Yale takes note of its special role in World War I

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tags: Yale, Paul Kennedy, WWII



The campus commemorated the United States’ entry into World War I a century ago at an event in Woolsey Hall on April 6. It featured remarks by President Peter Salovey; a performance of the national anthem by the Yale Concert Band; an invocation by University Chaplain Sharon Kugler; the presentation of a memorial wreath by members of Yale’s Naval and Air Force ROTC unit (Midshipman Forrest Simpson ’19 and Cadet Alex Tymchenko ’17); the playing of “Taps,” by student trumpeters Eli Baum ’19 and Jacob Zavatone-Veth ’19; and a benediction by former Yale Chaplain the Reverend Harry B. Adams ’45W, ’51 B.D. who served in the U.S. Army Air Forces 1943-1945. In addition, Paul Kennedy, the J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies, delivered the following remarks at the afternoon ceremony. ...

The First World War does not have, in the minds of the American people, the memory and the power of the two other great conflicts that lie on either side of it — the U.S. Civil War, and the Second World War. But it has a large place in Yale’s story because, well, Yale played such an active role in and around this conflict. It is hard to imagine nowadays all the things that were happening here, on campus, within just a few months of the declaration of war. The upperclassmen were all virtually gone, rushing off and rushed off to the conflict. “No Bonesmen Left Around,” the Daily News noted, “Wolf’s Head All Gone.” Some were in the special coastal patrol units, some in the signals and wireless corps. Those twenty-plus remarkable young men who made up the number-one naval aviation unit were packing up, with their crated seaplanes, for the Belgian coast. Others were becoming artillery officers. The entire Yale campus, but especially Old Campus and the New Haven Green, had become the leading training ground in the country for the fast-growing U.S. artillery arm. Younger students, 18-year-olds, were being processed through the newly-founded Yale ROTC. Science and engineering professors were at work for all branches of the U.S. military, as were many members of the medical school, which pioneered the country’s first mobile hospital unit in France. By 1919 Yale was a sort of giant Gothic training camp, hardly a university at all.

In 1925 the official Yale study, a dense two-volume work entitled “Yale in the World War,” provided all the details. A grand total of roughly 9,500 Yale graduates and students had served in the war, including in the Red Cross, YMCA, and other non-governmental bodies. Yalies had served in every conceivable military unit, from the air service and medical corps to the signal corps, the motor transport corps, the engineers, the chemical warfare service, even the coast artillery. Over 1,100 men were officers in the Navy; 88 in the Marine Corps; 1,700 in the field artillery; 50 were chaplains; and 880 of them were in the various air services — there was a huge rush to be a pilot, and this a mere 14 years after the Wright brothers had taken to the air.  Quite a number of Yalies also fought in allied armies, some also in their air forces; 50 fought in the Royal Tank corps. Thirteen of them gained the British Military Cross, and three the distinguished Flying Cross; a full 162 Yalies were awarded the Croix de Guerre for valor, which is truly remarkable. ...




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