The Great War and Randolph-Macon College

Randolph-Macon College students and faculty were commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army in 1918 in Plattsburgh, New York and returned to campus to start the Students’ Army Training Corps.

The Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC) was created in 1918 by the US War Department to expedite the training of soldiers during World War I. A SATC division was established at Randolph-Macon College in August 1918, providing students an opportunity to continue their studies while fulfilling their draft obligations. In addition to their RMC course work, the young men participated in military training exercises.

The SATC had a short and interrupted life at Randolph-Macon College. In October 1918, many RMC students were afflicted by the world-wide flu pandemic. When the armistice brought the war to end on November 11, 1918, the SATC soon demobilized until a similar training corps was established in World War II.

While the SATC helped the college maintain its enrollment during the war, President Robert E. Blackwell gave an unenthusiastic report of the Students’ Army Training Corps in a letter to a government official in December 1918.

“The influenza struck us the first of October before we had inducted a single man. For several weeks we were struggling with that without a single trained nurse and with nearly one third of the students in the hospital. During these weeks the classes met, but we could not expect to make any progress. After inductions took place and most of the students were out of the hospital, the attendance on the classes was not much better owing to various military duties. Every student, for instance, was on guard duty for twenty-four hours every sixth day and was in no condition to study or receive instruction the day after… The military work was done well and enthusiastically till November 11. Then all enthusiasm died out of that. Then everybody was too far behind in studies to take any interest in them. These are the short and simple annals of the S.A.T.C.   Very respectfully, R.E.B.”

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