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"Hezzie" Goes to War: World War I through the Eyes of a Mid-Missourian

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After Armistice: AEF University

Hezzie's locations in France
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AEF University Barracks
AEF University barracks

pass to study in Chamonix
pass to study in Chamonix

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AEF University

Letter 122
Beaune, France,
7 March, 1919

Dear Mother and Dad:

First Impression of the AEF University

Well, I have arrived at the AEF University, coming down from Langres yesterday afternoon, just making connections at Dijon. . . .

Well, this is some University. I don't know whether to take it as a joke or not. I presume, however, from the amount of buildings and number of soldiers and officers here it is going to be something. It was originally built to be one of the largest American hospitals, and is located about a half mile from town. There are acres and acres of the buildings, all the same barrack construction, each some three hundred feet long, thirty broad and ten feet high, one after the other for whole acres - I am in No. 705. The soldiers and officers are piling in here from all over France as well as hundreds of leading professors and teachers from the States. They come in every hour by train, truck and auto from all directions. The Americans have here their own power plant, water works and light, bakeries, sawmills, laundries and everything else you could find around the average good sized town.

I was sent down to teach in the Law School but as I have no degree in law that will not be possible in the Law School. And as they have only the first year subjects there is nothing I can take so I will have no official connection with the Law School. However, I am not sorry at all about that for, with the exception of the one law book which I brought with me and offered to loan them, there is not a single law book of any kind or description in the whole law school and I am wondering how they will teach law in any satisfactory manner whatever without a single book. The reason they could not use me officially as a teacher in law was that I had no degree from a law school, however the Captain in charge, after I had showed him a letter the Secretary of the law School at George Washington wrote me, was anxious to keep me there and do the instructing, he getting the credit. Then the Major in the Arts and Science department wanted me to tackle a course in Economics and Political Science. However, that did not appeal to me at all so I have wandered on over into the Business Administration Department and believe I have the course to teach which will do me the most good and which I can at the same time do the most justice under present circumstances. So I am to give a course in Commercial Law over here. That is I will teach law from a business standpoint, or in other words get the real essential principles in the various branches of law. This I can do and at the same time get a world of good out of it myself, and altho I will get no credit for it in an American University I will get into the habit of study which will mean considerable.

Nothing much has been done so this morning I outlined the course and submitted some cases and the Captain, who is not at all anxious to work overtime on it, thought it just the thing and is only too glad to let me go ahead, organize and teach the whole thing. As instructor I will have no military duties at all, so there will be absolutely nothing to do but study, teaching perhaps a couple of hours a day.

No doubt there are a great many things they can teach here just as well as anywhere and they have some of the leading professors of the States over here in uniforms. This morning I shook hands with Professor Hedrick, head of the Mathematics Dept. at the University of Missouri who I knew well while at Columbia. They plan to teach about everything under the sun, according to the announcements.

I don't think I ever tackled a proposition with less interest than breaking up and coming down here, but it looks better after getting here and I have no doubts now but what it will be considerable better than simply laying around Langres. If I can simply get back into the habit of study much will be accomplished. However, it means I am here for three months more at the least, but as I said before, its none of my doing and I prefer doing this than getting shot so I presume we will have to make the best of it. The official opening is the 15th, so you can tentatively set on June 15th as the time I will start home - this will be the earliest possible date, however.

So much for this letter. Don't get the impression I am satisfied or contented for I would like to start home most awfully bad and will if the least opportunity offers itself. However, I'm not worrying a bit, it's not my fault I'm here, so I am going to save all of my salary I can, get back into the habit of study, take trips out of here, work on my pictures, go to a picture show tonight and enjoy myself until it is time to come home. In other words make the best of a bad proposition and I will provided things go well with you and I will have no worries on that score.

Your loving son,

P.S. The report has just come in that this is already the largest University in the world and they are now throwing up large tents, one after the other, so it looks like a circus has hit town.

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