This blog post is part of a World War I series. Throughout the month of April we will be posting student blogs relating to Ohio State and its involvement in the war.
The Ohio State University had a large impact upon the war effort for the Great War, (otherwise known as World War I), that is unknown by most.
In the summer of 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed The National Defense Act into law, which included the Pomerene-Gard Bill. The Pomerene-Gard Bill was legislation that created a national training program for students called the “Reserve Officer’s Training Corps”, or the ROTC Program. The collegiate aspects of this bill can largely be attributed to Ohio State, as administrators and faculty recognized that during emergencies, the government would need to call on colleges for military officers.
The ROTC program progressed in universities around the country, including Ohio State, where the military training greatly expanded. By the spring of 1917, the ROTC program began working with theU.S. War Department to build schools of military training and aeronautics at six universities across the US: The Ohio State University, Cornell, MIT, University of Illinois, University of California and the University of Texas. These programs thrived with thousands of men wanting to enter into the service. Here at Ohio State, the School of Aeronautics opened in 1917, and began with 16 cadets. They received intense military training for just over three-week’s time. After that, up to eight weeks of supplemental technical and theoretical instruction was required.
For the ROTC cadets and other students within the military, campus became both their home and training grounds during these years. Many of these students lived in Hayes Hall, which was turned into a bunkroom. The original Ohio Union, (Enarson Hall), became a dining hall to feed most of the troops. The Ohio Union was also an area for recreation and social enjoyment for many young men in uniform.
As the men dove into military training, the women on campus also wanted to support the war. Many of them held meetings at the Ohio Union, worked with YMCA & YWCA, spent time making cloth surgical bandages and mended clothing for the Student Army Training Corps.
Women on campus also took first aide classes to help men recover from their wounds and injuries as they came home from war. These were sponsored by the American Red Cross and held at Oxley Hall. They also worked with the Red Cross mending and sewing clothing that would come from Camp Sherman, in Chillicothe, Ohio, where troops were training. Many OSU students worked on mending these for the soldiers in Campbell Hall, the Home Economics building. The women also sewed a large memorial service flag, which contained over 2,640 gold stars. Each star represented a man or woman from the University who contributed to the war effort. The dedication for the flag took place in May 1918. As part of the ceremony, the flag was hung over Thompson Library.
The University became a place of mobilization for war, specifically in military training and preparedness. The creation and growth of the ROTC program was a large change for many universities and OSU had a large role in encouraging this legislation to make it happen.
Written by Sarah Hammond.