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Student Army Training Corps

A call of duty permeated the American home front after the United States entered World War I in April of 1917. Dartmouth College, as did many American colleges of the time, responded to this call by establishing the military-run organization known as the Student Army Training Corps, in the fall of 1918. The S.A.T.C. program sought to train Dartmouth undergraduates for the front lines while simultaneously maintaining the college's commitment to higher education. Soon enough however, this military program came to dominate the Dartmouth campus. For this brief period of time, the training of good soldiers, rather than academics, became the main purpose of the college. Even among the students, military training was highly favored in comparison to their scholarly pursuits. The establishment of the S.A.T.C. thus proves a highly significant moment in the history of Dartmouth in that it drastically altered the college's campus life. The home front experience of Dartmouth undergraduates during WWI was marked by the drastic transformations, both social and academic, the college underwent as a result of the strict military discipline instituted by the S.A.T.C. program. Until the signing of the armistice in November of 1918, the program would become the center of campus life, pushing all other aspects to the subsidiary.

Student Army Training Corps 1918

Given the daunting circumstances the United States faced upon entering the war, the U.S. considered a larger participation of its forces in the war by increasing its manpower. Leading up to the summer of 1918, most members of Congress favored the institution of a universal draft along with a bill that would lower the draft age to eighteen. However, given that eighteen was the average age of men starting college, this bill would have had a detrimental effect on American colleges by emptying all of its classes into the Army. College enrollment numbers had already began to dwindle due to the eagerness of young American men that wanted to actively contribute to the war effort. Drops in college enrollment were thus a result of the numerous men of college age that were rushing off to serve in the war. By the fall of 1917, the Bureau of education estimated a 40 percent decline in male enrollment.

The formation of the Student Army Training Corps was proposed by the War Department and American educators as a way to formalize the ties between the Army and the higher education community. This program would establish National Army Training Detachments at more than a hundred colleges across America. By introducing military training into school curriculum, the S.A.T.C. sought to stimulate attendance at colleges in that it would appeal to the patriotic aspirations of college aged men. The S.A.T.C. was thus seen as an alternative to forced conscription of college men, a route that if taken, would surely aggravate the already declining numbers of college students during WWI. This program followed a process of voluntary induction that would hopefully prevent the premature enlistment of college-aged men in the war. After taking this argument into account, Congress approved the formation of the S.A.T.C. on August 31, 1918.

Dartmouth College Officer

Colleges that participated in the S.A.T.C. program became full-time military posts under the control of officers of the United States Army. In fact, the objective of the S.A.T.C., as stated by the Students' Army Training Corps Regulations, was to, " utilize effectively the plant, equipment, and organization of the colleges for selecting and training officer candidates and technical experts for service in the existing emergency." The federal government thus took over colleges that participated in the program, often times placing Army officers above their administrative counterparts.

The S.A.T.C. was administered in all colleges by the War Department. In terms of the administration within each institution, the War Department provided an Army officer, either active or retired, to server as the commanding officer in every college that participated in the program. This commanding officer, along with other officers assigned to the colleges by the War Department, was responsible for enforcing military discipline and training to the S.A.T.C. cadets.

On October 1, 1918, undergraduates from 528 different colleges pledged allegiance to the United States Army during simultaneous ceremonies across America. From this moment on, the status of these men was that of active duty soldiers in the Army. As such, they were subject to both military law and military discipline. Among these 528 institutions of higher education that inducted the S.A.T.C was Dartmouth College.
As did many other colleges on that day, Dartmouth College celebrated the induction of its undergraduates into the S.A.T.C. program with a military drill ceremony. This ceremony took place on the campus Green. All college members of military age were gathered into formation and were administered the oath of allegiance by Lieutenant J.S. Pickett. This officially inducted the men into the U.S. Army. Later that day, the cadets would sign an "Enrollment for Military Training" form that confirmed their induction. Acting in accordance with the plans of the War Department, the College reminded the undergraduates that all students eighteen years old or older were required to join the S.A.T.C., while all students under eighteen were expected to.

SATC Training 1918

During the ceremony, numerous inspirational speeches were given to the Dartmouth undergraduates that commended them for answering their countries call by joining the S.A.T.C. Ernest Hopkins, president of Dartmouth College at the time, concluded the ceremony by speaking of the, "new conditions at Dartmouth and of the willingness of the entire College to devote all its resources to the achievement of victory." In this ceremony, the military aspirations of the college, rather than the academic pursuits, were emphasized. The hanging of an S.A.T.C. detachment flag right below the American flag on the campus flagpole, marked the presence of the military program at Dartmouth.

This ceremony was highly symbolic due to the fact that it marked the transition of the majority of the Dartmouth student body into the military. The ceremony further marked the transformation of the college into an official military camp. The fact that the ceremony was conducted on the Green, the most central location of the Dartmouth campus, reveals how the S.A.T.C. program further became a central component of the Dartmouth experience during this time. As an official military camp, the undergraduates of Dartmouth College had to adhere to the strict discipline that exists on any military organization. Given its new military status, special arrangements had to be made for the college in order for it to function properly as a military post. These arrangements were responsible for dramatically changing the campus life at Dartmouth. In the opinion of Dartmouth College's historian of the time, this "upheaval" was unprecedented when compared to previous ones in its extended history. This overwhelming change was anticipated even before the induction ceremony had taken place. In the September 30, 1918 issue of The Dartmouth, the student O.S. Hicks, predicted that drastic changes that were to come:

At noon tomorrow Dartmouth, in common with hundreds of other colleges, becomes a military training camp. "College life" as we have known it in its narrow sense, will be a thing of the past; in its place will be enforced the strict discipline of a military organization. Gone will be every distinction of athletic prowess, fraternity prestige, or social pre-eminence.

The Offices of Administration of Dartmouth College outlined these arrangements in an Official Bulletin issued on September 16, 1918. The first was the military training that would begin. Military training would be carried out, much as it would in a normal military camp. This training would consist of revile, retreat, roll call, regular drill in addition to the methods of strict discipline that were used in all military training camps. Field training exercises were generally split up into two categories. The first consisted of drill and ceremony that usually required the cadets to march in formation, at times with their bayonets, on the campus Green. The second category was that which sought to prepare the cadets for trench warfare. A system of trenches was built in the new athletic field of the time. Although they were too shallow to be actual trenches, they did provide the students with some small exposure as to what the frontline experience and fighting in trenches would be like.

These two categories of field training are depicted in many of the photographs taken of the S.A.T.C. during this time. These training photos convey not only a sense of pride that existed among these cadets in that they were contributing to the war effort but further a sense of enjoyment. Although in certain pictures, the students are training hard, in others it seems as if they are "playing army" or are in the boy scouts. This is especially visible in pictures where the students are relaxing about in the trenches. What further caused the prominence of the S.A.T.C. on the Dartmouth College was thus the enjoyment, in addition to the sense of civic they were able to fulfill, cadets got out of the training exercises.

Cadets were further required to wear the standard khaki army uniform. These uniforms were to be worn at all times during the year. Additionally, they were required to follow any orders given to them by their Army officer superiors. Perhaps one of the biggest changes associated with this military training was the institution of a strict daily schedule. The orderliness this schedule aimed to do away with the leisurely activities of the Dartmouth college men. This schedule had essentially every hour of the day accounted for; from the sound of the revile at 6:45 all the way up until taps at 10:15. This schedule was as follows:
6:45 A.M. Revile
7:00 Mess
7:30-9:30 Drill
9:30-12:00 Recitation and Study
12:15 P.M. Mess
1:00 – 4:30 study and recitation
4:30-5:30 Athletics and recreation
5:30 Mess
Mess to 7:30 At student's disposal
7:30-9:30 study under supervision
10:00 Taps

Military collegiate authorities were further designated to a specific group of cadets in order to ensure that the cadets stayed on track with their daily regimen. These authorities were responsible for knowing where the cadets were at all times and what his condition was. Thus unlike the easy going campus atmosphere prior to the induction ceremony, supervision was a common part of the Dartmouth experience once the S.A.T.C. was established on the campus. Cadets had become obligated to adhere to these stern requirements upon being inducted into the Army. Penalties were given to those who failed to live up to the new military standards.
Strict regulations were also established for absences, vacations, visiting, and outside work. After October 1st, army discipline would handle absence matters. There was a zero tolerance policy for absences without justification. In terms of vacations, leave was only given to 50 percent of the men on alternate weekends. Although arrangements could be made for visitors of the cadets to stay at the Hanover Inn and other boarding houses in the town of Hanover, no visitors were allowed in the dorms at any time. Lastly, no outside work could be sought once the cadets had been inducted into the program.
Beyond Military training, housing was also addressed in the new conditions established by the S.A.T.C. In order to create equal living conditions for all cadets, the government took over the dormitories and utilized them as barracks, allowing each cadet to have 45 square feet of floor space. The only furniture cadets were allowed to have in their rooms were a mattress, blanket and a small chair. The undergraduates were further compelled to keep their quarters in a neat fashion. Not only did this demand making their beds every morning, but also went down further to the most miniscule details, such as ensuring that their spare shoes had their toes pointing northeast. Failure to maintain clean quarters would also result a penalty.

 

Boarding also fell under the newly established conditions of the S.A.T.C. Only men inducted into the service were allowed to have their meals in the great dining hall of the College Commons. Here rations would be handed out to each cadet, and each cadet would be provided with their own individual mess-kits. Students who had not been inducted into the service were asked to instead find placed in town to eat or were directed to the grill in the College Hall basement.

One of the principal features of the Dartmouth campus life prior to the establishment of the S.A.T.C. was the ability of Dartmouth undergraduates, at this time all of which were male, to be members of the various fraternities and other social clubs that existed around campus. These social organizations were considered to be some of the mainstays of the "leisurely" Dartmouth College experience that existed prior to the establishment of the S.A.T.C. However, the military leadership of the college sought to do away with organizations they perceived encouraged "social lounging," in order to make way for the orderly regimen that was demanded by the S.A.T.C. program. In the Official Bulletin outlined by Dartmouth's administrative offices, it is clearly stated that, "the training corps will recognize no such thing as fraternity interests." The leader of the Training Corps soon discouraged student participation in other extracurricular activities as well, such as organized musical clubs, drama clubs and even organized athletics. The gymnasium itself was converted into a military headquarters. The S.A.T.C. based their reasoning for this discouragement in that these social organizations would detract from the most imperative objective of the time; the training of good soldiers.

Although many Dartmouth undergrads were more than willing to give up these peacetime "trifles," especially when they considered the hardships their front line counterparts were facing in the war, other students expressed dissatisfaction with these reforms. One such student, E.S. Leonard, was vocal about his discontent with these changes in the October 7, 1918 issue of The Dartmouth. Here he describes the overbearing weight the program had over social organizations:
It is generally conceded that we have but one purpose in Hanover at the present time –
the training of good soldiers for the United States army. It is in the light of this standard that
all features of college must stand or fall. If any part of college life hinders the military
program, it must go. If fraternities are a are a hindrance to military success, they should not
exist.

Leonard followed this statement by speaking of the importance of fraternities on the Dartmouth campus in how, "Altogether the fraternity house is the only thing we have comparable to life at home." Thus while the S.A.T.C. had the effect of emptying fraternities of their "social loungers," what was considered favorable for the program was not always favored among the undergraduates that had to abide such stern requirements.
Perhaps the most significant changes produced by the S.A.T.C. were those in the College's curriculum. These changes would ultimately reveal how military training, and not Dartmouth's commitment to higher education, took precedence during this time. Washington authorities of the War Department suggested that any college that participated in the program should split its collegiate year into a quarter, rather than semester, system. The quarter system would allow men to be sent off to active duty, in the event that they were needed, after a mere twelve week period. This would prevent men from being pulled out halfway through an academic term, which frequently occurred in the semester system. This system would be carried out for the remainder of the year, whether or not the war came to an end.
Many of the classes already in the Dartmouth curriculum, such as Mathematics, English, Foreign Languages and Science, remained there because there were deemed to be beneficial to men preparing for service. However, in addition to these standard courses, more war-oriented courses were added to the curriculum for S.A.T.C. cadets. Among these newly introduced courses were courses such as "Sanitation and Hygiene," "Military Law," and the "Chemical Warfare Course."

The most important of these military-oriented courses introduced to the cadets was the War Aims Course. This course, a requirement for all members of the S.A.T.C., sought to educate every cadet on the underlying issues of the war such as its historical causes and the reasons why the U.S. decided to enter the war.

Pictures of the Dartmouth campus taken around this time further reveal the impact the S.A.T.C. had on the Dartmouth education. There are various pictures of Dartmouth faculty standing in line with the senior officers in charge of the S.A.T.C. program. These pictures demonstrate how the Army officers became equal to, and in many instances overpowered, their administrative counterparts. Thus in terms of the curriculum and in terms of the administration, academic methods were set aside while more military oriented methods were installed.

The Signing of the Armistice in November of 1918, much as it did to the rest of America, came as great news to Dartmouth College. After the armistice had been signed, the college would begin a process of demobilizing the S.A.T.C. while simultaneously readjusting itself to the former academic situation. On December 9, 1918 the Offices of Administration of Dartmouth College released a follow up bulletin that provided information on how to transition form a war driven campus to "the returning of the College to peaceful academic pursuits."

Despite president Wilson's decision to discontinue the draft immediately after the signing of the armistice, Major Max Patterson, commander of the Dartmouth S.A.T.C. Unit, decided to continue its presence on the Dartmouth campus until June. However, an outbreak of influenza in the barracks caused the abrupt termination of the program.
A series of readjustments were required to transition back into the normal Dartmouth campus. Among these readjustments were the adoption of a standard school curriculum, discarding the barracks method of housing and moving back into dorms, and determining what form of academic credit men who served in the war would receive upon coming back to Dartmouth. Even regulation army shoes, once an essential part of the Army uniform, were forbidden after the disbandment.

In the November 12, 1918 issue of The Dartmouth, A.M. Green writes what the conclusion of the war means for Dartmouth College:
It is fortunate that the College has weathered the storm. For never will the need for training be
so general as in next few years. In a short time things will again be stabilized, and the College
will be functioning in a normal way. It will return to its primary purpose, the training of
leaders.

His statement captures the voice of Dartmouth students that looked forward to the idea of returning to the normalcy of the Dartmouth college lifestyle. The College's return to "normal modes of activity" was celebrated on January 10, 1918 with the "Dartmouth Night" celebration.

The establishment of the Student Army Training Corps on its campus in October of 1918 marked the home front experience of Dartmouth College during WWI. The strict military discipline that was introduced to the college not only altered the academic curriculum of the school but it further dramatically changed the campus lifestyle as a whole. Leisurely social organizations were replaced by the stern requirements of the military program. The establishment of the S.A.T.C is thus extremely important in the history of Dartmouth College. This was an instance in which military training, rather than academic pursuits, became the main focus of the school. The effects that World War I had on the Dartmouth campus thus demonstrate the far-reaching consequences this Great War had on all of its participants. The S.A.T.C. gave men of college age, the ability to fulfill their patriotic duty while simultaneously receiving a college education. However, as the presence of the S.A.T.C. on the Dartmouth campus demonstrates, the former often times had the tendency of outweighing the later.

Cadet Paul Wagdalt '13
August 22, 2011

Last Updated: 11/11/13