Reflection and Memorialization

Every war has its beginning and its end, and even the first world war, remembered as the grandiose “war to end all wars” met its own end in November 11th, 1918. A war of historically unprecedented scale went, that winter in 1918, from the present to the past.

As the saying goes, history is written by the victors. For World War One, The adage holds true to an extent. Although the Allies’ victory is seen by most as having been for the best, one would also be hard pressed to find a Turk that remembers the outcome of the Gallipoli campaign with anything but national pride. US popular sentiment towards WWI proved no different than those of most other participating nations.

Having been buffeted for over a year by wartime propaganda and nationalistic calls to help in the war effort, even the comparatively pacifist Loomis LOG writes in its October 10th 1917 editorial that “it is of vital importance that every man, woman, or child do his just share in the struggle” [1]. From the supreme significance of the war due primarily to its scale, patriotic attitudes ran unbridled especially among the young and easily influenced. Slowly the majority of the student body’s opinion of the war shifted from Headmaster Batchelder’s appeal to pacifism to the national enthusiasm for war.

It was in the midst of this wartime hysteria when Mrs. Batchelder died in the winter of 1917. Naturally, in a gesture to honor the late wife of the Headmaster, a school monument was due. Interestingly associating school spirit with patriotic sentiment, the Loomis students decided to pool their money into dedicating a central school flagpole to the late Mrs. Batchelder. The Mrs Batchelder Memorial Flagpole [2] was installed in the spring of 1918 behind Founders Hall, set to loom over the central and iconic Loomis building.

The Memorial Flagpole remains as one of the the only tangible remnants of WWI on what is now the Loomis Chaffee campus aside from the small wooden plaque commemorating Jack King 17’s death serving in the American ambulance corps [3]. Compared to the far larger memorials to the second World War on campus such as the “Victory of Mercy” and the numerous far larger plaques dedicated to the dead [4], Loomis’s memories of WW1 are hazy at best, amounting mostly to debate around the philosophy behind the war. With such limited involvement, it is no surprise that Loomis Chaffee carries such a limited array of memorials dedicated to World War One.

[1] The Loomis Log Vol. 3, October 10, 1917, No. 4

[2] The Loomis Log Vol. 3, December 5, 1917, No. 12

[3] The Loomis Log Vol. 4, October 9, 1918, No. 3

[4] The Loomis Log Vol. 31, October 12th, 1945, No. 3

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God Almighty

During the First World War, The Loomis School, led by the powerful orator Mr. Batchelder, steadfastly  worked to prepare itself and the nation for this conflict. Whether the patriotic Loomis students “conserve[d] a great deal of food,” or “stayed to help work at the farm,” [1] the efforts of all were noticed.

These deeds of the Loomis boys to assist in the war effort, however, were not solely patriotic. They did it for God, their heavenly father. In describing life, Mr. Howe, a regular speaker at the Loomis Sunday Services, exclaimed, “We have a debt to pay to Him from whom all blessings come.” [2] Sunday Services, weekly occurrences at the school, provided opportunities for the Head of School and other influential voices to spread their messages to the entire Loomis community. God, whose being was preached and glorified, was a popular topic of conversation during these services. These young men, who would grow up to define the post war generation, were constantly reminded of the presence of God, and therefore, carried out their actions according to His desires.

Additionally, the idea of believing in the same omnipotent God provided the Loomis community with a sense of unity. A 1917 editorial in the Loomis Log, a prominent news source for the school, highlights this fact, stating, “in entering the Great War, [the nation] will need to bend every energy and gather together every resource.” [3] Absolutely no one could successfully go through this conflict  alone. By “show[ing] their greatness, not in war necessarily, but in the biggest movement, Christianity,” [4] the Loomis students were given an earnest plea: work to achieve not only a victory on the battlefield, but a victory through a thriving religious community boosted by the togetherness of the war effort as well.

Although the Loomis students diligently contributed to the war effort, there was an obvious hesitancy expressed by Headmaster Batchelder. During one of the Sunday Services, Mr. Batchelder stated that “the influential leader of the world, the kings, and the mighty states-men, are not truly Christians” [5]. This message resonated throughout the entire Loomis community, and was heard by all. Throughout his many speeches, The headmaster clearly expresses that strong Christian values are obviously not present in the belligerent leaders of the world, claiming that “If they were [Christians], this present conflict would be an impossibility.” [5] Mr. Batchelder offers a solution to the present conflict,  calling all Christians to join this movement of faith to end the brutal Great War. one who listened to this demand would almost feel obligated to display favorable and exemplary Christian values in all aspects of their lives.Through Christianity, peace would be found.

 

[1] The Loomis Cellany, 1918

[2] The Loomis Log Vol. 2, December 13, 1916, No. 9

[3] The Loomis Log Vol. 2, April 11, 1917, No. 22

[4] The Loomis Log, Vol. 2, March 14, 1917, No. 20

[5] The Loomis Log Vol. 1, April 12, 1916, No. 17

Loomis as a Microcosm?

Public opinion translates into public memory. To understand how and why the Loomis School memorialized World War One, one must understand the perceptions of those who experienced the war first-hand.

What could a hermit and a prep school community have in common? Peter Edelbauer, living isolated and unaware of World War 1 in the woods of southeast Germany, still undoubtedly felt the effects of the war. In the words of Roger Chickering, “The war embraces all.” [1] If a hermit in Germany could not escape the shadow of the global conflict, neither could a prep school in New England. The Loomis School was no exception. In a way, the students on “The Island” were like the hermit; they lived separately from the rest of the world in the protective bubble of Windsor, Connecticut. Knowledge trickled into the campus, and often the only source of news came in the form of of the Loomis Log. In communities where the stream of information is limited and monopolized, the individual sentiment becomes a collective one. For this reason, the absence of a stories pertaining to World War I in the Loomis Log is just as notable as the inclusion of one, as it reflects the non-importance of these events for the Loomis Community. The Loomis Log aided in creating a perception of World War I.  

The Loomis School often acted as a microcosm of the United States, with its faculty and students opinions mirroring those of the general population. Both the school and the country carried and paraded around its own banner for democracy. It was a common-held view that Loomis was “made a spectacle unto the world” [2] as the testing ground for the first student run government, not unlike The United States itself.

Before the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, the Great War seemed a distant european conflict, and one that the american population had no intention of entering into. The sentiment of isolationism was reiterated by Reverend VonOgden, during one Loomis Sunday Service, “[who] showed the difference between a man who has power to hold himself off from his fellows temporarily and view them as one would a play.” And The United States viewed the european theater in this way, from afar, before the war became an issue of its own national security.

The perception of World War One changed after May 7th. The war no longer seemed so for away. War columns like Three Hours in the Trenches and Professional Man appeared with increasing frequency in the Loomis Log. America and Loomis had essentially “wok[en] up to the pressing need of preparedness” as they “had seen what a dangerous predicament our beloved country would be in time of invasion and peril.” [3]

Excerpts from the Loomis Log, 1916

But at the outset of the US involvement with the war, there had always been hesitancy. Within the Loomis Community, faculty took precaution not to stir up a furor of patriotism. In fact, in a faculty meeting, Mr. Batchelder suggested “a conservative attitude whenever the matter of enlistment comes up.” [4] The matter of sending Loomis boys to war was met with careful consideration. The schools wanted neither to antagonize the war effort, for sake of seeming unpatriotic, nor encourage enlistment, for it was the duty of the school to “teach the good students to be the leaders of the coming generation,” [5] as the cultivators of the next generation.

[1] Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War

[2] Loomis Log, Vol. I, April 1916 No.18

[3] Loomis Log Vol. 1, May 1916 No.22

[4] Faculty Meeting Minutes, The Loomis School, April 15, 1918, Loomis Chaffee School Archives.

[5] Faculty Meeting Minutes, The Loomis School, Jan 7, 1918, Loomis Chaffee School Archives.