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The United States did not enter World War I until April 1917, in the war's third year. Just 19 months later, on November 11, 1918, the War ended. Despite the brevity of U.S. participation, the War had a deep impact on Williamsburg. Only a few residents and William & Mary alumni lost their lives, but hundreds of men registered for the draft and others enlisted. Three sons of William & Mary professor J. Lesslie Hall served in the military, including Channing, who frequently wrote his parents from Europe. Local resident Mary Meares Galt served in the Red Cross, as did John Pollard, who moved to Williamsburg after the War. A member of the extended Galt family, Alexander Galt Duane, was killed in France.

Even before the U.S. entered the war, the DuPont Company began building a munitions factory at Penniman, employing 6-10,000 workers. Despite DuPont's desperate efforts to build housing, the Penniman workers swamped Williamsburg. The Penniman area itself became, nearly overnight, a thriving city, with churches, a YMCA for African Americans, and other amenities. With the war's end, Penniman seemed to vanish nearly as quickly. The U.S. government seized the property but did little with it until World War II. The area is now the Cheatham Annex.1

For William & Mary, the War was a critical turning point. Fearing that military service would take away its entire student body, the Board of Visitors admitted women to William & Mary. Despite the BOV's fears, many male students remained, joining the Students' Army Training Corps, established in 1918. Coeducation helped set the stage for the College's explosive growth in the 1920s.

There is a list in the University Archives Subject File Collection for World War I that lists the names of 333 College of William & Mary students, alumni, and faculty who served during that conflict. See articles in the Flat Hat of March 19, 1919 (p. 2) and December 8, 1931 (p. 5) for commemorations of veterans.

The College's World War I flag bears 294 blue stars and 16 gold stars, with the blue stars representing William & Mary students and alumni who served in the War and the gold representing those who died. In fact, the College actually lost 24 students and alumni to the War, as seen in the photograph of the memorial plaque in the Wren Building. Several of them were among those memorialized at a 1919 service for the war dead from Williamsburg and James City County. The flag measures 5' x 7.5'. (University Archives Artifact Collection, Acc. 1989.149.2)

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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.