Wake Up America!

Life at Home During the War, 1917-1918

Detail from Poster, "Wake Up America," 1917 (LOC)

Soldiers in the Family

​IN MAY 1917, fearing that there would not be enough volunteers to fight, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which allowed for the involuntary recruitment of all able-bodied men aged twenty-one to thirty (in August 1918, the age limit was extended to include those between the ages of eighteen to forty-five). All men were required to register for the draft. In all, some 24 million men filled out the registration form; 2.8 million of these were drafted into service. An additional two million volunteered.

On October 15, 1918, eighteen year old Manville Kendrick – a freshman at Harvard – was selected for immediate military service and ordered to report to Division Four, Cambridge, Massachusetts, to begin active duty. Like many young men his age, Manville wanted to join the fight overseas. Long interested in flying, his dream was to join the Army Air Service as a fighter pilot. Via telegram, he begged his parents for permission to apply:

Aviation Corps open for short time only. If accepted would enter officers training camp immediately. May I try. Wire immediately.

The elder Kendricks were appalled to think their only son might join the most dangerous branch of the military; the life expectancy of a combat pilot could be measured in terms of weeks rather than years. To Manville’s dismay, they resisted so effectively that the war was over before he could work his way around their arguments.

Instead of heading to training camp, he was assigned to Company D of Harvard’s Student Army Training Corps, where he served for the remainder of the war. He actually spent much of this time at the college infirmary, suffering from the effects of Spanish Influenza.


Manville wasn’t the only Kendrick family member who spent the war in bed rather than in a cockpit. Just after the outbreak of World War One, Manville’s future brother-in-law, Hubert Harmon, became an Army pilot. His goal was to become a pursuit (combat) pilot, but it was not to be.

In September 1918, on a ship headed to France, he contracted a nasty case of Spanish Influenza. Although he recovered from that ailment long enough to “win his wings” at a French training camp, a near-fatal case of double pneumonia took him out of action almost before his last training flight was over. He was still in a convalescent hospital when the armistice was declared on November 11, 1918.

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site

April 2017 through December 2018

 State Historic Site

Trail End