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Full text of "Oberlin, the war years."



OBERLIN 



THE WAR YEARS 



4S0240 



^ 

3 



OBERLIN: THE WAR YEARS 

Is your memory good? Can you remember the details of Union Now or 
the terms of the Finnish peace, or the effect of the war on Germany's indus- 
try? Perhaps you can; these things have been discussed at length on cam- 
pus. But can you remember what war meant to Oberlin? No student can 
remember the Oberlin of 1918; no one discusses the effect of war on us. We 
are altruists ; we think of the fate of the Finns and Poles, while the clues to 
our own possible fate lie hidden in the librarj', the alumni records office, and 
the memories of the older professors. We have a right to be a bit selfish, to 
ferret out these old records, and to see how strangely different the Oberlin of 
1918 seems to us today. 

Bulletin 160 
If Tou should ask the alumni records office for information on Oberlin 
men in the war, they would refer you to the Bulletin of Oberlin College, New 
Series, No. 160 ; a small white book which looks like a Fussers. You won't 
get any dates from it, however. Its entries read like this : 
EDWIN CURTIUS TODD, ex-1920 

Private, Company F, 168th Regiment, Rainbow Division, A.E.F. 
Killed in action, France, March 9, 1918. 
HIRAM CLIFFORD STUART THOMSON, ex-1919 

Private, Battery A, 324th Regiment, Heavy Field Artillery, A.E.F. 
Died of spinal meningitis, November 13, 1918. 
There are 32 men on this list, the "Koll of Honor" of Oberlin students and 

alumni killed in the war; 32 men and one woman: 
"^ FAITH HELEN ROGERS, 1907 

■-'^ In the Y.M.C.A. Service as an entertainer, 

* Died ot influenza at sea, near Bordeaux, France, November 6, 1918. 

^ Of these, only 11 were killed in action ; disease took 16, and three diseases 

^ alone, pneumonia, influenza, and meningitis, claimed more Oberlin lives than 

the Germans. That, too, is war. 

f The lists in Bulletin 160 are far from complete : at least tive more Oljerlin 

P men died of wounds or gassing after it was published — one only last year. 

More names may still be added, the names of men who have taken twenty 

years to die. But there are whole lists lacking. The wounded are not listed, 

J nor the missing. The broken spirits, the ruined careers, the neuroses and 

i psychoses — these make poor statistics. And there is one more list, a list 

"=? which can never be compiled, without which Oberlin's war record is not com- 

' y plete. It is a second "Roll of Honor," the roll of honored Germans killed by 

"X Oberlin men. 
^ But the Oberlin of 1918 did not think of the eflSciency with which her 

{ soldiers did their task. On the home front they had another dutr. Alive, 

J V 1,-' ^ 

y these men helped the army ; dead, they raised the morale. The R-enieio said 

^ in an editorial:^ 

i . "The honored dead of Oberlin, as in wars past, will again in this 

J war live on as a heritage showing forth nobility of spirit and sacrifice 

of self for others, for generations to come who shall continue to uphold 

the banner of their Alma Mater." 
In addition to the Roll of Honor, Bulletin 160 contains the War Service 



<i 



'J- 



'April 16, 1918, 



Koste*-. a complete list of Oberlin men and women who served in the war. 1 

Ther range from a bri^dier general of the class of '78 to the many privates 
of the classes of '18 and '19, and through many strange posts such as chief 
pharmacist's mate, musician, first class boatswain's mate and even first class 
yeowoman. This list also includes the students in the Students Army Train- 
ing Corps, of which the bulletin says : 

"The Oberlin unit of the S-A-T-C. numibered 362. Captain Francis 
M. Root, a graduate of the college in the class of 1911, was the com- 
manding officer of the unit. The Men's Building wag used as a barracks, 
and the office headquarters of the unit were in the men's gj-^mnaslum." 

According to the Revieio^^ the S.A.T.C. was a tmit of the regular army 
stationed at Oberlin. The college had no authority over its men, who were 
at all times in uniform and under military orders, had their own mess and 
barracks, kept the same houi-s as the regular army, and received f 30 a month 
from the government. They drilled 11 hours a week, had a two-hour a week 4 

class in tactics, a three-hour a week class in war aims, and only nine hours ■ 

a week of college classes. They received, however, full college credit for all 
their military work. 

The list of Oberlin men and women who served with the colors, under 
military orders, totals 1206. The most interesting feature of this list is the 
number of entries under "Glass" of es-'lS, ex-'19, es-'20, ex-'21, and ex-'22. 
Almost every such entry means a college education interrupted by the war 
and not resumed. There are 340 entries of this kind. 



I 



The Home Front 

"Are we willing to make individual sacrlQces to win this war? i 

Are we ready to make this little sacrifice while oun comrades on the 
fields of Belgium and France are making the great sacrifice?" 
Thus the Review asked Oberlin to use less sugar.- One of the main du- 
ties on the home front was food conservation. On January 22, 1918, the 
Review said, "At present absolutely no sugar is to be had." Foods which 
were conserved were fats, sugar, wheat, and meat College boarding houses 
adopted a plan of seven meatless, seven wheatless meals a week. Editorials 
in the Remeto tried to show, by tabulating vitamins and calories, that stu- 
dents got enough to eat. The college gave two lecture courses with full credit, 
"Food and the War," and "Fundamentals of Food and iNutrition in Relation 
to the War" as well as a lab on "Use and Conservation of Food." Students 
signed pledges to avoid waste and uphold the conservation program. Profes- 
sor A. S. Root said in Chapel that we must "mobilize 99,000,000 civilians that 
each one may do his or her part here at home to bring about victory.'^ 

In addition to food shortages, a serious coal shortage prolonged vaca- 
tions and caused curtailments of college classes. The Revmc said :^ 

"There is so little coal in town that unless some of the delayed 
orders are received by the middle of the week, the residents will be 
practically without any way of kefiping warm." 

College classes were also closed for a week when an influenza epidemic 
reached 128 cases in Oberlin.* When classes reopened, they were shortened, 
their size was cut, and the students kept four feet away from each other. 

^September 26, 1918. 

'October 2, 1917. 

= January 22, 1918. 

' Review, October 16, 19J8. ' ... - 



The war on the home front soon mobilized all knitters, and the Rev-iew 

said :^ 

"The Oberlin chapter of the Red Cross sends out a call for knitters 
for the boys at the front. Do you knit? If so, why knot?" 
"Organizing all the knitters of the college will be among the things 
taken iii> by the (Chapel) progTam," said the Review.- In connection with an 
"Adopt a French Soldier" eampaig-n, the Review^ asked : 

"Shall not Oberlin, through its women, become a real leader in the 
relief work of tho war as it has been a leader in other wars in times 
past?" 
The French soldiers, it was said, "are fighting our fight. We owe it to 
them to keep up their morale." Other relief activities included sending Christ- 
mas boxes to Oberlin's soldiers. 

The importance of the Red Cross in Oberlin is shown by the single rally 
at which 600 students joined.* Eed Cross training for girls was a college 
course with one hour credit. Later, a new ''patriotic" course in ''Caring for 
Convalescent Soldiers" was added. Additional instruction in Eed Cross was 
offered in boarding halls, and each ball had a "surgical dressing unit." 

The most important battle on the home front was the Liberty Bond drive. 
On one issue, Oberlin filled its quota of §150,000. Mass rallies were held to 
encourage sales. The Revieio, urging people to buy bonds, said :" 

"With all minds set to the fighting of the war, all efforts must be 
directed to its vigorous prosecution, and money is needed in quantities 
almost incompreh«nsitMe." 

The War of Words 

"Duty op the U. S. To Keep Out of War S.iYS Dr. Ian Hannah'' 
[professor in the Theolog] — headline in the Revieto, Feb. 23, 1917. 
"War Works for Progress of the Gospel, Dean Bosworth [of 
the Theolog] Says" — headline in the Review, May 21, WIS. 
The contrast between these headlines, little more than a year apart, typi- 
fies the way in which Oberlin opinion completely reversed itself. The follow- 
ing Rei?iew editorials are also good examples of Oberlin's about face; 
"We are firmly opposed to universal compulsory military training, 
to the mad rush for preparedness, to that militarism which many would 
foist onto the country. We are against this specifle measure of military 
training because we believe that it tends toward militarism, and 'mili- 
tarism is worse than war'." — February 9, 1917. 

"The definite announcement that the government will maintain a 
military training course, which will be a regular division of the United 
States Army, in Oberlin College nest year will undoubtedly come as a 
great satisfaction to the men of the institution. ... It is the duty of 
every loyal Oberlin man to see that he signs up for it in the remaining 
days of the registration period." — May 21, 1918. {when the S.A.T.C. 
tvas announced.) 

Until several weeks before the outbreak of war, articles in the Review 
clearly showed the strength of pacifist sentiment in Oberlin. A Revieic edi- 
torial said :° 



^ October 2, 1917. 

= October 16, 1917. 

= October 19, 1917. 

^Remeic, December 11, 1917. 

" October 26, 1917. 

* February 13, 1917. 



"Now it seems to us that if there is anything hopeful in the 
present situation, it is the fact that there is such a strong feeling in 
many parts against war, in favor of peace." 
Much paciiist activity was reported in the Review's news columns. Two 
pacifist lectures were given ;^ the article describing tte second was headlined: 

"English Peace Leader Steongly Denounces War.^^ 
An article strongly attacked excessive preparedness as tempting us to use 
our weapons.^ A speaker declared : "The duty of the United States is to keep 
out of war;'" and when, on February 9, Wilson broke off diplomatic rela- 
tions with Germany, opposition in Oberlin was strong. The Review reported :* 

"Divinity Students Take Peace Stand in War Ckisis/^ 
and as late as February 30, an anti-war letter in the Revieiv had 100 signa- 
tures, obtainable on request. 

Immediately prior to the outbreak of war, news and editorials on war 
and peace were conspicuously absent. Suddenly, on April 6, 1917, came this 
headline : 

"Oberlin Tenders Aid To the Nation As IT. S. Enters War 

Against Germany/-' 
and just below appeared : 

" 'Stand squarely behind the President/ was the unanimous decision 
of the college heads yesterday when interviewed as to Oberlin's po- 
sition in face of the declaration of war." 
Thus began the great campaign to rouse war hysteria in peace-loving 
Oberlin. The first device was, of course, appeal to patriotism. Headlines 
taken from one month's issues of the Review read ; 

"Patriotic Sentiment Runs Hiqh.-*^ 
"Money From Sales op Patriotic Food To Go To War Relief.-*^ 

"Patriotic Sing.-" 
"Patriotic Display Feature of Tea Dancbj." 
"What Is Patriotism f^ 
"What Dobs A Patriot Think?" 
"Patriotic Songsters At Dascomb Learn To Sing National Anthem.'- 
"Classes Are Organized for Patriotic Speaking/'* 
"Enroll 290 in Course in Patriotic Citizenship." 
"Foe Patriotism.-'^ 
Some news was printed from "The Patriotic News Service National Commit- 
tee of Patriotic Societies." 

The Review defined patriotism in an editorial by saying :^ 

"Patriotism means that everyone must do actively and strenuously 
and publicly everything in his power to further America's aims. If a 
more moderate oourse is pursued, if every popular cause is not immedi- 
ately endorsed, one is liable to be branded a pro-enemy sympathizer and 
a person dangerous to the welfare of the country." 

Hand in hand with the appeal to patriotism went the appeal to religion. 
Even before the war declaration, President King, speaking on "The American 
Christian Duty in View of the War Crisis/' said : 

"If theu we are to go Into the war, let us be sure that we go into 
it not selfishly, and not in a passion of outraged national pride, but only 



* October 13, 1916 and December 1, 1916. 
'January 12, 1917. 
'February 23, 1917. 
' I\ebruary 16, 1917. 
' October 9, 1917. 




V 



for the great ends of civilization itself; for the ends of the supremacy 
of morals and of a true Christian Kingdom of God." 
Later, Professor Hannah of the Theolog asked that we pray for victory.' 
The war's third appeal to Oberlin was to nobility of purpose, and to right. 
Much of this appeal was glorification of the Allies. The Review summarizes 
a lecture by Professor Powers in this way ;^ 

"Powers outlined the growth of Britain through a series of 'in- 
advertencies' from an insular power to the greatest group of states the 
world has ever seen. Lands fell into her hands by accident and she 
was forced to keep them lest her withdrawal throw them into chaos. 
But she has consistently given them the greatest freedom, until, like 
Canada, they are as free as. the United States in all but name. So the 
empire is a coherent whole of self-governing states, knit together not 
hy force but by common Angrlo-Saxon ideals. 

"Germany's dream of empire menaces this most altruistic of gov- 
ernments with the empire of the mailed fist. Two such empires cannot 
co-exist; the most desirable must toe supported." 
Not only were the Allies thoroughly whitewashed, but the reasons for 
our entrance into the war were made to seem the purest idealism. The 
Review said:^ 

"The time for splitting fine hairs about the reason for America's 
entrance into the war is past. SufBee it to say that it was a preference 
for the kind of life and liberty which America and the Allies can give 
as opposed to that which a victorious enemy might impose." 
Let us not laugh at the statements Oberlin made on the purpose of the 
war ; when, on September 19, 191T, President King called the first world war 
a war "for liberty and democracy, for a truer brotherhood of man than the 
world has ever known," he could hardly have known that in less than 25 years, 
this "brotherhood" would again resort to mass slaughter. 

The fourth appeal, that to horror and name-calling, was one which Ober- 
\^liii^. might have been spared. Yet there were some who did not consider the 
"ollege student too intelligent to fail for atrocity stories. On November 13, 
1917, the Review ran this story : 

"Consul Thrills AuniENCE In Chapel With Hoeror At Narration op 

BocHE Atrocities 
"He related how the innocent victims of the Germans were left in 
the ocean in lifeboats which were also torpedoed, giving the victims no 
possible chance of escape. The consul said that in few cases could the 
blame be laid to the commander of the torpedo boat, for the guilt was 
not of the Individual commander, hut of the entire German nation. It 
is self-evident that the submarine has oome to stay, and that this in- 
comprehensible and nuthless warfare against women and children is 
worse than any method used in the dark ages." 

A column in the Remew* quoted the president of Hobart College as 
saying : 

"They [the colleges] must never forget that Machiavelli was a mere 
tyro by the side of the unspeakaJble Prussian, They must never for a 
moment forget that all this vicious elTort to poison the springs of the 
world's highest ideals has bad the financial hacking of the German gov- 
ernment itself," 



i 



^Review, Octdber 30, 1917. 
'March 20, 1917. 
' October 26, 1917. 
•April 12, 1918. 



' October 16. 1918. 

''Review, November 16, 1917. 

^Review, April 6, 1917. 

* Reprinted in the Review, December 14, 1917, from tbe Cleveland Plain Dealer, 



The atrocities of the "Huns'* were often contrasted with Allied bravery. 

The Review said of a Belgian lecturer;^ 

"Mademoiselle von Gastel's stories of the courage of the youth of 
her country and the barbarism of the Hun made very real her appeal 
to the people ot America to help." 
Not only was the war justified by telling of G-erman atrocities, but further 
fear and hatred were aroused by depicting the United States as Germany's 
intended victim. Senator Burton said in Chapel f "Geraiany's demoralizing 
purpose would have made America the next land for invasion." The parallel 
with. 1940 should be obvious. 

Although economic motives are important war causes, little appeal was 
made in Oberlin for entering the war on economic grounds. Thus the picture 
of idealism ^vas kept pure; yet Oberlin, no less than the rest of the country, 
had an economic interest in tlie war. ; 

*'Hall Bequest Very Much Increased; Wae Causes Big Jump In | 

Aluminum Stocks^' — headlme in the Review, October 3^ 1916. 

The Other Side 

It is only natural that Oberlin was not in complete agreement with the 
methods described thus far, nor with the aims of the United States in enter- 
ing the war. There were in Oberlin, among townspeople, students, and fac- 
ulty, both pacifists and German sympathizers. The difiSculties faced by gucb 
people were great ; some are described in this portion of a signed statement by 

William T, Behr: 

"During the first world war from the .beginning the people of 
Oberlill were fed up on a great many untruths — Allied propaganda. ^j 

The good people of Oberlin believed it and mad© it hell for disagreers. 
During the first year of the war I was visited by secret service men 
who threatened that if I didn't stop talking, they would lock me up. 
I am not in a position to name the sufferings that other townspeople 
went through, 1 had to guard against entanglement with outspoken 
people to avoid arr<est." 
; The Oberlin student peace movement during the last war was led by 

Devere Allen, publisher of the newspaper the Ratimal Patriot, This valiant 
i paper was supported by private contribution, and was to have come out every 

; two weeks, but could x>ublish only six issues in all in over a year. It coin- 

: sistently held that war was un-Ohristian, and tried to spread the ideals of 

i peace in wartime. Its task was far from easy. One of the Rational Patriots 

^ first difficulties was the refusal of local printers to print it.* 

[ Later, these printers went eveu further. In its December, 1917, issue the 

F Patriot said : i 

'' "letters sent [to the Review} by local friends, even those who dls- • 

agree with us in many respects, do not appear, because their printers 
I refuse to print them. Nevertheless, letters criticizing us adversely ap- 

pear freguently," 
The truth of this last statement is borne oul by an open letter to the 

Rational Patriot which said in part :* 

"I vi^ant no more copies, and I hope you will not further insult me 
by sending me Grerman propaganda. In view of the murdered and out- 






m^mfmiBt^^ 



i 



raged children of Belgium and France, and the barbarous and flltliy 
indecencies of the German armies, I cannot believe that you are either 
honest or sincere. I sincerely hope Oberlin will yet rise to her duty 
with her old-time faith and courage, and wipe out the pollution of your 
preaence." 

Although the Rational Patriot was purely pacifist, and as much opposed 
to Greraianj^'s part in the war as to America's, the charges that it was pro- 
German reached fantastic heights. The Patriot said :^ 

"We regard as deploralble the Imputation on the part of one or 
two faculty members that we are financed by German money." 

The Review was distinctly hostile to the Patriot in such editorial state- 
ments as : ^ 

"We cannot see that the paper has any justifiable object. The spirit 
of rational patriotism implied in its name is not carried out by the mat- 
ter It prints. If the name remains, the printed matter should be 
changed. If it is not, the alternative course is clear. The time for the 
appearance of such a paper as the Rational Patriot has passed." 

Later, the Review said of the Patriot in a news stoiy :* 

"When war was declared, peace talk was stopped, and the paper 
became purely Socialist" 

A casual reading of the Patriot is enough, to prove this statement com- 
pletely false. 

The most emotional opposition to the Patriot was by Ralph Kern, editor 
of the Western Reserve Weekl}/, who made the statement : "Oberlin's colors 
are red and yellow. Why the red?" Kern came to Oberlin to try to "ration- 
alize" Allen to what he believed a more patriotic frame of mind.* Kern de- 
clared : 

"You've got a traitorous sheet, and I just came down here to tell 
the edlfor of It, what I thlnls: of his ideas and expressions. I! the mor- 
ale of Oberlin is represented by the Rational Patriot, the recent In- 
feriority of their athletic teams is not to be wondered at. It seems that 
the first word of such a publication would have evoked such a storm of 
indignation on the part of faculty and students that the editors would 
have been constrained to leave school." 

In the face of such attacks, Allen's determination should be a con.stant 

example to the Oberlin of today. On the day of the declaration of war Allen 

said:^ 

"We have received many open as well as anonymous threats of 
violence, hut we are not going to be turned aside." 

Again? 

This pamphlet has been published at this time in order to bring home to 
Oberlin what war will mean to it; to show what propaganda it may soon 
face again, and indeed already faces. We hope that Oberlin will not passively 
accept a repetition of 1917-'18 on this campus, but will rise and act, armed 
by experience, to prevent a recurrence of war hysteria. 



^ April 18, 1917. 

* November 23, 1917. 
' May 3, 1918. 

* Review, May 11, 1917. 
^Revieio, April 6, 1917. 



f^ 



Written by Albert Eees^ with the aid op Francis Bloduett, 
Research by Gertrude Schobinger and Harry Otis. 

PUBLiISHBD MaY^ 1940, BY THE 

Oberlin Chapter of the American Student UnioNj 

WITH FUNDS FROM THE PaUL MacEaCHRON MEMORIAL AnTI-WAR ChbST.