By Brenda Burk

In April 1917, the United States entered the Great War.  To mark the 100th anniversary, the Clemson University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives looks back at Clemson’s response to the United States’ entry in the Great War that had been entrenched in Europe for nearly three years.  It includes an overview of the war experiences of Clemson students, alumni, faculty, and staff, as well as the Army and Navy training programs that took place on campus, the hiring of the College’s first women faculty members and the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. 

The war experiences of Thomas S. Buie, Class of 1917, are examined in more detail through his letters and photographs.  Thomas Buie left Clemson with several dozen classmates shortly before graduation to attend Reserve officer Training Camp at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia. They trained in both old and new methods of warfare, particularly fighting from trenches.   He went on to train at Camp Jackson in Columbia and Camp Sevier near Spartanburg before being sent overseas.  Buie served on the front lines in France until the war ended.

“We are simply taking things easy, nothing much to worry about, keep on the alert at all times in case anything does happen. I have not heard half a dozen shots all day… You should see me eating all kinds of things. We had boiled rice with bacon (a regular mush) and you should have seen me eating it. Also any kind of jam is good, am not at all particular. You should see me going around in my trenches at night, of course we move very carefully for fear of being heard. This war will teach us the uselessness of many things – such as flash lights, beds and many other things”   -- Thomas S. Buie, At the Front, Oct. 2, 1918

After the war Thomas Buie remained in France and England for several months. After returning to the U.S., he earned a PhD in Agronomy, eventually working at Clemson and later as director of the Soil Conservation Service Southeastern Regional Office and one of the founders of the Soil Conservation Society of America.

If in the Clemson area, please visit the exhibit located on the 3rd level lobby in the R.M. Cooper Library, 116 Sigma Dr., Clemson, SC (map and directions) through May 15, 2017.


Clemson University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives is a portal to the past, present, and future.  It documents the past by collecting items of historical significance to the University and community, making them accessible in the present and preserving them for research needs of the future.  Special Collections and Archives continues to build a premier research collection of primary resources regardless of format (paper, photographs, digital, analog, and 3-dimensional), as well as rare books, that supports Clemson University’s teaching and research needs. The collection includes a particular emphasis on agriculture, architecture, politics, the National Park Service and tourism, community and university history.  Special Collections and Archives creates an environment of discovery and engagement with these holdings that encourages scholarly inquiry, creative thinking and lifelong learning.  They work closely with courses in utilizing primary research materials, as well as providing public programming and working with local cultural heritage institutions.


Thomas S. Buie letter from the front lines of France during World War I.
Thomas S. Buie letter from the front lines during World War I. Image courtesy of Clemson University Libraries' Special Collections and Archives.