Indiana University and World War I: The Student Army Training Corps (Part 2 of 5)

The second in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War. Read Part I

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Members of the S.A.T.C. marching on campus.

Before the outbreak of war, male students and faculty served in the military as members of the Indiana National Guard. Seventy students and one professor joined Company I, First Regiment, Indiana National Guard and were sent to the Mexican border. Although the Board of Trustees had been very reluctant to approve the R.O.T.C. on campus, they eventually gave in to faculty opinion and student petitions in March of 1917. The rationale for the R.O.T.C. was the belief that the U.S. would soon become involved in the European War, so it was better to prepare young men for military service in advance. 350 students signed up for R.O.T.C. training on campus, and four companies were formed. In June 1917, the Trustees approved the requirement that all freshman and sophomore men participate in on-campus military training.

Instructional Pamphlet 1In March of 1918, Congress voted to lower the draft age to eighteen, which effectively made nearly all male students enrolled in college eligible for the draft. In order to keep students in school while also having enough men join the military, Congress authorized the creation of the Student Army Training Corps, also known as the S.A.T.C. The War Department Committee on Education and Special Training created a system of contracts between universities and colleges and the government for the purpose of military training. The government paid for tuition, room and board, military pay, and uniforms, while colleges and universities provided the space and training.

Current male students were allowed to volunteer for the S.A.T.C. as long as they were eighteen years old and could meet the physical requirements. Men were also allowed to enroll in IU specifically for the purpose of the joining the S.A.T.C. as long as they met the regular academic admissions requirements.

The S.A.T.C. was split into two sections: Vocational and Collegiate. Vocational comprised the radio detachment and was under the command of Captain Samuel A. Mulhauser. The Collegiate section made up the majority of the S.A.T.C. enlistment and was under the command of Captain Arthur T. Dalton who had formerly led the R.O.T.C. on campus. The Collegiate Section was organized into companies A, B, C, and D.

IU was one of only three Indiana universities or colleges to have both army and naval options. The naval unit was made up of fifty IU men and thirty former students from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. The naval unit was generally under command of Captain Dalton because they were still members of the S.A.T.C., but they were also under command of a number of naval lieutenants.

President Bryan speaks to WWI recruits during induction ceremony.
President Bryan speaks to WWI recruits during the induction ceremony.

S.A.T.C. enlistees were sworn in on October 1, 1918, at a ceremony on Jordan Field (the same day as the dedication of the Service Flag). President Bryan read the new enlistees a message from the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army as well as the oath of loyalty.

Roughly sixty percent of IU’s student population — 1,102 men — were enlisted in the S.A.T.C. IU President Bryan estimated that about 500 of this number would have enrolled in college even without the war, but that 400 men had enrolled in the University simply to join the S.A.T.C.

An IU fraternity house repurposed as a barracks in 1918.
An IU fraternity house repurposed as a barracks, 1918.

Members were paid $30.00 per month and lived in campus “barracks,” which were actually re-purposed fraternity houses. The Delta Tau House, for example, was Barracks No.1, and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house was Barracks No.3. In total, sixteen houses on campus were used as barracks. Members of the radio section were housed in Alpha Hall, which had formerly been a women’s dormitory, while the naval unit barracks were located in the Men’s Gymnasium.

The daily schedule for S.A.T.C. members included reveille at 6:00am, drill from 7:00-8:50, academic work from 9:00am-11:50, class work and freedom from 1:00-5:00pm, supervised study from 7:00-9:00, and taps at 9:30pm.

Indiana Daily Student article announcing demobilization.
Indiana Daily Student article announcing demobilization.

A number of men from the IU S.A.T.C. were sent on to other camps for advanced training — particularly the officer’s training school at Camp Gordon in Georgia, and the Coast Artillery Officer’s Training School at Fortress Monroe in Virginia. The 1919 IU yearbook comments that, “men were leaving the University practically every week for some advanced officer training camp at the time of the signing of the armistice. Had the war continued possibly not a man beyond the standing of a freshman would have been left in the University at the end of the year.”

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Armistice celebration parade.

Author- Alessandro Meregaglia

Graduate Student, University Archives.

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