The YMCA played a big role in providing services for soldiers during WWI. During WWI the YMCA raised and spent over $155 million on welfare efforts for American soldiers and deployed over 25,000 staff in military units and bases from Siberia to Egypt to France. They took over the military’s morale and comfort operations worldwide (source: Wikipedia).
The postcard above shows an Army YMCA truck loaded with mail from soldiers to "the folks at home." This postcard is unused, but the YMCA postcard below does have a message on the back.
The sweetheart card was sent from Spartanburg, S. C., Wadsworth Br. a few days after the Armistice in November 1918.
Camp Wadsworth served as one of America's premier army mobilization centers from 1917 to 1919. A website memorializing the 100,000 soldiers who trained at Camp Wadsworth and the Spartanburg citizens who helped to make the installation a success describes the role of the YMCA in a chapter on Fighting Boredom: Life at Camp Wadsworth:
The United States government considered boredom to be one of the foremost enemies of soldiers in the training camps. It was feared that a soldier who was not properly entertained and morally educated would succumb to temptations of drink and debauchery. In order to prevent this, civilian and military officials sought to create a wholesome environment within each training camp that would keep the soldiers both mentally and physically healthy. The YMCA, YWCA, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board, and the Red Cross were the key agencies in this crusade for morality. All of these organizations opened up facilities in the training camps, with the YMCA being by far the most important participant. Government officials hoped that the soldiers would patronize these organizations within the camp instead of visiting the town saloon or brothel. Alcohol was completely band (sic) within a five mile radius of all training camps.
Camp Wadsworth's entertainment facilities were typical of World War I era army installations. Seven YMCA huts were eventually constructed within the camp. These buildings measured 40x113 feet and could each accommodate 5000 to 6000 soldiers. The Spartanburg Herald newspaper reported that "Every facility at the command of the Association will be brought to bear on this great problem of serving the men through athletics, indoor games, writing rooms, entertainment of various sorts, religious meetings, Bible classes, etc." Letter writing and group singing were among the most common activities promoted by the YMCA.
The video below tells about the YMCA in WWI by means of song and vintage images.
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