Indiana University and World War I: The Spanish Influenza on Campus (Part 4 of 5)

The fourth in a five-part series highlighting Indiana University’s role in the first World War.

Notice printed in the Indiana Daily Student.
Notice printed in the Indiana Daily Student.

In the fall of 1918 Indiana University had 1,935 students, which was the largest enrollment to date. This record number, however, corresponded with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu epidemic, and, that fall, numerous students fell ill. President Bryan and the administration were forced to make the decision on October 10, 1918, to close the University for ten days — until October 20th. All students not in the Student Army Training Corps were asked to go home until the university reopened.

Hospital beds were set up in the old Assembly Hall to combat the influenza epidemic.
Hospital beds were set up in the old Assembly Hall to combat the influenza epidemic.

Sixty percent of the school’s population however were members of the S.A.T.C. and were required by army regulations to remain on campus. Thus, to fight the outbreak effectively, hospital beds were set up in Assembly Hall (the old Assembly Hall) and the auditorium of the Student Building. The peak of the epidemic at IU hit on October 16th, with 174 cases of influenza. In light of the continued prevalence of influenza on campus, the administration extended the closure of the university until November 4th.

S.A.T.C. member and IU student, William Ringer, contracted the flu and wrote about his experience illness in his diary on October 18, 1918:

William Ringer, Class of 1920 and member of the SATC.
William Ringer, Class of 1920 and member of the S.A.T.C.

I felt rotten, and could scarcely hold up my head while Rawles rambled away. . . . I felt worse all day, ate only a little dinner. The next morning I felt rotten, and did not get up until 7:30. There were four of us stumbled down to the infirmary where there was the sickest looking bunch of fellows I ever saw. He ordered us to the hospital, so we walked back to the barracks and lay there all day until a taxi came for us. I was put on a cot on the lower floor after some delay, and there I settled down for 6 days’ sickness. And I was pretty sick for three or four days. My temperature got only as high as 102.6 but it stayed up north stubbornly. They took good care of us, gave us plenty of very good food. . . . Horace [his brother] was brought in Saturday, and put on the stage. He was more sick than I, had a slight congestion in one lung, and had to wear a pneumonia jacket.

[You can read the original diary at the University Archives.]

Even after classes resumed, people were still being cared for at the University Hospital. In total, 350 people were hospitalized at IU during the fall influenza outbreak. Thanks to the nursing staff and warm hospital quarters only three people died, a mortality rate of less than one percent. That is much less than the estimated global mortality rate of 10%.

Flu cases continued to crop up into the spring 1919 semester. As a result, a late winter basketball game against the University of Iowa was supposed to be closed to the public to prevent the flu’s spread. Despite the risk, five hundred students made it past security in order to watch the game. According to IU basketball player Ardith Phillips, they were “500 of the most enthusiastic spectators you ever saw.”

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.

Indiana University and World War I: Campus Support for the War Effort (Part 1 of 5)

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

IU President William Lowe Bryan message on the war effort.
IU President William Lowe Bryan’s message to students and faculty.

The entry of the United States into World War I on April 6, 1917, caused a rise in patriotism as people across the country sought to contribute to the war effort. At Indiana University, President William Lowe Bryan urged, “Your first thought every day should be in what you can most effectively serve your country.” In true Hoosier fashion, the students, faculty, and alumni rose admirably to the occasion.

By the fall semester of 1918, 60 percent of the student population had enlisted in the Student Army Training Corps, and students, professors, and alumni were sent overseas. Male students enrolled in new Military Science courses to prepare for enlistment, while female students and faculty worked in the on-campus Red Cross Workshop and on behalf of other war relief work. The Indiana Daily Student kept those living in Bloomington informed about the progress of the war, especially news of current students and alumni who had enlisted or gone abroad with the Red Cross.

IU Military Courses

In June of 1917 — two months after the U.S. declared war on Germany — Indiana University established a Department of Military Science and Tactics. The school’s first military courses were offered that fall. The goal was to prepare male students for eventual military service, so to this end, IU established a number of classes focused on topics related to the military and the current conflict overseas. Just a few examples of these classes are “Causes of the Great War,” “Balkan Problems,” “European Governments,” “Mechanics of an Airplane,” and “Military Science.”

Indiana Daily Student, January 10, 1918.
Indiana Daily Student, January 10, 1918.

The courses for a degree were condensed, which allowed male students to complete the academic coursework for a major in just two years. These condensed courses were offered in the areas of Astronomy, Botany, Chemistry, Economics, Sociology, Education, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Romance Languages, Technicians, and Zoology.

During the summer of 1918, the Board of Trustees signed a contract with the government to use campus space to teach radio and signal work to drafted servicemen in the U.S. Army Training Detachment. But not all of the classes inspired by the war were for the male students. For the 1918-1919 academic year, emergency courses for women were created for training and instruction in first aid, surgical dressings, the making of garments for Red Cross and civilian relief, emergency social service, elementary hygiene, and home care of the sick.

[Find out more infomation about the Department of Military Science at the University Archives.]

War Service Flag

Recruits and service flag during induction ceremony, 1918.
Recruits and service flag during induction ceremony, 1918.

The Indiana University Service Flag was created during World War I to honor IU students, faculty, and alumni who served the United States in wartime. The flag cost $80, which, accounting for inflation, would be over $1,200 today. There are blue and gold stars on the flag. The blue stars represent the number of men enlisted in the military while the gold stars represent those who died in service to the country. There are fifty-two gold stars from the World War I era. The remainder of the stars represent those who served or died in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, and a portion of WWII.

The flag was on display at the S.A.T.C. induction on October 1, 1918. Several years later it was displayed on campus during WWII. The flag is currently housed in the University Archives.