October 23, 2006

War Memorial Honored

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As the United States entered World War I, it was Captain Edward I. Tinkham ’16 of the American Expeditionary Force who was the first American to carry the Stars and Stripes in Europe. Over the next few years, 9,000 Cornellians, including students, alumni and professors, would fight in The Great War.

The Scabbard and Blade Society, a military honor society designed to promote
joint-service unity and military awareness on campus, held an open house at the Memorial Shrine in West Campus yesterday to honor the structure’s 75th anniversary. Following a series of vandalism incidences, including a 1960s anti-war protest, the Memorial Shrine has been closed to the public.

The Scabbard and Blade Society, which is the longest running active chapter in the country, was charged with protecting the Shrine, and uses it periodically for private meetings. Members of the Society spoke on the significance of the War Memorial.

“ … A lot of people don’t realize [the structure is a war memorial] and don’t think about it when they walk through here,” said Nate Delaney ’07
Added Scabbard and Blade Captain Anil Nathan ’07, “We just want to make sure everyone is aware of Cornell’s military history.”

One piece of Cornell military history generally not known, for example, is that there were actually 265 Cornellians who died during the war, not 264, as listed on the Shrine’s Roll of Honor. The 265th death, Hans Wagner ’12, was killed fighting for Germany, and his name was never included in the Roll of Honor.

Many students and parents viewed The Shrine, and were given personal tours by members of The Scabbard and Blade Society.

Jessica McDermott ’07 said she was interested in seeing the shrine because, “I had a lot of family in WWII and my brother is a marine.”

In 1926, a committee formed by Robert E. Treman ’09, a Cornell University Trustee and major in the U.S. Army, was formed to construct a memorial to the service of Cornellians. Eventually, the War Memorial, Lyon and McFaddin Halls were built.

The Memorial Shrine, located in the north tower, contains an altar with the Roll of Honor. Beneath is a signed copy of a radio speech given by President Herbert Hoover, in honor of the Memorial, on the day it was dedicated May 23, 1931. The chamber contains the shield of Cornell University and engraved insignias of the four Army divisions in which Cornellians served. Included to the left of The Shrine are letters sent to Treman in support of his fundraising efforts, including those from Governor Toch of New York, and Charles Hughes, then Secretary of State and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Along the top of The Shrine is a mural by Alison Kingsbury, showing a man holding a flaming sword, representing our will to defend what is just, and a woman holding a palm, demonstrating our desire to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Cornell has a rich military history, and is the only Ivy League school to have all three branches of the ROTC program. Other war memorials are spread throughout campus. Cornell’s WWII Memorial is located in Anabel Taylor Hall, and in 1993 additional tablets were added to honor those who gave their lives in Korea and Vietnam. In 2003, the names of Cornellians who died in the Persian Gulf and other military activities were added in a rededication ceremony.

Additionally in 1899, Theodore Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, planted two Norway spruce trees outside Cornell’s Delta Kappa Epsilon lodge honoring Clifton Brown ’00 killed in the Spanish American War. Clifton fought alongside Colonel Roosevelt, and both were members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, Brown at Cornell and Roosevelt at Harvard.