World War I service medal

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An exhibit by the
Oregon State Archives

Oregon at War! American soldiers marching through gas shelled French town.
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On the Home Front
College campuses mobilize for war

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Campus women heed the call

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(Image from poster at Oregon State Archives, original at National Archives)
While the vast numbers of male students enrolled in college military programs seemed to turn the state's campuses into camps, female students also prepared for war service. About twenty percent of University of Oregon women enrolled in special war courses. The curriculum was designed for definite war service or for replacing professionals who left for military service. The following were some of the offerings:

delta a special nurses' aide training course. Upon completion the students were to see service both in the United States and overseas.

delta a five month course in intensive civil service training. The university added faculty in its School of Commerce to accommodate the additional students.

delta a course to train laboratory assistants to aid physicians and chemists in the service. The course was taught by the science department.

(Image from poster at Oregon State Archives, original at National Archives)Oregon Agricultural College encouraged women to train for standard clerical, stenographic, and accounting positions, as well as food conservation and dietetics. But the school also suggested that women "extend" to non-traditional fields such as engineering, mining, forestry, pharmacy, and factory supervision.

Still, the college refused to stray too far from tradition. It noted that "young women who are alert to their responsibilities" would rise to the challenge created by war and "nothing so completely fits a young woman for these duties as a thorough course in home economics." (Image from poster at Oregon State Archives, original at National Archives)


   

The corps comes to Oregon
With the rapid expansion of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, the U.S. War Department needed large numbers of officers and technical experts. To meet this need, it turned to college campuses across the nation with the Students Army Training Corps (SATC) program. The colleges possessed the settings, equipment, and organization to train large numbers of students for military service. In Oregon, both the University of Oregon in Eugene and the Oregon Agricultural College (OAC - the precursor to Oregon State University) in Corvallis met the requirements of the War Department for participation.

Young men who had not been drafted could apply to one of two tracks of study if they met the following requirements:

delta Section A: Men at least 18 years old who had completed a grammar school education. These men studied trade and technical subjects analogous to college vocational courses. View essay written circa 1919 on vocational education in Oregon during World War I. (6 page PDF)

delta Section B: Men at least 18 years old who had completed a standard high school course of study. They could study either standard college courses or special war courses in engineering, mining, chemistry, physics, bacteriology, sanitation, and others.

At the Corvallis campus the new SATC military unit started in October 1917. In an effort to boost the coordination and efficiency of the effort, the SATC absorbed several existing programs, including the Cadet Regiment, Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Quartermaster's Enlisted Reserve Corps, and the Engineers' Enlisted Reserve Corps.

Accommodating the corps
Once students were inducted into the corps, they were outfitted with uniforms consisting of one overcoat, one service hat, two cotton coats, two pairs of cotton breeches, one pair of leggings, one pair of shoes, one waist belt, and one collar ornament. While students had to pay for their own books, they did receive the usual soldier's pay of $30 per month as well as free tuition. And, they were entitled to free room and board.

But the colleges had to scramble to meet the housing and "mess" needs of the students. Oregon Agricultural College anticipated an enrollment of 2,000 corps students in the fall of 1918 and the University of Oregon saw 800 inductees drilling on campus. OAC hurried to erect a large barrack hall as well as a YMCA hall. But officials prepared to take further steps as needed, including requisitioning other college buildings, club houses, or private buildings:

"...there is no objection, for example, to the taking over by the College of fraternity houses or private dormitories, or the conversion of other buildings for housing and subsistence purposes. The kind of building is not important provided that conditions are sanitary and healthful."

Similarly, at the University of Oregon all fraternity houses on campus, the men's residence hall, Friendly Hall, and both the men's and women's gymnasiums were taken over by the government as temporary barracks for the SATC students as well as those in the related Officers Training Corps (OTC). At the same time, a company, which included Eugene businessmen as primary stockholders, was busy building building barracks nearby for the students. These would free up some of the fraternities and both gymnasiums for their normal use.

Deady Hall on the University of Oregon campus continued to house classrooms during World War I. However, other buildings on campus saw duty as barracks for the military program students.

Deady Hall on the University of Oregon campus continued to house classrooms during World War I. However, other buildings on campus saw duty as barracks for the military program students. (Photo courtesy Salem Public Library)

 

 

 

From reveille to taps
The sound of bugles became a regular part of campus life with the introduction of the Students Army Training Corps to the universities. They sounded for both the SATC and the Officers Training Corps on the University of Oregon campus. Regular drills and other military training mixed with class work for the students. Uniforms were optional for the SATC students but those in the Officers Training Corps were required to wear their regulation khakis.

Besides the sounds of bugles and drill calls, the previously quiet campus was jolted by other noises since it served double duty as training ground for battlefield tactics. The OTC students would light up the sky during "the occasional all night battle in the trenches with plenty of rockets and exploding of blank cartridges and 'bombs' and constantly playing searchlights picking out the scouting parties of either side, to make the battle realistic."

 

 

 

OAC issued bulletins to help students navigate the available government programs during and after the war. Subjects included SATC and classes for women in the college.

OAC issued bulletins to help students navigate the available government programs during and after the war. Subjects included SATC and classes for women in the college. (OSA, Oregon Defense Council Records, Publications and Ephemera, Box 8, Folder 4)

The watchful eye
Military regulations trumped university rules on the Eugene campus. SATC students could not leave their "cantonment" or temporary military quarters without a pass issued by an officer. And routine endeavors such as a trip to the library took on a military flavor as a University of Oregon news bulletin entitled "Oregon Overseas" wryly observed: "Even the studying of the men in the library in the evenings is under the watchful eye of a corporal or sergeant. The men are marched to the library from their barracks in companies, eyes front, and do their studying during specific study hours."

Other university rules felt the effect of the military presence and socially active students bore the brunt of the restrictions. "Oregon Overseas" described that "among the changes are the limiting of week night 'dates' of sophomore, junior and senior women living in the houses of residence on the campus to one only. No more may upper class women have as many 'dates' as they wish on week nights." The new rules also did away with house dances at sorority houses and women's residence halls.

"When summoned to service..."
While the course of the war looked promising to American military planners in the summer of 1918, they nonetheless had to prepare for the long haul. Therefore, they intended to increase the army by two million men by July 1919, which probably would necessitate the mobilization of all able bodied registrants under the age of 21 by that time. As a result, Oregon Agricultural College officials cautioned students that "it cannot now be definitely stated how long a particular student will remain at college." The life of the student was very much in the hands of the military. Except for those engaged in technical studies of military value such as medicine, engineering, and chemistry, SATC students were not "in any sense a deferred or favored class."

Austin Case of Klamath Falls joined the SATC in Corvallis. He was discharged before seeing service in Europe.

Austin Case of Klamath Falls joined the SATC in Corvallis. He was discharged before seeing service in Europe. (OSA)

 

 

 

At periodic intervals the men in the Section B college track program were to be sorted and reassigned as military needs demanded according to their preferences and qualifications. This process must have had a "clarifying" and motivating effect on the intensity of their studies. Most fell into one of the following assignments:

delta transfer to central officers training camp

delta transfer to non-commissioned officers training school

delta continued study at school for a limited time in a specified discipline

delta assignment to vocational training school for technical training of military value

delta transfer to cantonment for duty with troops as a private

Men in the Section A vocational program also had incentives. They were to be "rated and tested by the standard Army methods and those who are found to possess the requisite qualifications may be assigned for further training in the collegiate section."

(Oregon State Defense Council Records, Publications and Ephemera, Box 8, Folder 4, Oregon Agricultural College Bulletin, Nos. 276, 289, 295; State Historian's Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 16; Box 8, Folder 4, "Oregon Overseas" News Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 4)

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