In April 1917, the United States entered the First World War, declaring war on Germany. Boston College students proved themselves to be a particularly patriotic group. They were excited for the chance to defend their nation and represent their Alma Mater. Immediately after the declaration of war, 100 college men applied to the Plattsburgh Officer Training Camp, hoping to get involved in the wartime effort in any way possible. Students protested after only one of their classmates was accepted into the elite program, and the War Department agreed to admit others.
One undergraduate wrote that the surge of immediate interest demonstrated “that Boston College did not hesitate when the call for competent men came; she was ready instantly to offer herself.” Shortly after, in August 1918, the War Department selected Boston College as one of some 500 institutions to host an installment of the Student Army Training Corps. Boston College men again answered the call with more than 1,500 applying for the local S.A.T.C. program that had only 750 available spots. On the warfront, Boston College soldiers were reminded of their home on the Heights as they receive letters and gifts from the ladies of the Philomatheia Club. The men also wrote letters home, with a few published in The Stylus. These letters highlight death, despair, beauty, and even joy of the military experience, providing a clear window into the mind of not only a United States soldier, but also that of a Boston College student.
Each letter is unique in its own right, but all the letters contained a common theme: the pride and unity that came from being a member of the Boston College community. As one student wrote of his fellow servicemen from Boston College: “they were both brave lads of the breed of champions and did well their duty to honor their God, their country, and their Alma Mater, – and to the honor of the Irish blood that flowed in their veins.” Even during times of trouble, members of the Boston College community took comfort in the important values taught on the Heights.
- Keith Nicholson 2015, Applied Psychology & Human Development & Spring 2015 Making History Public Student
The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit #WeWereBC, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South. This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Seth Meehan’s Spring 2015 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.