1917 – 1918
UT during World War I
An estimated 1,600 UT students and alumni served in the military during World War I. The war began in 1914, but the United States did not enter it until 1917. Life at UT slowed considerably during the war, as attendance fell from more than 800 students to fewer than 500. During World War I, UT was among the more than 500 colleges used to establish the Students’ Army Training Corps. The government launched the SATC to involve higher education in military training. University personnel and equipment were used to help train new soldiers. The program was geared toward training officer candidates and technical experts, according to a 1918 government document detailing the SATC. Asked to house at least 500 men, UT’s Old College (later torn down to make way for Ayres Hall) was converted into a dormitory for the SATC, and a two-story barracks was built that could house 200 men. Jefferson Hall (no longer standing) served as their dining hall. More than 2,000 people attended UT’s formal opening as an SATC training school on October 1, 1918. The Knoxville Journal and Tribune’s story the following day called the festivity “an impressive military ceremony” featuring a flag raising and company drill, and 550 men took the oath of allegiance to the American flag. Some of the troops housed at UT wound up admitted to Reese Hall with the Spanish flu, which had broken out in Knoxville during the global pandemic. The SATC was short-lived. A November 2, 1918, article in the Knoxville Sentinel reported that UT’s SATC would soon demobilize. The war ended on November 11, 1918. Even before the formal launch of the SATC, UT’s Department of Engineering started in April 1918 to offer vocational training for the military’s Section B program. These men were known as the Fighting Mechanics. Many of the Section B men were stationed at Chilhowee Park in Knoxville. Some of the section B instruction occurred at UT’s Estabrook Hall. The Section B program was later folded into the SATC. Of the 27 UT students and alumni who gave their lives during WWI, 13 did so in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in northeastern France. The success of that offensive, when combined with the Hundred Day Offensive, contributed heavily to the end of the war. Alumni Memorial Building is dedicated to the students and alumni who died in World War I as well as four who perished in the Spanish-American War.