Rock of the Marne: Ulysses G. McAlexander

via the Meandering through the Prologue web site

bg mcalexander 180th bgUlysses Grant McAlexander late in WWI as a brigadier general.The Centenary of World War One has come and gone. A few books published, but mostly, no special remembrances occurred that garnered much attention here in the U.S. compared to Europe. Of course, the First World War affected Europe much harsher and for a much longer period than the United States. The war dragged on for a little over four long years Over There with America only involved for a little more than the last year and a half.

One American who did stand out was Ulysses G. McAlexander, nicknamed “Rock of the Marne” for his leadership in one of the earliest battles American forces did fight.

Great War in American Memory

One could fairly say that the Great War might have been the signal event of the 20th Century – it certainly was of the early part. Without WWI, would there have been a WWII? Fascism? Communism? A Holocaust? Universal suffrage here and abroad? Or would the old monarchies have held on and the 19th century continued a bit longer?

The war brought the United States onto the World stage in a big way, as well – first as banker and supplier and second as an enthusiastic participant. The U.S. involved just long enough to get bloodied a bit and demonstrate the power of its economic might. And then, America tried to turn her back on the World, being successful for a number of years until WWII caused a refocus.

World War One was a big event for the United States at the time of the war and during the interwar period. From a prewar Army consisting of only 100,000 men – with another 120,000 in a National Guard that just stepped away from its State militia days as a State militia, some four million men mobilized with almost two million men reaching Europe by the summer of 1918. One million of those served on the frontlines. Those who died – 110,000 of whom 45,000 died of the Spanish flu – and those who served remembered well.

Great War Comes to Oregon State

That is, until December 4, 1941. The Second World War dwarfed the first horrible conflagration to the point that memory dimmed. And so even here at Oregon State, people forgot. Forgot that many Oregon Staters served, were wounded or died. Over 1,400 signed up and over 50 died with many more suffering wounds. One Beaver wounded in France, Douglas McKay, went on to become the Governor of Oregon. Another, honored with the Medal of Honor, Edward Allworth, played a prominent role in erecting the Memorial Union Building. He served as the manager for thirty years.

That brings us to Oregon State’s most famous individual involved with the Great War – Ulysses Grant McAlexander. We might be familiar with the McAlexander Fieldhouse. set off from Jefferson Way across from the Valley Library. Students may be more familiar with the sports courts within the old Armory. That was the original name until 1971. The building renamed in the old general’s honor and renovated by the university for intramural sports.

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