Exhibit - From Campus to Compound:
Michigan State University during World War I -
A View of the Great War from the M.A.C Record
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Michigan Agricultural College was ready to serve in the cause from enlisted students leaving campus to the military arriving on campus to provide training. When the Spanish influenza reached campus, M.A.C. provided medical care for those affected. Trace the steps of students and faculty, soldiers and nurses during this critical time in American history.
America at War: What it meant for the College
With the U.S.’s entry into the Great War on April 6, 1917, Michigan State University, then known as Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.), saw rapid changes in the lives of every individual on campus, student and faculty alike. Like many other colleges across the country and around the world, the pride and discomforts of a country at war were felt across campus. Students who either enlisted or remained on campus shouldered much of the pain. However, there was also honor in the sacrifice, and the college used its resources to help both the war effort and their friends “over there.”
Throughout the shift in how people conducted their lives, there was an attempt at a tenuous balance between the responsibilities that came with the war and continuing life with as much normalcy as possible. One of the first considerations was commencement and celebrating M.A.C. graduates. Even though President Frank S. Kedzie declared that the alumni reunion and commencement festivities would go forward as planned, there was an understanding that “this is all contingent of course on the national crisis which may go so far as to demand that college be closed before the end of the term.”
Faced with war, the likes of which had never been seen before, President Kedzie shared these words with the members of the M.A.C. Alumni Association as they prepared to shoulder the burden of the war: “The slogan, ‘America in this war for the defense of Democracy’ called forth a hearty response from your College. Plans for a somewhat elaborate celebration of our Sixtieth Anniversary (1857-1917) were laid aside and the date for Commencement brought forward to June 1 to enable an early participation by all the College in the work of preparedness. Many of our seniors and juniors are now drilling in the officers’ training camp at Fort Sheridan [Illinois] and others have left College and are actively engaged in crop increase work….” “No one knows exactly what confronts us as a nation but I know and feel that the M.A.C. will do its part in the future as it has done in the past.”[i]
Life would change for everyone involved, not just the young men who joined the armed forces. Some changes were small, like the social events that began to have military themes, such as a “Y” banquet celebrating the class with the best overall attendance that used “a war parallel” [ii]as its theme. The toasts had names such as “The Colonel’s Part” and “Keeping the Squad in Line.” However small, these new adjustments in life were reflective of a larger change.
In order to have more men physically prepared to become soldiers, every man participated in physical drills beginning in the winter 1918 term, “either military drill under the schedule of the reserves officers training unit or physical training or athletics.”[iii]Shortly after this, the students who were required to train for military service would not have to go very far to join their units. The training units would be coming to them.
The U.S. War Department in cooperation with M.A.C. formed the Student Army Training Corp, or S.A.T.C., in the fall of 1918. Men trained in areas such as auto mechanics and participated in marching drills around campus. S.A.T.C. was divided into several units: Companies A, B, C, D, E, Headquarters Company, and Navy. Company A was made up of men who had qualified to also attend as college students, so in addition to their military training, they took classes in “mathematics, chemistry, war history, hygiene, drawing, and French.”[v]
A soldier’s daily schedule while stationed at M.A.C. was long, structured, and filled with tasks. Reveille at 6:25 a.m., study and recitations from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and drill from 2:30 to 4:45 p.m. Following a short break, they arrived at their quarters at 7:15 p.m. and studied from 7:15 to 9 p.m., with taps played at 10 p.m. to signal the end of the day. The M.A.C. Record
, an alumni publication, reported that the schedule was “a fairly full day the ‘freshmen’ think.” [vi]
A few former students returned to campus in fall of 1917. Captain Amos Ashley, Lieutenant Frank Chadduck, and Kenneth Hutton arrived when Battery C of the National Guard started using the Armory and drill grounds for training purposes. Ashley commanded “Battery C, was a member of the varsity football team in 1904.” [vii]Chadduck and Hutton were part of the 1912 varsity team.
The Navy asked for names of “M.A.C. graduates in mechanical engineering for the years 1913, ‘14, ‘15, and ‘16” to fill positions available in naval service. The men had to be under 27, an American citizen,” and “have received a degree from a college or university of recognized standing, showing that he has completed a course in civil, electrical or mechanical engineering.”[viii]
S.A.T.C. intramural activities included boxing matches between the companies on campus with “. . . boxing bouts, held every Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 have drawn many ring fans from the campus and the community to the ring in Sleepy Hollow.” [ix]In addition to amateur sports matches, S.A.T.C. celebrated the accomplishments of their superiors. “Commandant William E. Murchie received notice Thursday of his promotion from Captain to Major. In honor in his raise in ranks the entire S.A.T.C. by companys [sic] paraded Thursday evening and with the band drew up in front of the Woman’s Building for a program of songs and yells. Major Murchie game the men a short talk from the steps of the building.”[x]
The war ended on November 11, 1918. S.A.T.C. was disbanded on December 2 with a vote from the faculty and took about two weeks to be fully completed. Some of these young men returned to M.A.C. as students instead of soldiers.
The Great War forced change in the M.A.C. community and East Lansing. People and places adapted to the needs of the country. In recognizing the contributions and actions of all people involved, a more complete and nuanced vision of life during World War I becomes available.
Changes in College Operation
When the U.S. declared war on Germany, Michigan Agricultural College immediately started making adjustments to fill the needs of the country. The administration of M.A.C. faced war with an awareness of duty. Taking pride in their ability to work and sacrifice for the greater good, “the college itself is energetically shouldering its burden. Men, the best we have, are being loaned [to] the government to assist in war work, present courses altered and new ones started to meet the immediate needs of the war.” [xi]That year, 1917, the college opened late so that “students and prospective students may remain that much longer on the farms to help complete the harvest,”[xii] which was a crucial contribution in feeding the soldiers in training camps and in France. M.A.C. students were already involved in the war effort, and not just as soldiers. Men filled government positions, and women taught others in their communities about canning and food preservation practices and “energetically taking hold in Red Cross and other war work.”[xiii]
At a meeting held by the faculty in the spring of 1917, changes in college policy were considered in order to deal with and adjust to the new wartime atmosphere. It was requested that “provision be made for extension of the drill hour.” Also, the director of the Extension Division, R. J. Baldwin, suggested how the “county agricultural agents and other extension specialists” could create “maximum crop production,” and the Home Economics Division suggested that classes for “Red Cross nursing” be created. The class schedules were also, at this time, revised to allow “the Military department to have one and one-half hours for drill four days a week.” It was recommended “to the Board of Athletics that all public schedules of the Department of Athletics for the spring term be rescinded.”[xiv]
In order to accommodate the need for students to begin preparing for military service by participating in military drill training, “class hours have been shortened so as to bring the dinner hour from 11:30 to 12:30 and permit drill from 3:50 t0 5:30.” [xv]Faculty also suggested that class begin at 7 a.m. instead of shortening class times.
In addition to earlier times for classes and more physical training for the men, social activities were limited so that men could better prepare for what they were about to experience as soldiers. Before the war, M.A.C. students had a lively social life, which included events held at or by the numerous literary society houses. With the war going on, the literary societies for men were suspended until the end of the war. The justification was that “men are too busy with strictly military training.”[xvi] The houses for these societies were either empty or rented out to female students, who were not included in the edict.
Wells Hall – near present day MSU Library East Wing, 366 W Circle Dr
The second Wells Hall was a men’s dormitory from 1907 to 1967. Traditionally, a class rivalry existed between the freshman and sophomore classes. Every fall, posters were created to heckle the other class, there was a bit of hazing, and sometimes the “rearranging” of a freshman’s dorm room. Held near Wells Hall, a barbeque of roast beef and cider, along with the “presentation of the carving knife, which is handed down from one class to the next at this annual affair,”[xvii] ended the annual contest. The fall term in 1917 was a little different. The freshmen were still “convinced” to prep the bonfire, and the knife was passed down in a sign of forgiveness between the classes, but that year there was no meat. In a show of support for the food ration, doughnuts replaced the meat. Of course, there was still cider.
As a new type of resident – military personnel - arrived on campus, the men’s dormitories became military barracks. The top floor of Wells Hall was one of the many places home to soldiers temporarily staying on campus. Company C of the Student Army Training Corps, or S.A.T.C., resided in Wells Hall and were under the command of Lieutenant L. S. Fisk.
The influenza pandemic is remembered as one of the most devastating disease outbreaks in history, with hundreds of thousands of Americans becoming ill and dying. The epidemic began in 1917 and continued into 1919, with the worst of the illness hitting in the fall of 1918. Occurring simultaneously with World War I, resources at M.A.C. were stretched further in a second battleground: one in the bodies of students, staff, and soldiers.
Once the disease began to spread through campus, an “enlarged quarantine district” [xviii]was put into effect, which included all of campus except Faculty Row, the Women’s Building, and Howard Terrace. There were two entrances to campus. One of those entrances was between the Women’s Building and the library (present day Linton Hall), and in order to gain entry, a pass had to be presented to a stationed sentry.
As the influenza spread, parents of S.A.T.C. soldiers voiced their fears. The secretary of the State Board of Health, Dr. R. M. Olin, issued a statement to dissuade the anxiety surrounding the sick men: “Parents of soldiers at M.A.C. do not need to be alarmed . . . The men are receiving the very best of care, better than they would in their homes.” He also stated that more men were leaving the hospitals well than were coming in sick, and all classes for the soldiers had been suspended and “only light drills”[xix] were being practiced.
With so many S.A.T.C. men sick with influenza, football games were postponed or canceled, including that year’s game against University of Michigan. M.A.C. and U of M attempted to reschedule the game during what would have normally been the Cornell vs. U of M game. Cornell had already canceled their entire schedule. The M.A.C. vs. U of M game was rescheduled for November 23, 1918. The M.A.C. Aggies lost 6-21.
M.A.C.’s game against Northwestern University was also looking unlikely. Chicago was desperately struggling to deal with influenza at the time, and the conditions made the prospects of M.A.C. students traveling to Northwestern doubtful. The game was canceled.
In the late fall of 1918, the influenza epidemic had finally started to abate. Regular drills began again for S.A.T.C. men, and there was talk of normal classes resuming in the first few weeks of November. In the first week of November 1918, the guard posts at the entry points of the quarantine district were finally empty. At the end of the epidemic, fifteen S.A.T.C. men died, as well as one veterinary medical student. The death toll was the worst that M.A.C. had seen, but many other posts and cities were hit worse. “The rate was only slightly more than one per cent, as compared with six per cent at Camp Custer,”[xx] which was where several M.A.C. men trained before going overseas.
The Women’s Building and Howard Terrace - Near present day Morrill Plaza, 526 W Circle Dr
While the focus during the war may have been the activities and actions of men, women also contributed to the war effort. The women living in neighboring Howard Terrace and the Women’s Building (later called Morrill Hall) gave as much as they could.
Women promoted and practiced the rationing of food, particularly wheat. Not only had 400 women signed the Hoover food pledge, they had gone a step further and made literature on “food conservation subjects . . . recipes for war breads, meat substitutes, and bulletins on thrift, war clothing” [xxi]available in the library hallway. The women of dining Club C decided to practice what they preached and eliminated white bread and butter from their dinner menus. Starting at the end of February of 1918, there was no wheat bread and butter at the evening meal.
When the Spanish influenza outbreak struck campus, some 300 S.A.T.C. soldiers were admitted to the base hospital on campus. Boarding clubs, in charge of food for those on campus, were overwhelmed with feeding both sick and healthy students and soldiers and could not keep up with the extra loads of meal prep that was needed. The Home Economics Division stepped up and handled the responsibility of feeding the patients during the epidemic. They organized and operated a “dietetics kitchen in which food for all patients in the hospital ward” was “prepared and served.”[xxii]
In addition to feeding the patients, they also clothed them. “From October 11 until October 18, the East Lansing women and college girls” [xxiii]sewed for the hospital, its staff, and its patients. In one week’s time, they had sewn “315 sheets, 293 pillow cases, 106 pajama suits, 72 pneumonia jackets, 623 handkerchiefs, 128 cubicals [sic], 45 surgeons robes, 324 masks, 15 surgeons coats and 262 utility bags” for the S.A.T.C. hospital.
M.A.C. was not the only organization in East Lansing to answer the call to service. The community of East Lansing suffered a loss of leadership when the Boys’ and Girls’ club leader and the assistant state leader both registered for war service. E. C. Lindemann, class of 1911, was assigned to Camp Sherman in the fall of 1918. Chester A. Spaulding, class of 1914, headed to Seattle, Washington, for Aviation Ground School. The board approved the “Leave of absence without pay . . . for the period of the war, beginning Oct. 1.” Another M.A.C. man, Ray Turner, class of 1910, took over leadership of the club in their stead.
Not everyone enlisted in the military. Those who remained home did their part as well and that included husking corn. A husking bee was held as part of an effort to raise money for a new East Lansing church, and “between 20 and 30 women of the East Lansing church” [xxiv]participated in husking 60 bushels of popcorn. The corn was expected to raise $500, which was added to the $1,000 that was previously earned. Even while churchgoers continued with their everyday lives, the war effort was on their minds. It was decided that the money for the church would be invested in Liberty Bonds and exchanged for cash in 1923.
East Lansing civilians did not stop with merely buying bonds. When the influenza epidemic struck East Lansing, the community went in to action. Families of S.A.T.C. men came to visit their sick loved ones, and the People’s Church of East Lansing opened its doors. The church provided information for visitors and places for family and friends to sit and visit with the soldiers. The church also found places for visitors to stay at no charge in cases of extremely ill soldiers led by Margaret S. Holt who “also makes arrangements for those coming to be met at the trains in Lansing.”[xxv]
Agricultural Building – Now known as Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture, 446 W Circle Dr
Company D of S.A.T.C., under the command of Lieutenant A. M. Colville, resided in the Agricultural Building. Company D was not idle during their time on campus. Much to the appreciation of the student body, they removed a derelict fence “that disgraced the front lawn.” “Praises to D. Company” [xxvi]were the sentiments from a grateful student body.
The M.A.C. Record
, the alumni newspaper at the time, was an important source of communication of the actions of M.A.C. students to other Aggies around the country and the world. This was a relief for homesick soldiers. Wherever they went, they could stay in contact with fellow alumni who were often happy to reminisce and bond with them.
The M.A.C. Record
promoted itself as such a bridge, saying, “The Record is being sent to you whether or not you were a former subscriber. We want to keep in close touch with you and will publish every little while an army list of M.A.C. men with ranks and addresses. Please help keep this list complete and up to date.”[xxvii]
Lieutenant C. V. Funke, class of 1919, was very anxious to get his copy of the Record
while he was stationed at Camp McClellan, Alabama. The little bits of news and gossip from M.A.C. that he read were not enough, and he wrote, “Can’t stand the silence any longer so please take me back into the fold again.” Looking forward to getting more frequent updates, he considered the Record
“the best investment next to Liberty Bonds and sincerely hope that my mail box will soon contain a very welcome surprise.”[xxviii]
Armory – Near present day Music Building, 333 W Circle Dr
The Armory was one of the most multi-functional buildings on the M.A.C. campus for both civilian and military uses. It housed dances and banquets as well as parties for service members. Battery C of the National Guard was stationed at the Armory, as well as the drill grounds for National Guard training. Bayonet drills were practiced, complete with straw-stuffed sacks as substitute German soldiers with markers to indicate the throat and stomach. The men were “lined up twenty paces from the dummies, four soldiers being allotted [sic] to each ‘Hun.’” When signaled, “the first man in line starts forward at a walk, quickening to a run as he nears the dummy, and rushes by, stabbing him in one of the vital points.”[xxix]
There was a belief that current and former students would make the college proud. “M.A.C.’s part in previous wars makes us sure of this.” [xxx]This meant that not only would they support the country; they would support each other as they connected across the ocean in a war zone.
Oftentimes when serving overseas, M.A.C. students found each other while stationed together or placed in the same unit. A group of M.A.C. students and alumni formed a baseball team to help pass the time “in a beautiful little spot in France.” [xxxi]Some of the students included ‘Hocky’ Knapp, class of 1913, Ralph Dodge, class of 1914, Leal Bibbins, and O. R. Taylor, class of 1915, Walter Thomas, class of 1916, and ‘Chi.’ Fick, class of 1917.
J. A. Bennet, class of 1915, who was assigned to the S. S. Antigone, wrote to the M.A.C. Record
to update the M.A.C. community on his life as an armed service man. While serving, he ran into two other M.A.C. students, M. H. Pancost, class of 1918, and Lloyd Cleveland, class of 1917, who served as a radio operator and a machinist’s mate in the U.S. Navy, respectively. Bennet noted, “The novelty of this life is gone and we are settled down to a monotonous routine of coming and going with only an occasional sub scare to vary our daily work.” However, he assured his readers that this was not indicative of careless work and promises that “the tin fish that sticks its nose above water near an American convoy is going to get a warm reception.” His final word to those at home was a request: “The one thing that we all hope to receive when we reach port is a heap of news from friends, so take the hint friends and come across. M.A.C. news is always welcome.”[xxxii]
Soldiers often wrote about other M.A.C. alumni they had run into overseas. Captain Earl C. Douglas, class of 1913, met a few while serving, such as Lieutenant L. B. McEwing, class of 1910, Raymond Cashin, class of 1917, and J. M. Maze, class of 1916. McEwing eventually joined Douglas’s regiment. Douglas left a note at the end of his letter published in the Record
for any M.A.C. man serving who read it: “I would be more than glad to hear from any of the old bunch or meet any of you in Paris on permission.”[xxxiii]
R. E. Olds Hall of Engineering – 408 W. Circle Dr
M.A.C. added a few new courses during the war that would offer much needed military training. A short course in telegraphy began on December 3, 1917 due to “the very great demand from the government for telegraphers and . . . 15,000 experienced senders and receivers,” which meant the short course students needed to leave the program “proficient in the Morse code.” Seventy students signed up at the start of the course and underwent 46 hours of training a week, including “twenty hours of operating and ten hours of technical military training.” Classes took place in the east room of Engineering Shop 1.
The M.A.C. Record
crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean. Soldiers consumed news from home and campus and sent news back. Letters from soldiers were sent to friends, family, and the Record.
Some of these letters were received as censored by the military with blacked-out or cut out sections. It was common for the Record to
publish letters from soldiers who provided a view from the front lines in Europe.
Emory Crocker, class of 1917, wrote home to Professor Alfred K. Chittenden to tell him how he was doing and what the fighting was like. Multiple times in his letter, he referred to how lucky he was to be uninjured and that he would tell him more when he got home if he was “fortunate.” Crocker also revealed what the fighting and the aftermath looked like. He wrote that when the Americans had advanced, the Germans had “chained men to machine guns with orders to fire until the last.” The countryside of France was devastated, with fields “where it seemed as though there wasn't a square inch that wasn't hit by a shell. The towns and villages remain as only heaps of crumbled stone.”[xxxiv]
In writing home, Lieutenant Howard C. Rather, class of 1917, of B Battery 103d in the American Expeditionary Forces told his friend and classmate, Earl Trangmar, his experience in the fight:
“The American infantry captured a whole regiment main squeeze and all just as they were packing up to move out. They had just that moment learned of the fight. Our Doughboys captured everything from a brass band to a machine gun outfit just detraining with scarcely the loss of a man. They advanced so fast they had the cavalry all out of breath and as for artillery-well we were only 2 days behind. All this took place over land Germany had held for four years and the way she had it fortified you would think she never would have lost it. Trenches and dugouts 14 feet deep in solid rock and in many places windbreaks of solid concrete 4 to 6 feet thick to shield their humble home. Back of the lines they had everything from a moving picture show to an extra wife to make things comfortable and in looking over the captured territory we discovered several places where our little barrage had busted unceremoniously on a party of Berlin Brew. The doughboys usually made dead soldiers out of both bottles and drinkers.”[xxxv]
The German prisoners captured communicated to Rather that they were more than happy to be captured, not killed, and admitted that for them, the war was lost.
Rather took a moment to write home, even as a firefight, with exploding ammunition, was going on outside his tent. “I hope I don’t get too good for a while but just this minute Fritz is ranging pretty close to my tent and I feel very righteous. Battery B, 103d Regt. F. A. is a part of the 26 division of New England National Guard. It’s called the Yankee (oooo-that one was close but a dud) division has been cited in general orders and claim they can lick anything on wheels.”[xxxvi]
New Gymnasium – now known as IM Sports Circle, 308 W Circle Dr
A banquet in honor of the men of Camp Custer, a training facility near Battle Creek, Michigan, was held in the New Gymnasium. Considered “The largest gathering of the M.A.C. family” and “the largest banquet ever undertaken, the decorations were simple, left over from the student dance the night before and food that had been prepared on campus.” [xxxvii]During the dinner, President Frank S. Kedzie made sure to bring “attention to the first gold star on the service flag” that represented William R. Johnson, class of 1912, who had gone down on the S.S. Tuscania off the coast of Scotland.
The Great War changed everyday life, including attitudes. Holidays and social gatherings took on new meanings. Memorial Day had a different significance for the country and the college after America entered World War I. In the past, most people and institutions, including colleges, had “promoted athletic games and contests” instead of “the promotion of patriotism.” With so many students serving, it was the hope that this attitude would change and that the campus as a whole would “acknowledge the seriousness of [their] present situation”[xxxviii] and celebrate the day in a way that fit more with America’s circumstance.
The cost and appropriateness of parties was another luxury that was quickly questioned: “In place of the annual commencement party the Feronian society will hold a simple, informal party in the Agricultural Building, May 26. The money previously set aside for this function with the exception of the minimum necessary for music alone, will be devoted to war relief.” [xxxix]Some, including alumni, who had planned and hosted parties in the past believed this was prudent as it showed what was unimportant in the face of a real crisis. “The announcement by one of the literary societies that their commencement party expense will be limited to music and the usual extras go to war relief ought surely to receive the approbation of the alumni. This means that considerable expense usually devoted to decoration and ‘fuss’ will be eliminated. A good many alumni will go farther and say that in time of peace much of this might be done away with.”[xl]
College Hall – Near present day Beaumont Tower, 375 W Circle Dr
College Hall, the first building in the United States built for the teaching of scientific agriculture, was the oldest building on campus during this time. With an influx of soldiers arriving at M.A.C. for training, restorations to College Hall were rushed in order to house the mechanic auto training detachments for the National Army. Renovation plans included a mess hall and kitchen in the basement, and barracks on the upper floors. The building was to be ready by September 15, 1918.
Due to a combination of poor materials used in its construction and subsequent deterioration, College Hall collapsed on August 12, 1918. After an inspection, the building was deemed unsalvageable and slated for demolition. M.A.C. Record
wrote about the demise of the building and could not avoid using a war parallel in describing it, writing, “. . . there is now but a pile of debris reminding one of a Hun-demolished castle in northern France.”[xli]
Agriculture and the Great War
Even though supplying soldiers seemed the immediate way of helping the country win the war, the college assisted the effort in other ways as well. The military department was inundated with applications for the officer’s training camp at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. In the spring of 1917, M.A.C. President Frank Kedzie used his convocation address to deliver that message to students. Kedzie, along with speakers Captain Ira Longanecker, Lieutenant Max S. Murray and Deans Robert S. Shaw, G. W. Bissell, R. P. Lyman, and Georgia L. White, told students that not everyone needed to enlist immediately, or at all. “In fact,” said Captain Longanecker, “experience in the war across the water has shown us that it takes seven men back of the line for every man out in front and many of you can really serve best by staying back of the line.”[xlii]Dean Shaw agreed, reminding those present that there was a food shortage going on and M.A.C. students should be helping with that issue.
While administrators explained to students about options for assisting in the war effort, their actions demonstrated otherwise. Juniors and seniors with credit were excused from the officer’s training camp at Fort Sheridan. Even though “the appointment of a faculty committee to consider all special cases where students are needed on farms or where they may be called to special positions as directors of food growing propagandas,” no agricultural student had been encouraged along this path of action, despite the food shortage that the U.S. was facing. “In fact, students in agriculture are supposed to get considerable training that would be useful in such a food crisis as this country is facing.” This was seen as contrary to the saying of “seven trained men back of the line for every trained man in front.”[xliii]
In order to continue the push for increased food production for the war effort, on August 1, 1917, M.A.C. hosted the Michigan Wheat Congress, or “Wheat Day.” Farmers and agriculturists came from all over the state in a show of support for increasing Michigan’s wheat production and were shown “the experiment station plats and . . . the results of fertilizer experiments and variety tests.” The purpose behind the urgency of increasing production was getting food to the soldiers serving. “ A. B. Cook, class of 1893, touched a responsive chord when during his talk he stated, “The government needs the wheat and we can give it to ‘em, but we must have our boys on the farms to do it.”[xliv]
In the fall of 1917, the State Board of Agriculture presented its argument against the selective draft. They argued that farming was a skilled labor and as needed as soldiers fighting on the front lines by stating:
“[T]his board, representing the agricultural interests and needs of Michigan, and knowing the losses that are already in evidence through shortage of experienced farm labor, and the disaster to agriculture that will follow the taking of men from the farms to supply the armies, protests against such a policy and demands, in the interest of the cause for which we are all fighting, that no man actively engaged in farm labor, either as master or servant, be taken from his occupation to fill the ranks of the army.”[xlv]
The United States needed food for the soldiers training at home and those fighting overseas, and this put a strain on food production. As a result, M.A.C. decided that “. . . seniors who wish to enter the food production campaign of the boys’ and girls’ club work” be allowed “to leave college before graduation day”[xlvi] if students agreed to return before graduation day and take their exams.
In spring of 1917, a “Miss Elida Yakeley represented M.A.C. at the meeting of college registrars.” While there, Yakeley saw that “the organization endorsed” letting students receive school credit “to students who cease their college work for service in military or allied activities,” and most of the colleges had agreed that this included farmers, since almost all “had already excused those students needed in agriculture.”[xlvii]
Farmers were willing to increase crop production, but they were skeptical that the food was ending up where it was needed. There was worry that the food would “pass into the hands of speculators for private gain.” It was emphasized that “the farmer will not hesitate to produce a maximum crop if he can be assured that what he produces will become directly available to the government for war purposes.”[xlvii
Horticultural Laboratory – Now known as Eustace-Cole Hall, 468 E Circle Dr
After the collapse of College Hall, there was a month to build new housing before the third detachment was due to arrive. New barracks were in between the Armory and the New Gymnasium, located “southeast of the drill grounds”
[xlix]designed to house 250 men.
In the fall of 1918, nine barracks were built to house vocational training units behind the Horticultural Laboratory. “Twenty-five men, under the supervision of Sergeant O. E. Smith,” [l]built the units. In addition to being home to vocational trainees, the commanders of the vocational section had their offices there as well.
The barracks were converted into a hospital when more beds were needed for those sickened with influenza. “Nearly 300 men were occupying the cots” [li]of the new hospital.
Literary Societies Houses
With the growing number of soldiers being added to campus with a strict daily schedule, society houses like the Hesperian (located at 292 Grand River, now at 415 M.A.C. and currently Howland House Co-Op) and Eunomian (located at 360 Abbot Rd.) Literary Societies houses changed from places of social activity for men to homes either for women or were left vacant. The reasoning behind the decision to derail the societies stemmed from the idea that “with almost the entire student body of men in barracks on the campus and under strict military surveillance there can be no society activity.” [lii]All across campus, social life waned under the military atmosphere of the transformed M.A.C.
The Columbian Literary Society house, located on Bogue Street, had a different purpose than its normal use. When the influenza epidemic hit the campus, infecting students and soldiers alike, the barracks were used as hospitals instead. Since it was so close to the barrack buildings, the Columbian Society house became, for a time, a living space for “twenty or more Red Cross nurses” [liii]who cared for the influenza patients during the outbreak.
General Campus Changes
Decreased enrollment was a worry at the college. The fall 1917 semester saw about a 70% drop in enrollment as many male students, particularly the upper classes, enlisted and left campus for the war. The number of female students enrolled was consistent. Before the war, the college required freshmen to arrive one day early for enrollment, but that year freshmen could enroll by mail. “Although the war is hitting colleges and universities a severe blow in the matter of attendance, nevertheless it” had a positive effect on how highly prized education and training were to individuals who otherwise would not have enrolled into college. Women also found new opportunities with “greater fields opened to them in trained lines.”[liv]
Another concern was the lack of players for the M.A.C. football team. Fewer men were strictly students. To fill the gap, Captain William Murchie was supportive of members of the Student Army Training Corps joining the team. There was also concern about using young players for the team, but with only “a half hundred upper classmen in college,” [lv]the options were to allow the younger students to play or to cancel the football season. The athletics board chose to suspend the three-year rule by allowing younger players.
There were also measures to encourage or enforce cautious behaviors when it came to resources. The M.A.C. Record
sent issues to alumni, even those behind on their membership payments. The War Industries Board thought this practice unwise and asked the Record
to stop. “As a measure toward greater economy, both in the use of paper and in the handling of the mails, the Government has asked all publishers to attempt to eliminate the practice of continuing subscriptions after the date of their expiration.” Not wishing to upset alumni or the government, they promised to give everyone “ample notice of the expiration of his membership” and urged everyone to pay on time, not just for their sakes but because “. . . it cuts into office time which should be spend toward something bigger.”[lvi]
With the extra responsibility caused by the war, social events were set aside for the duration of the war. “A mixture of wrath and disappointment has swept through the Woman’s Building” once it was announced there would be no J-Hop, an annual dance held for the juniors. The decision was a result of the low number of men enrolled in the junior class. The young women tried to have the junior S.A.T.C. men come, but the “military authorities” decided that unless all the S.A.T.C. men were invited, none of them could go. Since there were a few hundred women and “about 1,200 S.A.T.C. men, the girls concluded that a J Hop under these conditions would be scarcely feasible.”[lvii]
Abbot Hall – Near present day Music Practice Building, 345 W Circle Dr
Abbot Hall, a men’s dormitory, was closed down in the spring of 1918 because of low enrollment since so many male students enlisted. The remaining men were moved to Williams or Wells Halls. Closing Abbot Hall did not mean that it was not used. During the influenza epidemic, the enlarged quarantine district had two entrances guarded by sentries, and one of these was between the Post Office and Abbot Hall. Abbot Hall also was the new location for the military bugler. Instead of having a bugler for each hall and barrack, a giant megaphone measuring 6 feet long was attached to an elm tree at the south end of the hall. A single bugler played into the megaphone.
In the fall of 1918, two alumnae joined the Red Cross in order to serve as army nurses. Alice Latson, class of 1909, trained as a dietician in Asbury Hospital in Minneapolis and was stationed at Camp Gordon in Georgia. Elizabeth Palm, class of 1911, trained at Camp Custer’s base hospital in Michigan.
Mary M. Harrington, class of 1918, moved from Flint, Michigan to Fort Riley, Kansas to become a Red Cross dietitian at the U.S. Base Hospital. She helped feed 2,100 patients, all suffering from influenza. Harrington noted that there were “several other dietitians here, but none are from M.A.C.” In her letter to the college newspaper, she asked for a copy of the Record
to keep up with her alma mater, for “Michigan seems quite far away when one is out here.”[lviii]
During the summer of 1917, the home economics department gave two food talks and canning demonstrations in the East Lansing community. With 3,419 in attendance, the July talk was available to those with two years of training from the home economics department who would later be volunteer canning demonstrators. Three thousand attended the August class that was open to everyone. The classes were taught by former home economic students who were contacted with emergency registration cards asking, “the amount of their training and experience, whether they were available for summer or winter emergency work, and the approximate amount of time that could be devoted to the work.” They were also asked if they would be willing to help “without remuneration or with expenses only.” [lix]All over the state, M.A.C. alumnae agreed to volunteer their time and energy into helping teach “kitchen thrift.” “Fifty senior girls are taking a special course in canning this term, most of them with the idea of offering their services this summer as demonstrators when the canning season opens up.”
“About 200 co-eds” volunteered for the Red Cross Association, using their time to knit “helmets, wristers and scarfs for the navy.” [lx]
War often leaves orphans and some of the women of M.A.C. raised funds for the care and support of two French children. The cost to care for each child was $36 a year. With an average donation of 40 cents per person, the women raised $130 for the care of the children. The extra money was “used to buy delicacies for the convalescent soldiers.”[lxi]
Women also took over jobs that men usually performed. With all of the secretaries for the class of 1917 in the men’s sections serving in the war, a young woman named Lou Butler took over for the entire class for the duration of the war.
In the beginning of the fall 1917 semester, the State Board of Agriculture agreed on “the recommendation of the faculty that leave of absence be granted all members of the teaching force who have been or should be called into government service because of the war was adopted.”[lxii]
Professors F. W. Fabian, F. D. Messenger, and George R. Johnstone all joined to aid in the fighting. Fabian, who had been the instructor of bacteriology, became a second lieutenant in the Sanitary Corps. For Fabian, the State Board in October “granted leave of absence without pay for the period of the war, beginning Oct. 1.” [lxiii]Messenger taught drawing until he became the “assistant sanitary engineer with the U.S. Health Service and [was] assigned to antimalarial operations.” [lxiv]Johnstone was a part of the botanical staff but chose to join the quartermaster corps of the National Army as a private. He would eventually join the American Expeditionary Forces in France.
Professor H. J. Eustace of the horticultural department was requested by U.S. Food Administration head Herbert Hoover to “assist in food administration work” in Washington before the start of the fall 1917 semester due to his “former connection with the department of agriculture and his knowledge of the problem outlined” in regards to handling the country’s food during war. At the time, the college was not sure if his stay would be brief or would last “for the duration of the war.” In the July and August board meeting, the college approved Hoover’s request and agreed to provide part of Eustace’s salary while the department of agriculture would “furnish living expenses while on the detail.” In the fall of 1918, Eustace came back to M.A.C. after spending a year working with “Food Administrator Hoover.” [lxv]
Professor A. J. Clark, who led the college band, discovered that the Belgians lacked clothing. He “packed up the 51 old cadet gray band uniforms . . . and shipped them to the Beligan [sic] Relief Commission.” [lxvi]Clark also tried to keep the S.A.T.C. soldiers in high spirits by making them a part of the M.A.C. band.
Faculty on campus were served with the following: “Notice has been served upon members of the M.A.C. faculty who of late have been acquiring embonpoints in spite of all the pleas of Hoover, that workouts in the gymnasium have been resumed. Members of the Professorial, instruction and extension staffs are advised by the athletic department that classes will meet every Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 4 o’clock and 5.”[lxvii]
The U.S. Army needed veterinarians to treat the many horses and mules that were integral to the military effort in Europe. Edward K. Sales and Earl M. Hough, class of 1916, were among the 32 veterinarians on the passenger list that sailed from New York on August 8, 1917. Lewis A. Wileden, the first veterinary medical graduate from M.A.C. in 1913, served as a second lieutenant in the Veterinary Officers Reserve Corps. According to the 1918 Wolverine, s
enior veterinary students finished their studies early and graduated on April 12 so that they could join the V.O.R.C.
No matter what their position or assignment while in France, soldiers were always at risk of injury or death. Oftentimes, soldiers wrote home to let family and friends know that they were injured but fine or to provide updates on their recovery. One of these individuals was M. E. Bottomley, class of 1916. He was a victim of mustard gas. After enduring 9 hours of constant exposure, he was hospitalized. He assured that his lungs were ok because he wore his mask, but his eyes and skin did not escape unscathed. “My eyes got it rather badly . . . I was blind for a week and then they opened but I can’t see but dimly. It will be two more weeks before I can see normally again. The body burns are very disagreeable and slow to cure. Nature is the only cure for gas.”[lxviii]
During World War I, mistakes were made when reporting who was injured or even dead, which made for a difficult time for family and friends at home; this may possibly be all the news available about someone they knew fighting at the front. This is what happened to Russell Warner, class of 1912. “Reports have reached me that I have been mortally wounded and that I have been killed in action. I wish to notify any of my M.A.C. friends who have heard such reports that I am very much alive.” Warner was not killed, but he was seriously injured while fighting, and when he shared how badly he was wounded, it becomes understandable why he was mistaken for dead:
“a German sniper took a crack at me and shot me so close to the heart that I lay down and went to sleep….Fortunately for me the bullet passed through my gas equipment and a note book in my breast pocket, struck a rib over my heart and then did a ‘column right’ and came out under my left arm….a piece of shell had torn several pounds of flesh out of my back just below the right arm….Another piece of shell struck my automatic and mashed it to pieces, several of which stopped in my right leg.”[lxix]
After having almost bled to death, the doctors waited two days to operate on Warner to remove the shrapnel. He then developed “gas gangrene” in the wound in his back. Despite all this, he survived. Warner was an engineer in Company D and answered the question of how an engineer ended up with the wounds of a soldier: “The engineers are supposed to fix bridges and roads, make gun emplacements, dugouts, bob-wire entanglements, etc., but when the fight gets real warm, they drop their tools, grab their guns and rush into the fight where it is hottest and fight like the devil. We did it at Chateau Thiery and helped the Marines give the Kaiser’s best troops and an awful licken and are proud of it.”[lxx]
MSU Union – 49 Abbot Rd
Plans for the Union Building date back to 1905. A pledge drive started in 1915 that encouraged student contribution was derailed by the Great War. After the war ended, it was decided that the building would be named the Memorial Union in remembrance of the M.A.C. soldiers who had lost their lives.
On June 16, 1923 at the annual Alumni Luncheon, an important first step was taken to finish what had been started years before:
“Be it resolved, that in the breaking of the sod for the Union Memorial building today that we have attained another goal in the erection of this memento of our feeling of our alma mater. This college home for members of our association, community center for student and faculty and memorial to our valiant slain is well entitled to the heartiest efforts of our organization.”[lxxi]
During “Excavation Week,” students worked in shifts digging the foundation. Engineering students helped with the more technical aspects, while teams did the manual labor, and women brought food and water to whomever was on break. Even the band joined in the effort, playing music for the workers. Teams of workers used checking cards to keep track of how much work they had accomplished, and at the end, prizes were handed out to the teams and individuals based on the work they had done.
The building opened two years later on June 12, 1925.
Memorial Grove – At the Beat St. Entrance to campus, next to Williams Hall, 25 Beal St
At a passing glance, this seems nothing more than another grouping of trees, similar to much of the scenery around MSU’s campus. Known as Memorial Grove and marked by a plaque with the names and graduation year of students, this is the site where 33 oak trees were planted for each student and alumni who fought and died in World War I.
The grove was a project of the Department of Forestry, led by the faculty chair Professor Alfred K. Chittenden. The dedication was held on June 19, 1919, Commencement day. Lieutenant Colonel August H. Gansser, who knew several of the men whose names had been engraved, performed the dedication ceremony. In an eloquent speech, he honored the memory of the fallen:
“In this to us sacred spot and hour let us combine reverance [sic] and tribute and pledge for the future. We gather to dedicate this grove and tablet to the memory of the graduates and students of this great state school, who gave their lives that the world might be made safe for Democracy and Democracy made safe for the world. Well did the great Commoner say on a similar occasion at Gettysburg: ‘it is altogether fitting and right that we do this.’ But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men whom we honor here have consecrated it far beyond our power to add or to detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we may say here. But the world will never forget what they did there. It is rather for us, the living, to here highly resolve, that these our honored dead shall not have died in vain. That the ideals for which they gave the last full measure of devotion shall not perish from the earth.”[lxxii]
The “From Campus to Compound: Michigan State University during World War I – A View of the Great War from the M.A.C. Record
” exhibit was a joint effort of the MSU Archives & Historical Collections, and MSU Museum Cultural Collections department and was created by Catharine Neely. Information provided in this exhibit can be found in the M.A.C. Record
digital collection at onthebanks.msu.edu and collections housed in MSU Archives, and MSU Museum Cultural Collections department. Special thanks goes out to Dr. Shirley Wajda, Megan Badgley Malone, and Matthew Brazier for making the creation of this exhibit possible.
To explore more of MSU’s history, visit the MSU Museum or MSU Archives, or go to https://www.museum.msu.edu/
for more information. A research guide to World War I collections at the MSU Archives can be found at http://archives.msu.edu/collections/guides.php?collections_guides
All qoutes are from the M.A.C. Record
[i] Vol. 22 no. 29, May 15, 1917
[ii] Vol. 23 no 16, Jan 11, 1918 page 3
[iii] Vol. 23 no 16, Jan 11, 1918, page 4
[v] Vol. 24, no 1, Sept 30, 1918, page 6
[vi] Vol. 24 no 2, Oct 11, 1918, page 6
[vii] Vol. 23 no 2 Sept 28 1917 page 4
[viii] Vol. 23 no 2 Sept 28 1917 page 7
[ix] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918
[x] Vol. 24 no 5 Nov 1 1918 page 3
[xi] Vol. 23 no 1 Sept 14, 1917, page4
[xii] Vol. 23 no 1 Sept 14, 1917, page 4
[xiii] Vol. 23 no 1 September 14, 1917 page 4
[xiv] Vol. 22 no 25 April 17, 1917 page 3
[xv] Vol. 22 no 25 April 17, 1917 page 3
[xvi] Vol. 24 no 2 Oct 11, 1918 page 3
[xvii] Vol. 23 no 7 Nov 9 1917 page 6
[xviii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 3
[xix] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25, 1918 page 5
[xx] Vol. 24 no 6 Nov 8 1918 page 3
[xxi] Vol. 23 no 7 Nov 9 1917 page 3
[xxii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 4
[xxiii] Vol. 24 no 4 October 25 1918 page 3
[xxiv] Vol. 24 no 3 Oct 18 1918 page 3
[xxv] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 3
[xxvi] Vol. 24 no 5 Nov 1 1918 page 3
[xxvii] Vol. 23 no 2 Sept 28 1917 page 6
[xxviii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 7
[xxix] Vol. 23 no 21 Feb 15 1918 page 7
[xxx] Vol. 22 no 25 April 17 1917 page 4
[xxxi] Vol. 24 no 1 Sept 30 1918 page 9
[xxii] Vol. 24 no 1 Sept 30 1918 page 10
[xxxiii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 7
[xxxiv] Vol. 24 no 2 Oct 11 1918 page 7
[xxxv] Vol. 24 no 5 Nov 1 1918 spage 8
[xxxvi] Vol. 24 no 5 Nov 1 1918 page 8
[xxxvii] Vol. 23 no 23 March 1 1918 page 4
[xxxviii] Vol. 22 no 28 May 8 1917 page 4
[xxxix] Vol. 22 no 28 May 8 1917 page 7
[xl] Vol. 22 no 28 May 8 1917 page 4
[xli] Vol. 23 no 35 Aug 30 1918 page 5
[xlii] Vol. 22 no 27 May 1 1917 page 3
[xliii] Vol. 22 no 27 May 1 1917 page 4
[xliv] Vol. 23 no 2 Sept 28 1917 page 6
[xlv] Vol. 23 no 1 Sept 14 1917 page 9
[xlvi] Vol. 22 no 28 May 8 1917 page 4
[xlvii] Vol. 22 no 27 May 1 1917 page
[xlviii] Vol. 22 no 28 May 8 1917 page 8
[xlix] Vol. 23 no 35 Aug 30 1918 page 3
[l] Vol. 24 no 1 Sept 30 1918 page 3
[li] Vol. 24 no 3 Oct 18 1918 page 4
[lii] Vol. 24 no 1 Sept 30 1918 page 3
[liii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918
[liv] Vol. 23 no 3 Oct 5 1917 page 4
[lv] Vol. 24 no 1 Sept 30 1918 page 7
[lvi] Vol. 24 no 3 Oct 18 1918 page 4
[lvii] Vol. 24 no 6 Nov 8 1918 page 3
[lviii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 7
[lix] Vol. 23 no 2 Sept 28 1917 page 3
[lx] Vol. 22 no 28 May 8 1917 page 7
[lxi] Vol. 24 no 5 Nov 1 1918 page 3
[lxii] Vol. 23 no 3 Oct 5 1917 page 5
[lxiii] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 5
[lxv] Vol. 23 no 1 Sept 14 1917 page 6
[lxvi] Vol. 24 no 4 Oct 25 1918 page 3
[lxvii] Vol. 24 no 6 Nov 8 1918 page 3
[lxviii] Vol. 24 no 1 Sept 30 1918 page 11
[lxix] Vol. 24 no 1, September 30, 1918 page 11
[lxx] Vol. 24 no 1, September 30, 1918 page 11
[lxxi] Vol. 28 no 34 July 16 1923 page 10
[lxxii] Vol. 24 no 33 June 20 1919 page 9
Written by Catharine Neely. Edited by Megan Badgley Malone and Susan O'Brien.Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections