|Kirkland at Bowdoin|
After volunteering, Kirkland was sent to a training camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Kirkland left Boston amidst a crowd of crying mothers and waving American flags but considered the talk of heroics unjustified. To Kirkland, his role in the war was practical, but not valiant. At camp he reported that after being paraded around town he felt like “such a superficial hero.” Otherwise he adjusted well to military camp life. He joked to his mother in a letter, “I thank my bringing up for many things, but just now for the ability to eat everything.” During the Harvard section’s week on kitchen service, Kirkland and a friend were placed on butter duty. In his letters Kirkland hilariously recounted the challenges of mixing 300 pounds of oleo margarine with yellow coloring every day for a week. After spending more than two months training, Kirkland arrived in France on August 21, 1917.
Like George Dock, Class of 1916, Kirkland was first stationed at Bar-Le-Duc. In October, he moved to La Grange aux Bois in the Argonne. During the war, he was also stationed in Haudainville, near the Verdun front, and in the Chateau-Thierry Sector during the allied offensive of August 1918. Kirkland seemed content with his noncombat role. He downplayed the risks of his position by joking that helmets were very handy for preventing bumping one’s head and regretted that gas masks were not necessary in his region because they gave one “a snappy appearance.” In November 1917 all of Kirkland’s ambulance work was ferrying the wounded to hospitals behind the line, so he could easily pen these jokes to comfort his anxious family.
|Kirkland's Alumni War Record|
Kirkland comforted himself throughout the war with these intellectual pursuits, but at the end of the war, the joy of the Armistice was coupled with the distressing news of the death of his good Dartmouth friend, Harold Bridgman Stedman, Class of 1916, who contracted influenza and died in a training camp at Fort Slocum, New York. Reminded so recently of the human costs of war, Kirkland greeted the news of the Armistice with an increased determination that the peace should be a righteous one that would “purge our minds of prejudices and hate.” Though most of the allied countries held the Germans in contempt and called them “Brute, Barbarians, and Huns,” Kirkland believed that their sins were sins of the mind that could be remedied through education, not sins of the heart.
Kirkland, who at the beginning of the war disapproved of the conflict and saw it as the result of irresponsible militarist governments, admitted, “I have changed my view, you see, since I entered the army. The war was necessary and just and righteous in order to overthrow a pernicious philosophy, the philosophy of brute force.” Kirkland believed that the war could usher in a new era of peace, or at least a time where war would be less common. He was concerned, though, that “America was as unprepared for peace as she had been for war” and that if a spirit of vindictiveness prevailed at peace talks, the great suffering on both sides would have been for nothing. As an ambulance driver Kirkland knew intimately the human suffering caused by war, and was “not anxious for another war.” He considered the ideologies at stake and ultimately agreed with Wilson that fighting “a war to end all wars” was justifiable. Kirkland, however, lived to see WWII. After completing his PhD course at Harvard, he taught history for many years at Bowdoin College.
Written by Ellen Nye '14.
This Series: During World War I, 3,407 Dartmouth men were uprooted from campus, graduate school, or their early careers to serve in a modern war unlike any previous American military engagement. Four of them, Harold Pinkham ’15, George Dock ’16, Edward Kirkland ’16, and Wainwright Merrill ’19, left records of their war experience in the Rauner Special Collections Library. All four matched the demographics of the College at the time and were united by their experiences at progressive prewar Dartmouth, but despite their somewhat similar backgrounds, their personalities were quite different. Their stories speak to the diverse beliefs, experiences, and sources of comfort of Dartmouth men involved in World War I.
Edward C. Kirkland ’16
Bellows Falls, Vermont
Private First Class, Section Sanitaire Americaine No. 510
Ask for Rauner Alumni K635l.
1Joseph M. Larimer, “Voice of the People.” The Dartmouth: November 9, 1915.
2Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, June 3, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
4Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, July 1, 1917. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library.
5Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, June 24, 1917. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
6Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, July 1, 1917. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
8Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, February 1, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
9Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, January 11, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
10Kirkland, Edward C. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919, “Dear Ma and Pa,” February 17, 1918.
11Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, November 13, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
13Charles Wood, The Hill Winds Know Their Name: A Guide to Dartmouth’s War Memorials. Hanover N.H.: Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs, 2001, 6.