Vassar Salutes Veterans

One hundred years ago, when the guns finally fell silent on the Western Front in Europe at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, it was still the middle of the night on the Vassar campus.

A tank was donated by the grateful French, in appreciation for the services of Vassar women during and immediately after the Great War.

According to The Miscellany News: “It was 3:30 am Monday by a very cold watch and pitch dark. The confusion belied the shouts of ‘Peace! Peace!’ First came a helter-skelter race through the corridors of all the halls. Then a crowd assembled under the porte-cochère of Main and sang jubilantly, in spite of chattering teeth. We straggled back to our rooms, some to sleep, others to settle all war questions over hot chocolate. Comparative quiet lasted only till six o’clock; then the band appeared (meaning five boys of various ages and sizes, one drum and four pans) proud to lead a procession. The sunrise of November 11 will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it from the top of Sunset.”

That vivid account is one of many the aspects of World War I brought to life in Over Here/Over There: A Collaborative Study of Dutchess County and Vassar College During World War I, a joint exhibit created by the Dutchess County Historical Society and Vassar College (and specifically, by College Historian Colton Johnson), on view in the Faculty Commons, just off the Retreat in Main Building, through November 18.

The Miscellany News account of the war’s end is lighthearted, as is the tale of the subsequent gift to the college of a French tank that stood on Joss Beach for more than a decade. But other parts of the exhibit are somber indeed. Most notably, the lives of four young Vassar alumnae were cut short, from illness and accident, while they were doing their patriotic duty with the Vassar Canteen and Relief Units in France. Note is taken, too, of the son of a Vassar professor whose plane was shot down just five days before the war ended—and who died in a German field hospital five days after the Armistice was signed.

At 4:00pm on Sunday, November 11, there will be a half-hour interreligious and secular observance for peace called “Remembering, We Gather.” The event, which is open to all, will take place in the Foyer of the Chapel Tower, not far from where a plaque is placed in memory of those Vassar alumnae who died in service to their nation during the First World War.

Following that momentous day in 1918, November 11 became known as Armistice Day. In 1954, after the Second World War, the U.S. began to commemorate Veterans Day in recognition of the service of all military veterans.

On Monday, November 12, a celebration of Veterans at Vassar will take place from 5:30 to 7:30pm in the Veterans Lounge, in the old bookstore space in the basement of Main Building. The entire campus community is welcome to help honor current Vassar veterans. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Angela DePaolo.