THE OHIO WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL (April 6, 1926)

 

idden away in the north wing of Sullivant Hall, rarely seen by anyone other than the cleaning staff and members of the Dance Department, is a reminder of the now mostly forgotten war that gave birth to the 20th Century. Behind the usually locked north door of Sullivant Hall stands a beautiful 85 year old memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Ohio soldiers who fought in the First World War.

Sad to say, it’s not going to be there for much longer.

When the call of war came in 1917, Ohio answered. Ohio was the 4th most populous state in the union at the time and contributed proportionately to the war effort. More than 200,000 of Ohio’s sons fought in the war and  more than 6,000 were killed. Ohioans made up over a fifth of the Allied Expeditionary Force and Buckeyes were key in battles at Saint Mihiel and the Argonne Forest.

The Ohio State University was actively involved in the war effort. President W.O. Thompson begged male students to postpone their schooling and serve their country. Many students left school to serve in the armed forces. Enrollment dropped 17% from 1916-17 to 1917-18. Even football great Chic Hartley abandoned the gridiron for the battlefield. 6,594 Ohio State alumni, former students, and current students went off to war. Of this number, 135 did not return home.

From 1917-18, campus was home to four military schools that prepared soldiers for the war effort, among them an aviation school and a school for observer balloon officers. Pilot trainees practiced taking off and landing Curtiss JN-4s at an airstrip along the Olentangy. Trainees slept in the Armory gymnasium while barracks were hastily erected. Thousands of trainees from across the nation passed through campus on their way to France.

In Fall of 1921, plans were drawn up for an expansion of the Ohio Historical and Archaeological Museum at High St and W. 15th Ave. The historical society had run out of room in the existing 1914 building. A new wing would be added to the north side of the existing building. Joseph N. Bradford, Ohio State’s architect and the designer of the original building drew up plans for the addition.

This addition would be called the War Memorial Wing and would honor the Ohioans who fought in The World War. It would be Ohio’s first memorial to the soldiers of that conflict. Space would be set aside in the new wing for archiving records and artifacts of the war and for a special space dedicated to commemorating those who served in the most terrible war in human history.

The society started preliminary work with its own funds but the project really got underway when the Ohio General Assembly, at the urging of former governor James E. Campbell, appropriated funds for the building and the memorial in early 1923. Construction began later that year.

In consultation with a Memorial Committee of local worthies, Ohio State University’s architect, Joseph N. Bradford, designed the memorial. It would consist of an elegant rotunda with marble floors and walls and an art glass ceiling. Large bronze bas-reliefs would line the walls depicting scenes from the war. Visitors to the new wing would enter through the rotunda. Outside the door would stand a bronze statue depicting an American soldier of the war.

Bruce Wilder Saville, a busy local sculptor and professor at Ohio State, was charged with creating the sculptures. He was well-equipped to do so, having himself seen action in the war, first as a volunteer ambulance driver with the French and later with a US Camouflage Unit.

On Monday, April 6, 1926, the 9th anniversary of America’s entry into the war, the annex and the war memorial were dedicated.

It was a raw, cold, gray day. Temperatures hovered in the 30s as the sky drizzled rain, then sleet, and finally snow. The inclement weather forced cancellation of a 4,000 man military review and kept crowds to around a thousand.

Along with officials of Ohio State University and the Historical Society, on hand for the dedication were Governor Vic Donahey, Reverend Father William P. O'Connor and Rev. Dr. Arthur H. Limouze of the Allied Expeditionary Force;: Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph D. Cole of the Allied Expeditionary Force; Major-General Benson W. Hough of the Allied Expeditionary Force and a state judge; ladies off the American Legion Auxillary. Ohio Congressman, Senator, diplomat, and advocate of peace through international law Cleveland’s Theodore E. Burton, was to give the keynote speech on “Lessons of the World War.”

Sheet music for "Goodbye Broadway, Hello France" Sheet music for "A Baby's Prayer" Sheet music for "You'll Have to Put Him to Sleep with the Marseillaise"

Sheet music from the war years.

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