have never offered the use of our laboratories to the government.

“As a result of the work of this committee the Trustees, on March 3rd voted that military drill be made compulsory in Case School of Applied Science in accordance with the terms of the National Defense Act of June 1916, and that such drill begin at the opening of the college year 1917-18. It was also voted to increase the length of the college year by one week in order to partially make up for the time which would be taken from studies by the military exercises. Previous to this time, however, military marching had been taken up in the gymnasium as a substitute for gymnasium work. This was carried on under the direction of Professor Adamson who was a captain in the Reserve Corps and by the gymnasium instructors who very willingly took the necessary time to acquaint themselves with the drill manual. At first this work was merely called military marching but as soon as the trustees had taken formal action its title was changed to military drill. The Cleveland Grays kindly loaned us a hundred rifles which they were not using and we secured the services of Captain Lynn, the Adjutant of the Fifth Regiment, Ohio Infantry, as the military instructor. There was little if any objection on the part of the students, even after drill was given for two, three and four hours a day.

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Student Army Training Corps drilling, 1917-1918

“As soon as war was declared and the government had determined to establish officers’ training camps in various sections of the county [sic], the college work was badly disorganized. The greatest excitement prevailed. Almost every student in college wanted to go to the camps and my office was besieged from morning until night by the men who wished to secure recommendations. Of course many of the students were too young to be allowed to enter the training camps but in the upper classes the majority of them were over twenty-one and hence were eligible. A comparatively small number of seniors applied for admission to the camps because they hoped to be admitted to the engineering department of the army. About sixty of the students were appointed to the training camps, the number being about equally divided among the senior, junior, and sophomore classes, although three or four freshmen were admitted. One of the freshmen received the highest rank given to a Case man at the conclusion of the first training camp and is now adjutant of his regiment.

“The training camps were not the only opportunities for college men, and various other military activities were open to them, and the call from some of which seemed to be irresistible. Some entered the aviation corps, some went into the mosquito fleet, some became wireless operators, several went to France with the ambulance corps, and one or two took up Y.M.C.A. work with the army.

“Then came the call to the farm. Although we are situated in a large city some of our students come from the country and there was a very great demand on the part of their fathers to have them go home as soon as possible to assist in the farm work. In other cases young men thought that the farm offered them their best field for service. The faculty, therefore, agreed to excuse on the first of May, all of those who could get positions on farms and to give them credit for the balance of the year’s work if they continued the farm work until September first. About thirty students took advantage of this ruling of the faculty and left college on approximately May first.

“Several of the faculty left before the end of the college year, taking advantage of the action of the Trustees whereby they were given leave of absence during the period of the war and continued under fully salary until such time as the government would provide pay for men in the department which they wished to enter.”

Read WRU President Thwing's summary.

Posted by hxy2 at March 10, 2017 01:23 PM

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