Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man

By Julie Des Jardins | Go to book overview

12
Preparing Men for Real Battle, 1917–1918

WITH YALE AT THE TOP of the Big Three again, thousands of graduates celebrated at the Yale Club in Manhattan, followed by a viewing of The Century Girl at a theater decked out in blue. Inspired anew to make the 1917 team, eighty undergraduates showed up for winter practice; they competed for spots until football preparations came to a sudden halt. Woodrow Wilson, the football enthusiast-turned-U.S. president, had been maintaining a stance of neutrality in the Great War, but after the sinking of the Lusitania and German submarine attacks on American vessels, public sentiment had shifted in favor of intervention. On April 2, Wilson declared war on the Axis powers and mobilized units of the Army and National Guard. He also called for Congress to approve universal military service to raise an army for the Allied cause. Within a year and a half, almost all the undergraduates hoping to make the Yale eleven had left New Haven as conscripted or enlisted men.1

Camp had believed all along that the United States would enter the war; in anticipation, his company had been stockpiling metal and drumming up ways to pack more clocks into less cargo going overseas, knowing that exports would likely be curtailed. But war raised other questions in his mind too. Was it an opportunity, a collective rite of passage that would toughen American men? Theodore Roosevelt had always insisted that isolationism produced more pansies than prosperity.

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