Navy

Seemingly fewer Knox alumni and students entered the Navy than other branches of military service, as Gregg Olson notes in "With the Colors! The Naval Reserves." According to Olson, however, work in the Navy was "the life!" 

Loomis Leedy discussed his financial woes with Dr. W.E. Simonds, noting that "Half my present salary goes to mother and most the rest is eaten up by insurance." Unfortunately, Leedy's financial troubles persisted, as the bank at which he did business closed during the Great Depression. Leedy persisted, however, eventually running for the legislature in Florida in 1936. Orlando, Florida's paper, The Sunday Sentinel-Star, described Leedy: "Independent, able to pay his own way, a scrapper and a thinker, Leedy is the idealist's material for a government career." Two years later, the same paper stated that "Leedy is described by his friends as forceful, aggressive, and a natural leader." 

Russell C. Hartmann expressed concerns about how he might make up college coursework after being released from service in the navy. After the war, Hartmann became active in the Church World Service Committee of the Burlington, Iowa Council of Churches. He also owned an independent insurance agency. 

Don B. Hartman was enthusiastic about the prospect of military service in his letter to Dr. W.E. Simonds, writing that "I am sure the life and work over here is going to be a great experience for all of us and I wouldn't have missed it for anything." Hartman's letter is particularly noteworthy because part of it was removed, presumably by a censor. 

Homer Swope, a member of Knox's class of 1920 and of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, wrote to Dean Simonds to say, "I have kept in touch with Knox and I certainly would have liked to have returned back there this fall and completed my last year. As are all other institutions, I suppose Knox is different from other years.... By the way affairs look now, the end of the way is in sight, and if it comes soon I hope that I may be able to return to school." While many students were initially eager to go to war, Swope was eager to return to college. 

Joseph Ralston Hayden's service is notable as he, a member of Knox College's class of 1910, was credited with firing the final official shot of the first World War at 10:59 3/4 a.m. November 11, 1918, immediately before the armistice. A model of his gun, with his name engraved upon it, was subsequently placed in the Smithsonian. 

Hayden was described by his peer, Grace Hinchliff, in a bulletin released by the Fifty Year Club: "Ralston came to Knox in the fall of 1906 -- a soft-spoken, quiet-mannered youth who, to those of us in his class, seemed much more mature than we. He never shouted in class meeting, but, when he spoke, he always said something worth-while." 

The extended quote below is an excerpt from a typed narrative Hayden sent Dr. W.E. Simonds, recording an experience he had while serving overseas. 

Joseph Ralston Hayden

Joseph Ralston Hayden

U.S. NAVAL RAILWAY BATTERIES

C/O POSTMASTER, NEW YORK 

November 14, 1918

              Yesterday I had one of the most interesting trips that I have ever made and I want to tell you a little about it….

             Passing on over the ridge, we began to reach the places where the Germans had lived for the past four years. The terrain was rough, - very like the lower Alleghenies, - and on the slopes on both sides of the road and up every run and gulley were the Boche quarters. Barracks, officers’ quarters, kitchens, bath houses, movie theatres, stables, ammunition dumps, forage stations, water tanks, gasoline depots, headquarters, dugouts, storehouses, and all of the other buildings for housing an army were there. Most of them were built of wood, or of wood and tar paper. Some were of cement, others of galvanized iron, and still others of a combination of the two. Many were very ornate, with fancy gables, weather vanes, bright paint, and other fixings dead to the Teuton heart. All were so cleverly camouflaged that a keen-eyed aviator would have looked in vain for signs of human habitation in the wooded valleys and along the ridges. It was like going through a hidden city.

            Yesterday, however, it was a wrecked city. Fighting in these woods had been bitter, and before the Huns gave ground their quarters, trenches, entanglements, and many of them had been blown to bit by high explosive. I did not see a building that was not wrecked. Where their trenches had been was nothing but torn ground. A small meadow at the foot of the pass was so completely covered with shell holes that hardly any grass could be seen. It looked like a very deeply ploughed field that had been blasted here and there. Trees and undregrowth [sic] were out away, - although the woods here are so thick that the impression of utter barrenness had not been produced.

            Along the road and through the woods Boche and Frenchmen and Americans lay as they had fallen, although many of the last named were being gathered in for burial. We passed several open spaces where the brown forms had been laid out in rows ready to be placed in the long trenches. How many lives those woods cost I do not know, but my hat is off to the men who took them.

            These passes and certain lines of hills mark the line of resistance of the Germans and of attack by the Yankees. Once through this line we drove up the valley, feeling that we really were in Hun land.  The signs were all in German and it would be a stupid Boche indeed who failed to find his way. We found them much easier to steer by than French or American guides. Every little village had been systematically divided up into billets for the men, for the horses, for officers, for headquarters, and so forth. Most of them had bath houses very prominently labeled. And the roads, - they were splendid. On our side of the line the army had torn them up, wrecked them. On theirs the Boche had keep the work going until the last moment and had retreated over boulevards.

            …. The fields were green, and many of them well cultivated. Lines of doughboys crawled along the roads, often followed by seventy-fives of “heavies” and supply trains. At every cross roads and in every village were the omnipresent M.P.’s with their black and red brassards. One of the thrilling stories of the great war will be that of the military police.

            Soon we passed a small prison camp, probably the first receiving, searching and forwarding station. As I looked at the ugly barbed wire pen and flimsy huts I thought of the hundreds, possibly thousands, who must have passed through there during the past four years, - sick, wounded, discouraged, defiant, or fearful….

            The village beyond which we had been firing was the first place at which we ran into the inhabitants who had lived through the four years under the Boche. The first women that I have seen in a month, save a nurse or two at a distance, was on the dorrstep[sic] of her home in this little town. Old men, old women, little children, and boys up to about twelve or fifteen comprised the French population. A column of doughboys was passing through this particular street, and how they were welcomed! And whenever we went hats came off, hands were waved, bows made, and “Vive l’Amerique!” shouted.

            Probably I should say nothing about the result of our search for shell holes, I might say, though, that a Keokuk street car could be very comfortably housed in one of them, and that on the whole our shooting at this particular target was not bad….

            “Of the grim and grewsome sights which I saw I shall not write. But you can believe the worst you hear or read about the terrible things that war does to men and animals.

            Of course no one of us is in a position to know what is best, and it is up to all hands to accept loyally what the soldiers and states men have decided should be done. But as for me, I would have driven every Hun from allied soil, laid waste to the Rhine valley and cities[sies] and destroyed German military power before accepting anything but unconditional surrender. There may be reasons why this could not have been done, or why it should not have been done. But unless the German people have undergone a change of heart and of mind there is trouble ahead for those to come. It may be that the lesson of complete subjugation was unnecessary. I hope so. Time will tell.

            I do not write very rapidly and this has taken a good deal of time. consequently I shall not try to answer the fine letters which I found here last night until later. There were fifteen of them, mostly from home and from Betty. I got into bed right after a late mess and certainly spent a happy evening. and now I have them all to re-read, too. What will be done with us after peace is declared I know not. I do know what I am hoping for, though.