The United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany in April 1917. The Reserve Officer Training Program was only a year old, and it soon became apparent that the U.S. forces had a great need for college-educated soldiers. In February 1918, after nearly a year of fighting, the War Department created the Committee on Education and Special Training. One result of this was the creation of the Student Army Training Corps.
This 60-day, ROTC-like program was hosted at 525 different schools. It was designed to encourage voluntary military enlistment and to provide simultaneous military and academic training. The program launched nationwide on October 1, 1918—one hundred years ago this month.
Norwich was authorized to form a unit of 250 men, and the slots quickly filled with existing Norwich students who were eager for a fast track to the front lines. They were all enlisted as privates in the U.S. Army and had their school expenses paid, plus a $30 monthly stipend. A ceremony took place in the Dewey Hall chapel during which the enlistees recited the relatively new Pledge of Allegiance and the General Order establishing the SATC was read aloud along with a message from the Secretary of War.
Though life on campus looked a little different, normal university operations remained continuous throughout the war, unlike during World War II. For years to come, Norwich alumni would write in to the Record recalling their SATC days with fondness. As fate would have it, the Armistice was signed just six weeks after the program got underway. The demobilization of Norwich’s SATC unit began a month later. One alum wrote at the time, “It is pleasant to think that the stern vigorous training which Norwich has given its men for a century will not pass with the SATC.”
After the demobilization of the SATC unit, business as usual resumed on campus. But the indelible mark of classmates who never returned from the front remained.
As 200 Things About Norwich prepares to observe the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice next month, keep an eye out for our post summarizing NU’s participation in all major conflicts since its founding in 1819.