Today’s blog post was written by guest author Alan Carver, an undergraduate student studying History at Southeast Missouri State University.
The First World War was a major conflict lasting from 1914 to 1918 encompassing most of Europe and by the end of the war, all of the world’s major powers. World War I saw theaters of war on several continents. Though the war was fought on foreign soil, the United States played a major role in bringing this deadly conflict to an end.
While the United States did not become involved in World War I until April 1917, nearly three years after the start of the conflict, it was pivotal in the outcome of the war. Over 4.7 million United States military personnel served over the course of the war. Of that 4.7 million, over 10,000 were from Missouri and of those, 893 were students and faculty of what was then Southeast Missouri State Teachers College. To commemorate those brave 893 students and faculty, the College put together a World War I time capsule.
Created in 1921-1923, the Southeast Missouri State Teachers College World War I time capsule contains several pieces documenting the service, decorations and memory of the students and faculty of the College that served in the United States military during the First World War. One of the documents is an extensive list of every student and faculty member who served, numbering 893.
The service members listed in this document also have individual note cards which list their full names, home addresses, military ranks, and dates of service. Special Collections & also has in its collections a photograph of 1st Lieutenant Charles Emile Benson leading a platoon on a march in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The image provides a glimpse of what an American First World War platoon might look like. The list of service members is fascinating but the collection also includes note cards that detail those who were decorated for their service. Most of those who received a decoration gave their lives in service to their country and are represented symbolically on the Southeast Missouri State Teachers College Service Flag which is also a part of this collection. Each of the flag’s blue stars represents one of the students who served, while each of the 18 gold stars represents a student who died while serving. The time capsule also contains the 50th Anniversary Bulletin of Southeast Missouri State Teachers College from 1923. In addition to the time capsule, there is a bronze memorial tablet inside the first floor of Academic Hall which is dedicated, “In honor of the students of this college who gave their lives to the cause of freedom 1914 – 1919.”
The First World War was absolutely devastating to Europe and to all of the countries that found themselves involved by the end of the war. Many Americans served during the war, and the students and faculty of Southeast Missouri State Teachers College made no small contribution to that effort. The University and anyone searching for valuable information on World War I is lucky to have the have the time capsule created by the Teachers College, now stored in Special Collections & Archives.