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Beloit College World War I collection

 Collection
Identifier: AC 112

Overview

This collection contains predominantly military service records for Beloit College and other local community members, with brief biographical information. There are also articles, correspondence, faculty and trustee meeting minutes, photographs, and pamphlets about various aspects of Beloit College's involvement in World War I.

Dates

  • 1917-1922

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research; however, certain materials are very fragile and require Archives staff for handling, or use may be restricted altogether.

Biographical / Historical

From "Beloit Goes to War: A Long (and Surprising) Tradition" by Terrence Bush, class of 1985

There is no complete record in the college archives of Beloiters who served in the Spanish-American War, or in any of America's military "adventures" over the ensuing half-century. But when the challenge of the "war to end all wars" was thrown at a new generation of Beloit men early in 1917, they showed that not much had changed. As the Great War was raging in Europe, some Americans resisted entry. Senator LaFollette of Wisconsin filibustered against President Wilson's Armed Neutrality Bill, a measure to prepare America for war. The Beloit College faculty, however, would stand for no such equivocation and voted to support Wilson. "From the Alleghenies west, the people do not appear to have sensed the seriousness of our national situation," said one professor at the time.

When America finally did enter the war in April, 1917, there already were 120 college volunteers for a military corps on campus. At the end of May, 70 Beloiters were in the service, and by the fall 250 students, instructors and alumni had volunteered or been drafted. Earlier, a handful of Beloit-area men, including some college students, had left to join the fledgling ambulance corps, and five faculty members had become commissioned Army officers. In fact, only 42 seniors out of a total college enrollment of 326 remained on campus in the fall of 1917.

By the end of the war, over 600 Beloiters had served in some capacity. Many went into infantry and artillery; others entered the new signal corps, medical detachments and naval brigades. Fifteen died in action, and their deaths reflected the horrors of modern war. Marine Pvt. Raymond H. Eames'14, died from the effects of mustard gas at Belleau Woods, France, in 1918. Lt. Maderson Lehr'18, an ambulance driver and aviator for the French, was shot down in July, 1918.

On campus, courses relating to the war became part of the curriculum; they included mechanical drafting and topography. A Beloit College Red Cross unit was organized at Emerson Hall, and Beloit women met twice a week to knit sweaters, socks and scarfs and to make bandages for men overseas. Later they sewed the huge Beloit service flag which hung in Eaton Chapel, attaching a blue star for each man in service and a gold star for everyone who sacrificed his life in the war.

As the war dragged on through 1918, the Army devised a plan to keep men under 21 in school but still ready for action. That summer, seven Beloit men traveled to Fort Sheridan in Illinois to be the forerunners of the Beloit encampment of the Student Army Training Corps, a military training unit under the instruction of Army officers. By the fall, all 144 men on campus who had not already joined the service enlisted in the S.A.T.C.; Scoville Hall and the gymnasium became their barracks, and Chapin Hall was their mess hall.

The armistices of November, 1918, made their mission unnecessary, and the unit was demobilized before Christmas. Upon the announcement of the war's end, the nation celebrated with delirious joy, and Beloit was no exception. The city was overtaken by "wild, hotten-tot demonstrations," as one observer put it. Men who had been in the service returned to their studies, and on Liberty Day in May, 1919, over 10,000 people from town and campus joined in tribute to the 700 men -- college students and alumni among them -- memorialized on the city's service flag.

Extent

1.5 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Arrangement

This collection has been compiled over the years through separate accessions of various sizes from various offices and individuals, none of which has any accompanying documentation. The original order of the documents is unknown. The arrangement order presented here has been imposed by the College Archives staff.

Related Materials

Beloit College World War II collection (AC 113)
Melvin A. Brannon papers (MC 3)
Title
World War I collection
Status
Completed
Author
Michelle Tom
Date
May, 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Beloit College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
700 College St.
Beloit WI 53511 USA
608-363-2485