Marilyn Hagerty: 'We will never forget...'
UND made a pledge 100 years ago in October: We will never forget the 27 young military men enrolled in Student Army Training Corp who died during the 1918 flu epidemic.
Their names and photographs are featured now on a "Lest We Forget" display in the Chester Fritz Library.
The pledge to remember has been supported by the UND history department and Professor Gordon Iseminger. He challenged Janet Wolf Strand as a doctoral student to research and seek out the names that never were fully disclosed. And she turned it into her mission.
In December 1918, the School of Education Record for UND stated, "It is with sad hearts that we have to record the death of several of our choicest young people during the epidemic of influenza. The toll was highest among the young men in the university military camp. The university, the state and the nation honor all of these brave young people who offered their lives on the altar of their country and died in its service and in its defense as truly and as nobly as if it were on the field of battle.
"The university administration, the faculty and the student body share in the bereavement of parents and friends, and wish to express to these our sincere condolence. Such deaths, in the prime of life, are real tragedies. It is some consolation to know that they all leave honored names. Their names will not be forgotten at the university. They were, in a very true sense, her children, and she was their Alma Mater. Her heart also is painfully wrung, and her sorrow is mingled with that of parents, relatives and friends at home."
Janet Strand started from scratch for her doctoral thesis. She began to consider the men as "my guys." And the display of her work now in the library is a fascinating memorial.
To document their gravesites, she traveled to cemeteries. She talked with sextons at cemeteries. She visited libraries.
On some of the graves, she found American Legion markers.
World War I
Collegiate and vocational sections at UND were officially inducted into the United States Army on Oct. 1, 1918, in a nationwide World War I ceremony.
Just days after the inspiring scene, the flu epidemic began to take the lives of several members of SATC at UND. The first member to succumb to the dreadful disease died Oct. 14, 1918. The last death was Nov. 4, 1918.
There is, to be sure, conflicting information concerning the number of deaths that occurred in the SATC during the fall of 1918. Because their names never were fully disclosed, the actual number of deaths fluctuated. The total number was determined to be 27, Strand learned in her research. Every one of these young men — except for Walter Belyea, who was not officially recognized by the Army as an SATC member — have their names engraved on the walls of the All Veterans Memorial in Bismarck.
Seven of the victims died in one day. And Warren A. Parker is the only member buried in Grand Forks.
In all, there were 27 members of the SATC who were victims of the flu pandemic. The vocational section, just as the collegiate section, yielded their lives for their country as truly as though killed in battle on foreign soil.
"And finally,'' the researcher asked, "is there a statute of limitations for fulfilling a promise?
"As of today, the University of North Dakota has kept her promise," Janet Strand wrote, "and these young men have not been forgotten.''
Military training had floundered and failed at UND in the early 1900s. But a history of the department reports that July of 1918 marked the first effort at resumption of military training. At that time, a vocational training detachment was organized. And it continued until Dec. 21, 1918.
The average enrollment was 220 men. Training was given under supervision of E.J. Babcock, dean of the College of Engineering. An early historian says the training was not entirely satisfactory — due in part to the youth and inexperience of commanding officers. But more especially due to the severe epidemic of Spanish Influenza that ravaged the detachments.
The influenza epidemic was reported to have broken out in the SATC at the university on Oct. 8, 1918. It continued with what was described as almost unaltered violence until the first of November.
A unit of Reserve Officers Training Corps was installed again on April 15, 1919. By the fall of 1920, enrollment in the military department had grown to 250 students.
Phi Delt frat house
To report on how the SATC men ill with pneumonia or influenza at the university were being cared for, the Grand Forks Herald made a visit 100 years ago to what was known as the base hospital. It was located in the Phi Delta Theta house.
The Herald found it to be a more cheerful place than could be gained from the name of "base hospital.''
The first floor, with the exception of the kitchen, had been given over to convalescence. Many of the men were lying in bed reading. Some were talking and others were being given their suppers by fellow SATC men not on the sick list.
At the beginning of the university year in 1918, the Phi Delta Theta house had been stripped of its furnishings and made ready for government use as barracks.
When the influenza epidemic came upon the university, the house was made into a hospital. Cots were moved in. Floors and walls were scrubbed with a solution of Lysol. The second and third floors were given over to influenza patients who were dangerously ill. Each patient was examined several times a day. If signs of pneumonia were present, they were moved to fourth floor set aside for those seriously ill. The Herald reported, "It is quiet up there with plenty of fresh air to be had. As soon as a patient becomes better and pneumonia is no longer feared, he is moved downstairs."
The Herald said, "The spirit at the camp is splendid. Nobody is shirking and everybody is doing their best. From a layman's point of view, conditions are all they could be in the way of cleanliness and sanitation.
"The influenza epidemic has been checked, one might say, and now all that remains is to pull through the pneumonia, and to this end everybody is laboring.
"The men are being discharged from the convalescent ward at the rate of 30 per day. Twenty nurses, not including orderlies and pre-medical students of the medical school, are on duty.''
A special diet kitchen had been set up in the Phi Delt house. Influenza patients were fed on the average of six times a day. They were served hot soup, broth, eggnog, orangeade with egg, hot milk, toast — anything that tasted good to a fellow sick in bed or a nurse on duty through the wee hours of the night.
Budge Hall also was given over for use as a hospital. There was a convalescent ward located in the YMCA rooms and another on the top floor of Davis Hall.
"A chap isn't discharged to the convalescent ward," the Herald reported, "until his temperature is perfectly normal. However, he is required to stay in the ward for three days before being permitted to go out. Meals for the most part are brought over from the Commons, located conveniently nearby.''
The Herald said that supplies were lacking at the onset of the epidemic. But through untiring efforts of downtown workers, there were clean sheets, pillowcases and pillows available.
The Red Cross was reported to be very helpful. Everybody connected with the SATC and others were straining to get through this epidemic, according to the Herald. The hospitals were run very much the same as the regular hospitals downtown. Regular clinical charts were kept. Floors were scrubbed with a solution of Lysol every day.