Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Seventy Years

As the war dragged on through 1915 and 1916, only a few Americans sensed the inevitable, that their young men would be called to support the eschelons of allied youth that were being raked by German machine-gun fire. General Leonard Wood and a few others called loudly for preparedness, but Europe was far away, business was good, and soothing voices were saying that in an emergency "a million men would spring to arms." America was so oblivious to the probability of becoming involved that even the slogan, "He kept us out of war," barely succeeded in returning Woodrow Wilson to the Presidency.

But Wilson could not stem the tide for long. The very factors that were making America rich, coupled with indignation stirred by Allied propaganda concerning German cruelty, made the decision inevitable. Even when diplomatic relations between the United States and the Central Powers were severed in January, 1917, the country was not sensible to the magnitude of the task ahead. When war was declared in April, America was still almost totally unprepared. Only then did the colleges begin to contemplate what their place in the scheme of war might become, and to display anxiety about their continued existence, if a general call to arms were to be issued.

Land-grant colleges had for years maintained a "tin soldier" form of military instruction. A few far-sighted college men had attended the training camps at Plattsburg in the summers of 1915 and 1916. To the great majority of college youth, however, military drill and tactics were entirely unknown adventures.

Dr. Hollis, because of his close contact with military authorities at Washington, and because of his high position in engineering societies, was keenly aware of impending difficulties. He had urged Institute students to take advantage of summer training camps and naval cruises but he was definitely opposed to wasting engineering graduates in line


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Last Modified: Fri Jul 30 11:15:25 EDT 1999