Clemson University proudly proclaims that the Class of 1917 volunteered en-masse for service during the First World War, after President Woodrow Wilson sought a declaration of war from Congress in April 1917. A bullet stating the claim is the first on the Clemson Corps’ “Stories & Highlights inside the Scroll of Honor” web page,1 and the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) on campus trumpets this to incoming cadets. I personally remember hearing this as a young Cadet 4th Class from my ROTC instructor in 1998 and imaging the men who graduated sailing to Europe to serve beside one another in the trenches. With this legend such a pivotal part of Clemson’s military heritage, the question arises, “What is the truth behind the myth?” When proposing this thesis, many professors were skeptical that the entire class volunteered. As the research came together though, a story unfolded that is more inspirational than the myth itself and gives more credit to these proud sons of Clemson than a simple statement, “they volunteered.”
This is an unpublished manuscript.