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

drilling4
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.”

LARGE[1]
Armistice celebration parade.

New Themester Exhibit – Food on the Home Front: Wartime Production, Preservation and Deprivation on the IU Campus

The First and Second world wars caused a rise in patriotism as citizens across the country sought to contribute to the war effort. Away from the trenches and on the home front, in true Hoosier fashion Indiana University faculty, students and the Bloomington community rose admirably to the challenge to meet the very pressing issue of wartime food consumption.

Part 1: The Great War

IU President William Lowe Bryan message on the war effort.
IU President William Lowe Bryan message on the war effort.

With the entrance of the United States into the war in April 1917, the importance of agricultural aid and the nation’s food security increased exponentially. In August 1917, the Food and Fuel Control Act passed Congress and President Wilson created the Food Administration with Herbert Hoover named as head of the division. “Food Will Win the War” quickly became the slogan aimed at the American public to produce more and consume less in the name of victory by rethinking old patterns of consumption, a tactic that was so successful that it was used again during WWII. IU President William Lowe Bryan urged everyone to do their part:

Your first thought everyday should be in what most effectively serve your country in the greatest crisis in its history. If we are worthy to enjoy the liberty won for us by Washington and Lincoln, we must now fight for it anew. 

While young and able American men fought on the battlefields, women, children, the elderly and those left behind fought to ensure the security of the nation’s food supply and that of the allies.

 The University Farm and the Corn Crib

Indiana Daily Student, April 19, 1917
Indiana Daily Student, April 19, 1917
Indiana Daily Student, November 15, 1917
Indiana Daily Student, November 15, 1917

Following a call from Indiana Governor James P. Goodrich to increase food production, the city of Bloomington formed the Vacant Lot Garden Committee and the University allocated nearly 55 acres both to the north and in the heart of campus for tilling. In April 1917, the Indiana Daily Student reported that “almost every foot of available ground will be planted…The demand for teams to plow up vacant lots has set the price of this item soaring.”

Roughly northeast of the recently completed Men’s Gymnasium (the present day School of Public Health building), the University approved the removal of several trees and a plot of about seven acres was plowed and made available for garden plots. Similarly, according to several accounts, a corn crib was erected to store the produce on the hill directly north of the old Assembly Hall (razed in 1938).

 Student and Faculty Involvement 

In addition to their coursework, student groups across campus such as the Women’s Athletic Association stepped up to plant gardens. In 1917, a special course on agriculture was taught by Frederick John Breeze, a Fellow in the Department of Geology.

David Rothrock (Mathematics)
David Rothrock (Mathematics)

Outside of the classroom, faculty members such as William Frederick Book (Educational Psychology) and David Andrew Rothrock (Mathematics) used their personal property for the cause. Book planted potatoes in his “newly plowed bluegrass lawn” and Rothrock “raised a ton of honey” in his backyard. Even Theodore Louden, proprietor of the Alpha Hall dormitory, put out a garden, likely for the student cafeteria.

The “Back to the Farm” Movement

Indiana Daily Student, May 2, 1917
Indiana Daily Student, May 2, 1917

With every farmer being asked to plant and produce more than ever, school authorities across the country took steps to aid in the planting of the spring crop. President Bryan implored the student body to the cause stating that:

The food campaign is just now the most essential part of our great war. We wish, therefore, to provide for the enlistment for the food campaign in a manner as nearly as possible like that required of those who enlist in the army.

ListSimilar to the guidelines for cases of military enlistment, the Indiana Daily Student outlined the program stating that those:

who enlist in this work will receive entire credit for every hour they are carrying. For example, if a student is carrying fifteen hours of work, he will receive twelve hours of credit for his regular subjects, and the remaining three in general University credit or elective work.

According to the May 29, 1917 Indiana Daily Student a total of 217 students withdrew to become “soldiers of the soil.”

Lorena and Dorritt Degner

Indiana Daily Student, May 9, 1917
Indiana Daily Student, May 9, 1917

While the farm movement campaign primarily targeted male students, sisters Lorena and Dorritt Degner (a senior and junior respectively) eventually gained permission to withdraw from classes and return to their family farm near Winamac, Indiana.

Dorrit Degner
Dorrit Degner

In June, Lorena reported their activities to President Bryan in a letter:

Enlistment has ended, but work of course, is still going on, with corn-cultivating, laying and harvesting yet to be done. My brother and I have 40 acres of corn to cultivate, which will keep us busy until harvesting.

My average day of work was about 9 ½ hours and would have been a little more if rain had not stopped work two or three times. I did a little plowing, but almost all of my farm work has been farrowing and cultivating. My shortest day, except when it rained, was 8 hours, my longest 12.

After June 4, two hours each morning were spent in herding cows to pasture….

I am afraid this is becoming tedious. I question whether I have really done much for my country; I do think I have done more than by staying at I.U. and I am certainly glad you gave me an opportunity.

Lorena Degner
Lorena Degner

Tragically, Lorena I. Degner was killed in 1923 while on leave from her position as a nurse in the U.S Veterans’ Hospital No. 85 at Walla Walla, Washington. A train struck the bus in which she was traveling. President William Lowe Bryan, upon hearing of her death, paid her the following tribute in the October Alumni Quarterly:

I have been deeply shocked by the news of the death of Miss Lorena Degner. I remember her as one of our best students. She graduated from the University in 1918 with high distinction.

I remember especially one incident. In 1917 the University permitted boys to go home in order to work on the farms in the interest of a large food supply in support of our army. One day Miss Lorena Degner and her sister, Miss Dorrit Degner (now Mrs. S.C. Sledge), came into my office and asked to be released for work at home. I said that the release was given only for those who were going to work in the fields. They said that they were going home for that purpose. Those two girls were accordingly released along with hundreds of boys for this splendid was service. They deserve to be recognized along with the soldiers who went to the front. 

Food and the War Courses

Food and the War course, 1918
Food and the War course, 1918

The United States Food Administration turned to the country’s centers of education such as IU to “secure that degree of assistance in handling our food problems that cannot be obtained elsewhere.” The Federal Food Administrator for Indiana implored President William Lowe Bryan:

The food situation is such that only the closely-knit co-operation of all our best citizens can suffice to avert conditions that a year ago would have seemed unbelievable. WILL YOU HELP?”

Flosie Garrison certificate, 1918
Flosie Garrison certificate, 1918

In response, during the spring 1918 semester the University offered several courses directly tied to the war effort such as Food and the War, Foundations of Food and Nutrition and Conservation of Foods. Students such as Flosie Garrison (A.B. in English) and Alda Woodward (A.B. in Latin) received certificates of completion from the US Food Administration following a course taught by Home Economics Professor Edith Williams. They went on to become teachers after the war.

Wheatless, Meatless and Sugarless

As the war progressed, wheatless, meatless, and sugarless days were adopted at dinner tables across the nation, the local homes, boarding and Greek houses and the University Cafeteria. Faculty members such as Mabel Wellman of the Home Economics department offered lectures to the student body and the community on food conservation methods such as canning and drying and gave recommendations for suitable substitutes for wheat such as barley, buckwheat, corn, oatmeal, rice and potato flours.

Indiana University Newsletter, May 1918
Indiana University Newsletter, May 1918

Sample menus and recipes were printed in the local papers and the Extension Division distributed the newsletter “Recipes for Winning the War in the Kitchen.” Additionally, in cooperation with the Extension Divisions of Iowa and Wisconsin they produced three films on gardening, canning and drying which were immediately put into circulation in July 1917 in four states. While the films no longer exist, at the time Walton S. Bittner of the Extension Division reported that:

Calls for the films have been coming in rapidly….The Films are good. They accomplish their main purpose of helping to keep the idea of conservation before the public. They also give definite instruction in methods.

 The Hennel-Hendricks Family

Cecilia, Cora and Edith Hennel
Cecilia, Cora and Edith Hennel

Former IU faculty member Cecilia Hennel Hendricks regularly wrote her sisters Cora (an IU Professor of Mathematics) and Edith back in Bloomington from her bee farm in Powell, Wyoming. During the war years she recounted substituting wheat flour in recipes such as potato crackers and making apple-sauce barley cake from a recipe that the family sent her from the Indiana Daily Student. Cecilia also shared stories about honey from their farm being used by the Allies, local canning and drying demonstrations, and the specifics of canning vegetables, fruit, rice and meats such as chicken and even jack rabbit. In a letter dated October 12, 1917, she tells them:

To be sure there are some canned meats that are better than jack rabbit, but in this day and age – and especially region – jack rabbit is preferable to some things at three and four times the price. If you are interested get the government bulletin on canning meat, and be prepared. The government recommends killing off the cockerels and old hens in the fall, and canning them, so as to save feeding them over winter. You could do the rabbits same as chickens. Jack rabbit meat makes lovely meat loaf and brown stews and macaroni mixtures and mince meat, not to mention hassen pfeffer.

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Coming next week – Part 2: World War II

 

You’re skating on…campus ice?

I, for one, do not enjoy these cold temperatures and am ready for spring. But in January 1916, many IU students were crossing their fingers for some snow and a cold snap so that they could skate on the Jordan!

I know what you are thinking – the Jordan River? That’s some pretty lousy skating. And I’d have to agree with you there.

No, in 1916, what is now the IMU parking lot was still home to IU’s multi-purpose Jordan Field.

It was home to baseball…

IU's Jimmy Boyle, circa 1902
IU’s Jimmy Boyle, circa 1902

football…

IU vs. Purdue, November 20, 1909

Class scraps….

1909 class scrap

And in 1916 — ice skating!

As reported in the February 6, 1908 IDS, Jordan Field was practically useless in the winter and folks on campus had been talking about some sort of winter use of the ground for quite some time. The first flooding of Jordan Field occurred under the watchful eye of IU’s football coach James Sheldon in 1908, but it is not clear whether or not their plan succeeded. However by 1916, recreational ice skating had received attention across the country and IU officials and students decided to give it another go.

This time, responsibility of the skating rink would come under the auspices of the Indiana Union. According to IDS reports, Union Director A.H. Berndt proposed other sites, including Dunn Meadow or a site just south of campus that would cover two acres of land. These proposals, however, were much more involved,  as it would “be necessary to build a damn four or five feet in height and thirty to forty feet long.” On December 14, 1915, the Union Board held its weekly session to decide on its final actions regarding the rink. The next day, students were met with these headlines:

skating018

Oh, the excitement! Beginning January 8, the student newspaper reported on the rink happenings on a near daily basis, detailing the steps taken to flood the field and smooth out the ice. The weather was all over the place – remember, it’s Indiana! – but finally by the 14th students had the opportunity to give the ice a try. 

An Indiana University Student in WWI: The Horace Porter Goff Papers

“Can you imagine eighteen thousand pieces of heavy artillery talking at the same time? I was in the front line trench at the time, where I could see and hear everything. It was something that I will never forget.”                                                                                                                                    -Horace Porter Goff in a letter to his parents dated September 17, 1918

Portrait of Horace Porter Goff
Goff’s official army portrait. It is captioned “Horace Porter Goff, Private–Company C–First Gas Regiment, February 17, 1918.”

Horace Porter Goff was 28 years old and a student in the middle of his final year at Indiana University when he decided to enlist as a soldier in the United States Army in December 1917. Goff was assigned to the 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame), which later became the 1st Gas Regiment. This regiment played a significant role in military history because it was the first to use gas and flame in combat. This form of combat was introduced in WWI, and the US War Department required a gas regiment for the first time in order to keep up with the German military, which had been using poison gas since 1915. Because of his experience as a chemistry major at IU, Goff was chosen for this regiment. He says in a letter to his parents, “I cannot say what kind of work I will be assigned to. If I get the kind that is connected with what I want it will be the manufacturing and analysis of gases. The army is a very uncertain thing in a way and it might be that I will have to be one that fights with the gases and flame” (December 19, 1917). Goff was correct in noting the uncertainty of the army, as he ended up serving in combat at the Western Front in France during the climax of the war.

Goff's Diary Entry
One of the first entries in Goff’s diary. Most entries follow this format and include brief sentences about his daily activities.

Goff’s letters describe his life as a soldier, including training and drills in Columbus, Ohio and Fort Myer, Virginia, his explorations of the French countryside, and his experiences hiding in German foxholes at the Western Front. The majority of the letters are written to Goff’s parents in Indiana and include reassurances that he is safe and, more often than not, requests for his mother’s homemade cakes and pies. Goff arrived in France in early March 1918 and underwent more training before entering combat in late June 1918. Initially, he provides little information about the war, perhaps so as not to worry his parents, or perhaps to avoid disclosing his location and orders. As he gets closer to the front, he begins to provide more details about the trials and atmosphere surrounding battle. One of his initial experiences in witnessing the effects of the war firsthand occurred not long after he entered combat. Upon seeing the war front for the first time, he writes:

“It was my first experience to see towns that had been shelled by the Germans. Some of the buildings had large shell holes thru them while others were a total wreck. These towns have all been vacated. They certainly look desolate. Occasionally you see an old man or woman groping along the street or looking out of a window. These people, I judge, are some that thought it not worth their while to move and would stay as long as a wall stands. Things were rather quiet. The stillness was broken once in a while by a sniper shooting a machine gun or an occasional report of a big gun. The sound rolled across the valley like thunder and we could hear the shell when it burst several miles back of the German lines. About 11:00 o’clock a German plane came over and dropped some shells, but it was soon located by an anti-aircraft gun and was made to beat it back…At last I have had my imagination and curiosity satisfied. Although our work is a little dangerous and hard while it lasts, I consider myself lucky when I look down and see the poor fellows in the trenches. You can see some that have crawled over the edge and lying on the ground sleeping while others are resting and at the same time keeping on the alert” (June 29, 1918).

Rifle Range Training Camp
Photograph of the camp at the rifle range in Annapolis, MD where Goff received training before going to France. Goff mailed this in a letter to his parents dated February 24, 1918. He included the following caption with the photograph: “A street showing our tents. The 4th tent down on the left hand side was our tent. It gives you an idea of the snow and cold we had to contend with there.”

By August, Goff reached the trenches and became one of those “poor fellows.” He describes the living conditions as less than ideal, writing:

“Our homes were dugouts and our companions were fleas, cooties and rats ‘bocu’ (very many). The worst part of it all is that the rats are a little too friendly for solid comfort. It is nothing to wake up and feel something crawling along your back as if it wanted to share part of your bed. I don’t know how they live in such places but from all appearances of the size of them they certainly get something to eat. Fleas and cooties really make it more uncomfortable for us than rats” (August 17, 1918).

Goff's Letter Home
First page of a letter Goff wrote from France to his parents in Indiana, dated June 25, 1918. Goff often wrote on this stationery, which the YMCA gave to soldiers on active duty.

Goff spent several months at the Western Front and was present at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a month-long battle that lasted from September 1918 until the Armistice on November 11, 1918. It is widely referred to as one of the bloodiest and most casualty-ridden battles in U.S. history. In a letter dated about a week before the offensive officially began, Goff provides moving details about his experiences in the trenches. He writes:

“We returned to camp yesterday at 6 o’clock after spending six days in the trenches. You no doubt will have read the home papers by the time you receive this letter in regard to the big drive which the boys are pulling off. It started on Thursday the twelfth at 1 A.M. and we were in the thickest of it all, where the shrapnel shells were bursting and the cannons roared. Can you imagine eighteen thousand pieces of heavy artillery talking at the same time? The artillery opened up with a heavy barrage at 1 A.M. and continued until 5 A.M. Then a rolling barrage started, followed by the infantry charging over the top. I was in the front line trench at the time, where I could see and hear everything. It was something that I will never forget. A few hours after the infantry went over we followed them but they went so fast we couldn’t keep up so they brought us back to camp.

I saw my first German trenches and dugouts. Some of their dugouts are almost like a home. Night before last we slept in one of these holes in the ground that was thirty feet deep, reinforced with steel and concrete. As we had had very little to eat for forty-eight hours, our appetites were replenished by some smoked bacon, ham and bread which the Germans had left. Beyond a doubt our drive was not expected by them, for you could see signs of a hasty retreat everywhere. Provisions of all kinds, ammunition and guns were found in most of their dugouts. I have a pair of small wooden sandals which I found in a German trench. They are hand made. I intend to send them to James if I can. I also have a couple of German hand made canes which I would like to send home but I don’t see how I can pack them so they would go. I also have a button as a souvenir from the first dead Boche I saw” (September 17, 1918).

Christmas Greetings 1918
The front of a postcard Goff sent to his grandfather, B.L. Goff, while stationed in France. Postcard is dated November 20, 1918.

Despite the war around him, not all of Goff’s time was occupied in drills and combat. Goff also writes about his leisure activities, explorations around France, and observations about French culture made during his off-duty passes. He describes his first impressions about France to his parents, writing:

“I have been enjoying myself over here. The people are very hospitable and willing to give you anything they have. Of course on account of the war their hospitality is limited. You can see poverty to the greatest degree. We are stationed in a very small village surrounded by mountains. Most of the people live in little villages located in the valleys. They have little plots of ground on the outskirts of the town that they farm. … The people however are not very progressive. They plough with their horses in tandem fashion and they drive to wagons the same way. I was very much surprised to see their horses. As a rule they all have find stock, mostly percherons” (March 24, 1918).

A few months later, he observes the effects of the war in the village where he is stationed. He explains:

“Everybody works — men, women, and children alike. You never see a strong, able bodied man in the field for they are as scarce back here as hen’s teeth. It looks hard to see a young girl twelve or thirteen years old working along side of an old man, both pitching hay and the mother loading. That is what I saw this evening just in front of our billet” (June 4, 1918).

Although Goff enjoys traveling in France, even his in his leisure time, signs of war are all around him. He frequently describes the hollow remains of bombed buildings and comments on the poverty, high prices, scarcity of food, and presence of women in black mourning clothes in every city he visits. During his 18 hour pass off duty in August 1918, German soldiers dropped approximately 12 bombs on the town where Goff was staying. One fell about a block from the hotel where he was sleeping, setting a building on fire. Goff left France in late January 1919 and returned to the United States on February 2, 1919. He received his honorable discharge papers on February 15, 1919.

Honorable Discharge Papers
Goff’s honorable discharge papers from the U.S. Army, dated February 15, 1919.

I have been working with the Digital Library Program to digitize the entire Goff collection, which includes Goff’s diary, 54 letters, discharge papers, an Indiana University Commencement Program from 1918, photographs of Goff and his regiment, and transcriptions of the diary and letters typed by Goff’s grandson, James M. Goff, in 1983. Images of all of these items are linked to the finding aid for this collection and are currently available for viewing at the Indiana University Archives Online page. Contact the IU Archives for more information.

 

New! William R. Ringer papers, 1916-2011

Can I share with you one of my favorite archival sights?

*squee* New student diaries!

Earlier this year, I received an email from a woman in Virginia stating that the diaries of her friend’s father – primarily dating from his time as an IU student in the late 1910s – had found their way into her possession and she wondered if we would be interested in them?

Yes yes yes yes! I mean, have you seen this picture of me hanging in the library somewhere? See what’s in my hands? 

I like diaries. It’s not – necessarily – that I am nosey. Rather, I like how they fill in a person’s story, whether it be the writer or the individuals written about. When I come across mentions or descriptions of student hangouts or campus traditions or faculty, I’m over the moon! And I love how they provide a personal perspective on major world events.

So, when that box above arrived, I forced myself to set it aside until I could spend some time with the diaries because I knew they’d be a time suck. And because I like to share, I decided to immediately write a finding aid so that you all could also have the opportunity to enjoy them!

_______________________________________________________________________________

William R. Ringer, Class of 1920

Hailing from Williamsport, Indiana, native Hoosier William Raimond Ringer entered Indiana University in 1916. As a student, he was very active in campus activities, and served as an officer for several campus groups. The small collection of papers held by the Archives consists chiefly of diaries maintained by Ringer while he was an IU student. He was devoted to writing in his journals – about what classes he had that day, what they did, where he ate, who he saw and talked to, etc.

Ringer’s time at IU coincided with World War I. Although he originally planned to leave college to teach, at the last minute he turned down his teaching job so that he could return to IU and join the Students’ Army Training Corps when it was formed in 1918. According to the 1919 Arbutus, with the SATC,

the government was to practically take over for military purposes the organization and equipment of every college able to muster a sufficient number of students for military drill. This surrender on the part of the colleges to the government control was to be voluntary, and the relation between the government and the college was to be a matter of contract. A duty rested upon the colleges to provide suitable barracks and subsistence for the members of the Student’s Army Training Corps, in addition to academic instruction, the colleges to be reimbursed as agreed upon in the contract with the governemnt.

Indiana University was one of the first to make this contract, and began early to make plans for the housing and feeding of the great number of soldiers who were to be trained here.

The Delta Tau house on Kirkwood served as "Barracks 1" for the S.A.T.C. William lived there for his short stint in the Army.

On October 3, 1918, Ringer and his friends were divided into SATC companies and he was told he would be living at the Delta Tau House, aka “Barracks 1.” He wrote in his journal, “I am in the army – and tonight is my first night. I am glad yet I don’t like the bunch here at all. All roughnecks at the house.” Ringer continued to log his experiences – including a brush with the Spanish flu, which I previously wrote about – with impressive regularity. Thankfully, he never did get pulled into the war overseas, as on November 27 they received word that the S.A.T.C. was to be disbanded within the month and he moved out of the barracks.

Ringer continued writing in his diary through March of his senior year. Rather sad that he didn’t finish up with his accounts at IU, but to date, this is nonetheless probably the most complete account of student life we have through a diary keeper. (Update! I heard from the donor that she has the remaining IU entries and they were waiting on my desk this AM!) While the bulk of the collection consists of these diaries, there is also one volume holding copies of his outgoing correspondence for a short period, report cards, as well as some of his poetry and other writings (he was active in the Writing Club on campus).

Of course, one cannot read a person’s diary and not develop an impression of the writer. With William, even as a young college student, it seems he was very serious and the shenanigans of the other students tended to exasperate him. I don’t know whether he said anything to the individuals in person, but he could be scathing in his opinions of dates, classmates, and professors.

So, at your leisure, check out the finding aid and let us know if you would like to see the collection!