Time in Training
Many soldiers wrote to Dean W.E. Simonds of Knox College while in training for military service. These men asked a wide variety of questions, ranging from requests for letters of recommendation for a particular military position to inquiries about whether their military training courses might possibly count for college credit.
George M. Carpenter wrote to Dean Simonds to say, "...I am glad to learn something of your institution. But now I am a soldier boy serving my country.
Lieut. Simon Guy Parks, who left Knox shortly before graduation to enter military service, wrote to Dr. Simonds with concern about his college credits: "Has the faculty decided definitely concerning the credits of the men leaving the army? Also, will I receive a diploma?"
Despite regretting missing Commencement, Parks was eager to go overseas - he was disappointed that, instead of being sent to the front, he was sent to Camp Jackson in South Carolina. Parks later entered the Field Artillery Officers' Training School. While there, he wrote to Dr. Simonds that "It is up to every man, and woman, but more especially every man to put in every minute of the time that he is at college to the best possible use. There is a crying need for the college man in the army."(Click on an image for a larger view.)
A recurring theme in letters written by enthusiastic young men at Knox is their desire to keep as up-to-date about what was going on in Europe as was possible. Such a letter was written by Donald Allensworth, who joined up but didn't immediately travel to Europe: "I got a letter from one of the fellows in England and he says that we know more about the war than he does. Thus are the reports which dull my ambition to get over there.... I believe I will try to go over in some capacity which will keep me posted as to the happenings in the theatre of action."
Allensworth frankly assured Dr. Simonds that he wasn't planning on becoming too involved in the gambling occurring on his training base because "[crap-shooting] don't run in my blood."Allensworth also kvetched about the ghastly weather in San Antonio, Texas, where he was training: "After arriving in San Antonio, we were taken to a detention camp where grass never grew and sandstorms 'happened' every ten minutes." Allensworth commented frankly on his peers' grooming habits, the quality of the food on base, and the excitement (or lack thereof) of military life.(Click on an image for a larger view.)
Ralph Lundgren, a member of Knox's class of 1920, wrote to Dr. Simonds to inquire about whether his credits would be awarded to him "the same as if I had continued school" after leaving school to train at a military base in El Paso, Texas. Lundgren noted that "The drill [at his new base] is vastly different from that at Knox. The officers will not stand for one false move in ranks."(Click on an image for a larger view.)
Joseph Sward wrote to Dean Simonds of how much he hated Jefferson Barracks, the same place the aforementioned soldier Donald Allensworth trained at: "I can well remember that you said Mr. Allensworth stated that Jefferson Barracks was an ideal place. I do hate to disregard his word.... Jefferson Barracks is in my sense of taste the worst place that I have ever been in. I really felt sorry for the poor chaps who came to help old glory and in return were treated like dogs and hogs."(Click on an image for a larger view.)
L. Boyd Finch was primarily concerned with how he'd pay his diploma fee, but he took the time to update Dr. Simonds about how "all the Knox men" he knew who had enlisted were doing: "So far as I know all the Knox men here in camp are getting along in good shape."(Click on image for a larger view.)
Robert Clark was a proud member of the fraternity Beta Theta Pi, and found the time to write to the dean condemning his a couple of his fraternity brothers for their ill conduct (writing an illicit, underground publication called The Yellow Jacket) even while he was undergoing military training.(Click on an image for a larger view.)
Serviceman Condit Grady was hopeful that his work at the Kelly Aviation Field in Texas might transfer to Knox as college credit: "At the Y.M.C.A. training school we were given some courses which were academic." He was curious about whether his off-campus work might possibly count toward his degree.(Click on an image for a larger view.)
Percy Johnson wrote to the Dean to "thank you so kindly for the rebate on my tuition fee." He was training in Georgia, but hoped to see overseas action quickly: "I don't expect to be here two months from now. I sure want to get to France."(Click on an image for a larger view.)
Raymond T. Swenson was rather unusually positive about training, stating that "All the boys are enjoying themselves, and there is every reason for it," although he describes his work as "intensive."(Click on image for a larger view.)
Russell H. Taylor wrote to Knox to let the Dean know that, although he had received scholarship money from the college, he couldn't accept it - he had enlisted in the army.(Click on image for a larger view.)
Arthur Paine got straight to the point in his letter to Dr. Simonds, inquiring about how he might settle his financial matters with the college while he was away from campus undergoing training.(Click on image for a larger view.)
Eugene A. Robertson wrote to Dr. Simonds to ask for a letter of recommendation, as he hoped to attend a military training school at Princeton.
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Otho Sherrick attended a military training camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. He wrote that "The navy is a fine place, and I like it better than what I have seen of the army. The YMCA certainly is doing a wonderful work in the camps for the boys."
(Click on image for a larger view.)