The Class of 1919 Comes Home

le plus ca change. . .

Only slowly had the country comt to accept the war in Europe. But by 1919, America glowed with a patriotic fervor and wanted a permanent system of national defense. The 1914 CRIMSON had denounced the "Jingoistic patriots" who had marched through the streets of Boston. By 1917 though, they had accepted the war as just.

"Imperialism will perish before democracy without fail and inevitably. The day of the failure of the imperialism of Germany was forewritten from that time when she made her enemy the greatest democracy of the world."

In January, with the war won and a rgeat democracy to protect, Charles William Eliot '53, Harvard President Emeritus, proposed a system of Universal Military Training based on the Swiss Army plan. He said that the Army should no longer be the class or professional army it was before the war.

Eliot said the Army should operate without pay for servicemen, for "the idea of a man's doing it for pay is absolutely revolting," he said.

"The elements of military training and discipline have had a high value for both the physique and the morale of [our] young men," Eliot said. "These values should be obtained in permanence for the American population."


Eliot's military program, for everyone from 20 to 45 years old, needed officers. The old Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was instituted in 1916. It was the quickest way of providing officers, but the program was at best an emergency measure. Harvard stopped all military training in the spring of 1919 to prepare a new program for the fall. The CRIMSON concurred with the postponement, despite "the desruction of enormous nations by the Bolshevicks and Reds and Sparticides."

Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell recommended that the new ROTC program relegate the drill and infantry practices to the summer in order to concentrate on the more technical programs during the year. Soon an entire program for concentration in Military Science was developed, requiring courses in Military Science, Physics, Mathematics, History, and a full course in Literature.

Franklin D. Roosevelt '04, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, liked the program and on June 4 announced plans for Naval units of ROTC on many large college campuses.

Harvard units were well-known during the war. Lieutenant-Coronel James A. Shannon, commandant of the Harvard ROTC during the spring and summer of 1917, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in France. Earlier, he had served in the Philippine Islands and from 1911 to 1914 took part in several expeditions against the "hostile" Moros in Mindanao. He served in Mexico with the Pancho Villa Punitive Expedition and was selected by General Pershing to command the famous Apache Indian Scouts. After his return from Mexico, he came to Harvard as Professor of Military Science and Tactics.

Colonel Robert C. F. Goetz, the commandant of the new Harvard ROTC units, worked out many of the plans for the national system.

"One of the greatest lessons learned in this war is the absolute necessity of a great reservoir of trained officer material," Goetz said. "It was learned early in the recent officers training camps that it was well nigh impossible task to train an officer properly in the technique of his branch of the service, if, at the same time, it was necessary to teach him the basic principles of a military education."

THE HARVARD Class of 1919, however, was as concerned with the new world order as they were with the permanent defense of freedom and democracy. President Woodrow Wilson returned from the Versailles Peace Conference and spoke to a crowd of 8000 at Mechanics Hall in Boston.

"The proudest thing I have to report to you is that this great country of ours is trusted throughout the world," Wilson said.

Wilson, ex-President William Howard Taft, and Harvard President Lowell campaigned across the country for the League of Nations. The Class of 1919 was largely in favor of the League.

The Great Debate about the League took place on March 19, 1919, between President Lowell '77 and Henry Cabot Lodge '71, Senator from Massachusetts. Over 100,000 people applied for tickets for the 2900 seats in Symphony Hall and the winners were chosen by lottery. Lodge offered five "constructive criticisms," the first of which was that the League "should be redrafted and put into language that everyone can understand."