“I have been in France now five weeks (the letter was written January 2) and went through one of the most uncomfortable battles the English have had. All the men who did get back consider themselves lucky. I have learned what shells sound like and what dugout life is. The most picturesque experience so far was being fired at, at close range, by a Boche plane when out looking at the trenches with the colonel, who has since been killed. It is a great life! Also rather dirty!”
--- Reuben J. Erickson (Knox class of 1911), first lieutenant in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army. Published in The Knox Alumnus of February 1918
Knox College student and medical worker Silber Charles Peacock wrote to Dean W.E. Simonds that "I went to Chicago and took the examinations for the Medical Corps, and passed in fine shape, therefore, I will go to France to do Hospital work in a few days." After the war, Peacock returned to Chicago and became a noted specialist in childhood diseases.
Letter from Silber C. Peacock to Dr. W.E. Simonds
Two Galesburg boys join ambulance corps
Walter Shafer, Knox College class of 1922, was only a freshman when he left for service in the ambulance corps. Harry Miller, another local Galesburg boy, also joined up. A newspaper article notes that the Miller family endured sacrifice for the war, having eleven members in service, some with tragic consequences.
Robert E. Williams, a member of Knox College's faculty, wrote to Dr. Simonds after joining the University of Chicago Ambulance Corps. Williams stated, "I am sorry not to be able to return to Knox for I grew very fond of the school and the people connected with it but I'm doing the most unselfish act of my life right now I think and that is compensation enough for all sacrifices made."
Robert Williams to Dr. Simonds
The University of Chicago Ambulance Corps, in which many Illinois men were enlisted, toured the state demonstrating the work of this most necessary of service organizations. The Galesburg newspaper reported on one such demonstration on August 9, 1917:
AMBULANCE CORPS ARRIVE
Young Men Give Demonstration Here--Drill attracted Many
Two army ambulances, a detachment of the University of Chicago ambulance corps, arrived in the city at noon today. They came from Geneseo where they gave a demonstration earlier in the day. The men were taken to the Galesburg club where the local branch of the Red Cross gave them dinner. All of the men seemed in best of spirits and are thoroughly convinced that their work is the only kind.
Each ambulance has a personnel of 10 men, a sergeant a driver and eight others who do the first aid and stretcher work. A practical demonstration of the methods employed was shown to a large crowd in the public square at two o'clock. The 20 men first drilled in regular army close order drill but in single instead of double file. Then the litter drill in command of Sergeant Wherritt was shown. Men were picked up from the street and loaded into the ambulances. A demonstration of first aid dressing followed, in charge of Sergeant Owens. The men, all of whom are college fellows, sang a few songs in closing.
Those making up the detachment were: Sergts. Owens and Wherritt; Privates A.J. Rhinehart, W.D. Dolgett, H.J. Cooper, E.C. Melberg, B.H. Paulson, J.R. Ketch, M.P. Starr, D.B. Cameron, C. Reynolds, H.H. Feierable, J.B. MacGregor, H.H. Comer, H.W. Claugh, G.P. Fnies, T.J. Kimes, Bruce Robinson, E.E. Hadley and F.E. Jarvis.
Kimes is a Knox man of the class of 1918.
Two other Knox men, Gerth and Midkiff who are connected with the University of Chicago corps are also touring northern Illinois in this same work.
The detachment left for Abingdon as soon as the work was finished. From there they go to Bushnell, winding up in Macomb at six o'clock.
Dr. Reuben Erickson reported back to Knox College on his service:
“It has been my chance to be right along with the main part of the performance and I have seen the Boche retreating everywhere I have been.
“We have had some very busy times, up all night dressing. The dressing places have been in very safe places and it has not been very trying for that reason. I am now with the infantry; so am seeing things when they first come in.
“Our men have been doing magnificent work and have marched straight ahead over the Germans. There is no doubt any more that Americans will be good fighters, although they are much more slap dash and careless than the French and English. The way the battle is now going it seems that the Germans are suffering a real defeat. It is too wonderful to be true.”
-- Dr. Reuben Erickson (Knox class of 1911), The Knox Alumnus, October 1918
Howard Knowles was an ambulance driver and saw service near Verdun. The Stars and Stripes newspaper described Knowles' service in an article in 1920: "After several months of the hardest and most perilous service he was awarded the Croix de Guerre for conspicuous gallantry. Later he received another citation and now wears a palm on the ribbon."
John H. Finley, a former president of Knox College, undertook relief work in Palestine during the First World War.