In early May of 1917, over 100 students from Washington University were already preparing to leave their campus behind to serve the war effort in France. A program printed around this time, preserved in the Washington University Archives’ W. Roy Mackenzie Papers, lists the University’s “Contribution to the War, and Particularly to France.”
Washington University Unites Around the War Effort
The pamphlet from the Roy Mackenzie Papers highlights the contributions of Washington University Medical School through Base Hospital 21, as well as the contributions of over a hundred students from the College, the Schools of Engineering and Architecture, and the Law School who joined the Ambulance Service and other overseas units. The pamphlet also anticipates that another hundred students will be enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Camps within a week, and notes that the University’s Research Committee will be working with the government on the war effort.
Washington University and the French War Commission
Although the pamphlet is not dated, the fact that it is printed in both English and French and insinuates that the American Ambulance Field Service has not yet sailed for France makes it is very likely that it was distributed during the French War Commission’s visit to St. Louis and Washington University on May 7, 1917. Washington University was the last stop on French Marshal Joseph Joffre’s visit to St. Louis, which sparked several weeks of strong recruitment in the St. Louis area. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch from May 5th reported that Washington University students were practicing “French yells” and war songs at a May 4th Farewell Military Function (held for students who were about to leave for war) in preparation for the War Commission’s upcoming visit.
Recording Washington University’s Contributions to the War
After the war, Washington University made an effort to catalog the contributions of its students, faculty, and staff through the Washington University Memorial Association, which sent out surveys to everyone who was associated with the University to collect information on how they had participated in the war effort. Many of these individual surveys have been digitized and are available online as part of the Missouri Over There project.
Several Washington University alumni who served overseas in WWI later donated some of their war memorabilia to the university. You can read more about their collections in our previous blog posts about Lieutenant Dan Bartlett, Colonel Leroy Robbins, Dr. Arthur Proetz, and Washington University Women During WWI.
Patrons interested in WWI can view the library’s WWI Archival Sources finding aid to discover other related University collections.
A number of photographs and documents from Washington University’s WWI collections have been digitized through the Missouri Digital Heritage project, “Missouri Over There: Missouri and the Great War.” You can check out the project at Missouri Over There.
- “Washington U. Students are Practicing French Yells.” St. Louis Post – Dispatch, May 05, 1917, p. 2.