THE CLASS of 1919 will be comfortable in Dunster House this week. All of the floors and walls and steps have been scrubbed and there are flowers in the courtyard. Some of the current members of the House may even teach the alumni to throw frisbees on the grassy banks of the Charles.
But the Class of 1919 also will understand coming to Harvard while the country's at war. The agony of graduating into the Army is perhaps more real to them because they feel it each time they return to Harvard.
Their 25th Reunion was held in 1944 at the peak of the mobilization for World War II. At that time 92 members of the class were fighting their second world war. All of the class reunions were pared down and the Class of 1919 confined itself to a dinner at the Parker House.
Their "First Reunion" actually was held on Class Day of their senior year. By then, most of them had returned from the war. Some 400 of the original 724 members of the class had served in the military during the 19 months the U.S. fought in World War I. Nineteen of them had died.
During the summer of 1918, the Army decided that all college students would wear uniforms, and so everyone but the flat-footed and the near-sighted took the Military Science course.
Armistice was declared in November 1918, and the University was left to count its losses. More than 11,000 Harvard men fought in the Great War and Harvard lost 375 of its students and former students, more than any other University.
Reports of Harvard men killed in action were on the front page of the CRIMSON all year. Captain Hamilton Coolidge '19, is an example of their bravery. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General Pershing for heroism in action while serving with the 94th Aero Squadron near Grandpre, France on October 27, 1918.
While leading a patrol, Captain Coolidge went to assist two observation planes which were being attacked by six German fighters. Observing this maneuver, the Germans on the ground filled the air with anti-aircraft fire. Disregarding the extreme danger, Captain Coolidge dived straight into the barrage and his plane was struck and sent down in flames.
Seven of the 63 American "Aces" who had downed five or more enemy planes were Harvard men. Harvard men received 93 Croix de Guerre and four medals of the Légion d'Honneur.
But by January 1919, men were coming back to the College and the military slowly retired from the campus. After Christmas 1918, Harvard students to longer took military instruction and the University had returned to a purely academic basis for the first time since the University Regiment was established in January 1916.
Nevertheless, Harvard, Yale and Princeton were down to half of their normal enrollment. All three schools decided to give academic credit for military service with Yale and Princeton giving a full year's credit to anyone who had missed the first trimester.
AFTER A LONG debate at Harvard about the academic merits of military training the Corporation decided to grant "War Degrees" to any student who had completed 12 of the 16 1/2 required courses, provided he had served in the military for a least six months. Almost all of the 2502 students at Harvard had military discharges.
The Business and Law Schools started special programs beginning in January and extending through summer 1919 for soldiers who wished to catch up. Both accepted soldiers without A.B. degrees.
Harvard Yard, which had been literally taken over by the Naval Radio School, the Ensign's School, and the Officer's Material School, was returned to its pre-war uses.
The Naval Radio School, which had started with a small group of University scientists in the Cruft Laboratory, had expanded by the fall of 1918 to 6300 students occupying Memorial Hall, Pierce Hall, Hemenway Gym and specially built barracks on the Cambridge Common. By spring 1919, however, the school was on its way to Chicago.