Rutgers in the First World War: Voices of the Armistice—”It Really Wasn’t Such a Tough Old World After All”

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November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

Donald Malven, class of 1919, was serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in France when peace was declared on November 11, 1918. He wrote to War Service Bureau director Earl Reed Silvers:

On the day the armistice was signed we were hiking back from the front for rest and, altho we didn’t hear of the real signing of the armistice till evening, we knew that there were rumors that it would be signed. After we had pitched our pup tents for a cold, wet night of it, suddenly the bugle blew attention and the news was read to us.  

Then our Band which joined us that night played “Home Sweet Home” and we began to celebrate. We all built big roaring bonfires, (the first we’d had in ages) in front of our own pup tents. We dried out and got warm and thou’t that it really wasn’t such a tough old world after all.”

Four lines of handwritten text
Excerpt from page 2 of Donald Malven’s letter.

The Rutgers War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit? between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.

(With assistance from Tara Maharjan.)

 

Rutgers in the First World War: Voices of the Armistice—”Too Busy to Celebrate”

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November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

photograph of William Herrmann
Photo of William Herrmann.

On November 11, 1918 William Herman, class of 1912 was serving with a Mobile Hospital unit in France. When the War Service Bureau inquired about his experiences when peace was declared, he responded:

“Peace? How can there be peace when there is no peace? There was no demonstration where I was on the morning of the armistice principally because we were busier at the time than we had been for weeks. . .

On the morning of the armistice an official notice was posted on the bulletin board signed by the C.O. of the second army to which we were attached. This informed us that the armistice had been signed at 5:30 A.M. and that fighting would ceace [sic] at 11 A.M. Even with the official seal on it we hardly believed it.  

Why? Well for the same reason that we were too busy to celebrate. The second army had been preparing for its drive on Metz. We knew that and we had prepared for our part, extra men had been sent us, extra beds had been set up. On the morning of the eleventh the barrage opened and we were informed that the drive had started. It sure sounded like peace was a long way off and when the ambulances began to toll in and we started our shifts of eight hours on and eight off with never an idle moment during the eight hours on we promptly forgot that foolish little peace [sic] of paper. Eleven o’clock proved headquarters right once more but we kept up the shift for three days and by that time peace was an old story.”

typewritten letter with handwritten note at bottom
William Herrman’s letter about Armistice in France.

Herrman was a doctor specializing in radiology. He died in 1965.


The Rutgers War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit? between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.

(With assistance from Tara Maharjan. Herrman photo from the Rutgers University Biographical Files: Alumni Collection.)

 

Rutgers in the First World War: Voices of the Armistice—”New Year’s Eve in New York [and] a Couple of Mardi Gras”

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November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

Photo of Frank Broome in uniform
Frank Broome

On November 11, 1918 Frank Broome (class of 1917) was serving in the U.S. Sanitary Corps. as part of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. He felt that nothing could adequately capture the celebration he witnessed when peace was declared.

“The people over here went just about crazy when the armistice was signed, I should like to tell you something that went on in the cities near here, but with about a hundred moving picture machines and a few thousand phonographs, I think that you might record the doings in only an extremely small spot. It was something like New Years Eve in New York, a couple of mardi gras, a Sunday afternoon at Coney Island and a few other similar gatherings thrown in one and then some. Luckily the weather was fair for it all.”

typed letter
Letter from Frank Broome describing end of First World War.

After the war, Broome became an educator and inventor. He died in 1940.


The Rutgers War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit? between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.

(With assistance from Tara Maharjan. Broome photo from the Rutgers University Biographical Files: Alumni Collection.)

Rutgers in the First World War: Voices of the Armistice—”A Kind of Super-Halloween Celebration”

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November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

photograph of Joseph K. Folsom
Joseph K. Folsom.

Joseph K. Folsom (class of 1913) was stationed at Camp Hancock in Augusta, Georgia, on November 11, 1918. When he received War Service Bureau director Earl Reed Silvers’s letter asking for information about “what happened around you when peace was declared.” Folsom wrote a brief paragraph on Silvers’s letter itself saying:

“At Camp Hancock a large part of the camp was paraded downtown and thro the streets of Augusta, Ga. with music, and the general hilarity of citizens. There was general ‘relaxation’ among the people—horns, floats, red lights, auto cut-outs and etc.—a kind of super-Halloween celebration. But we all wished we might be in New York, however. There was a general effort, I think among the officers to discourage too much peace-rejoicing, because of the danger to discipline. I know of nothing very striking. Nothing very exciting ever did happen in the camps. The fellows overseas will tell you the stories.”

typed letter with handwritten response.
Joseph K. Folsom’s response to Silvers’s inquiry about the end of the war.

After the war, Folsom became a professor of sociology at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He died in 1960.


The Rutgers College War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit? between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.

(With assistance from Tara Maharjan. Folsom photo from the Rutgers University Biographical Files: Alumni Collection.)

Rutgers in the First World War: “Voices of the Armistice” November 1–11, 2018

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November 11, 2018 is Veterans Day and marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. To commemorate this centennial, What Exit?  will be featuring letters from Special Collections and University Archives’ Records of the Rutgers College War Service Bureau. This collection features letters from Rutgers students and alumni who served in the First World War, describing their experiences serving in the United States and overseas. Each day between November 1 and 11, Voices of the Armistice posts will share what these Rutgers students from 100 years ago had to say about the moment when peace was declared.

Joseph K. Folsom (class of 1913), was stationed in Georgia on November 11, 1918 and described a “kind of super-Halloween celebration” with a noisy parade and “general hilarity.” Harry Blue (class of 1918) was stationed in France. He described taking a swooping celebratory flight in which he “missed electrical wires by inches.”

page from letter describing sign comemmorating declaration of peace on November 11, 1918
Page from letter by Harry Blue (class of 1915) describing his experiences of the Armistice that ended the First World War.

The Rutgers War Service Bureau was formed in 1917 as a way to keep Rutgers men serving in the war in touch with Rutgers and each other. It was headed by Earl Reed Silvers (class of 1913), who was assistant to Rutgers president William Henry Steele Demarest. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, the letters are now available online.

Be sure to visit What Exit between November 1 and 11 for new stories and follow highlights on Special Collections and University Archives’ Facebook and Twitter.