Baylor Wings Club
College and universities were built to help educate more individuals in preparation for future careers. Students are an essential part of a university and without them, schools would be left without purpose. Due to the large number of men and women who left to serve in World War II, schools had to find ways to keep students’ incorporated within the university. The United States supported all of the soldiers who went to war and Baylor University also stood behind their students who temporarily left to defend their country. The Baylor Wings Club, a student organization founded during World War II, was successful in helping military soldiers continue to maintain an identity as a Baylor student through constant communication, student initiatives, and fundraising efforts.
As many young men and women were attending college from 1941-1950, there was an event that interrupted the education of many of these individuals. America’s decision to enter into World War II had a significant impact on college students. The United States’ entrance in WWII occurred when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. Many of the men and women who were attending college during this time had to postpone their education to serve their country.
Seventy years later, the exact number of Baylor students who served in WWII is still unclear. There are a variety of reasons why this might be. One reason for unclear numbers is the many branches of the military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. Together these five branches are known as the U.S. Armed Forces. Secondly, at one point in 1943 the They Daily Lariat stated, “And out of the unsettled situation came the government’s voice telling collegians that they could do their government a favor by staying in school, that they would be called when needed. Reserve programs were introduced, allowing students to continue their education in preparation for future service as officers.” (Daily Lariat, 1943). Given this information, exact numbers of students who served in the war is uncertain.
However, reports were made periodically through The Daily Lariat of military recruitment at Baylor University. Baylor trained hundreds of men for the Navy within the years of 1942-1944. Each term 75 to 100 students were sent through training and underwent aviation training at the local Waco airport (Daily Lariat, 1944, July 21). Approximately 500 additional men were expected to enroll into a reserve program. Reports were made that almost the entire male student body was enrolled in a reserve program by 1943 (Daily Lariat, 1943). This is not an exhaustive list of the students who went off or were trained at Baylor, rather it displays the wide variety of soldiers and their roles during the war.
Founding of Baylor Wings Club
The general purpose of a student organization is to create a community of individuals who share the same interests, values, and goals in a specific area. Students who went to serve in WWII faced difficulty because they were taken out of their environment at Baylor University and placed in locations that may have been foreign to them. Eighteen Baylor men who were in air corps had an idea to create an organization for all students in aviation to aid in the transition.
The Baylor Wings Club was founded right after the war began by the eighteen Baylor men who were in the original group to first go into the air corps from Baylor. The organization was first composed of any Baylor man or woman who was a flyer or connected to aviation during WWII (Martin, 1943). Lieutenant W. J. Grumbles, a star on the Baylor football team, was elected president of Baylor Wings Club. He later became a flight commander and was stationed in California while writing newsletters to the members. The officers were Lt. Floyd. Colley, Lt. C. H. Scott, and Captain Yancey Smith Tarrant (Daily Lariat, 1942). Mrs. Anna Y. Martin, an associate professor of psychology at Baylor, was the main sponsor of the club. She received her A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) form North Texas Teachers College and her A.M. (Master of Arts) degree from Baylor University. She decided to become a sponsor for the Club after talking with Lieutenant W. J. Grumbles about boosting morale among those in the military (Round-Up, 1944).
The Baylor Wings Club worked hard to jumpstart their student organization. Mrs. Martin sent out letters to all Baylor men and women in the service and asked them to send a picture of themselves with a brief write up of their training, accomplishments, promotions, and location. Students in the service who wanted to join the club had to pay $4 a year to receive updated newsletters from Mrs. Martin and the officers. These newsletters included profiles of all the Baylor Wings Club members. Members who were serving in the war were grateful for these newsletters because they could keep in touch with their classmates (Martin, 1942).
As Baylor Wings Club began to grow, the officers created new initiatives to promote greater awareness about their organization. Articles about the club were featured regularly in The Daily Lariat to show students what the organization was doing (Daily Lariat, 1942). Also, as an effort to keep Baylor students on campus updated about their classmates around the world, information of the military students’ whereabouts was released to The Daily Lariat so the rest of the student body was informed (Daily Lariat, 1944, November 10).
Another way that Baylor Wings Club created a presence was through broadcasting on a radio station. A radio station was donated by Carr P. Collins to Baylor University in 1943. The Club had secured a spot on the station every Monday from 4:05-4:30 PM. Grumbles used this segment to share stories and locations of soldiers. In the newsletters that went out to the soldiers Grumbles requested ideas for what to put on the air. The first airing was given by Major (Speed) Scott, a Wings Club officer, and during the show he introduced the organization and its purpose (Martin, 1943).
Baylor also wanted to keep the Wings Club members updated with campus happenings. The club would occasionally send out a copy of The Daily Lariat to all its members. In addition, the Lariat staff worked to create a couple of “Military” Edition style newspapers that was dedicated to the men and women in service. These editions contained all WWII related happenings and events both on campus and around the world. Baylor Wings Club members appreciated the copies of this military editions as one soldier wrote:
A few days ago I received the “Military Edition” of the Baylor Lariat. Needless to say, I enjoyed reading it immensely. I wish to thank you and all who made this edition possible for me to read . . . One of these days I hope to return to Baylor and finish my education. It has been 14 months since I have caught a glimpse of the old Baylor campus. I would give a small fortune to be able to walk across it today. Please tell all my friends who knew me that I am well—and I hope to see them soon (Between the Lines, Daily Lariat, 1944, p. 2).
By 1942, Baylor Wings Club grew to 300 aviation students. These members were located around the world as The Daily Lariat stated, “Baylor flyers are in the Royal Air Force of England, in the Canadian Air Force, in the Philippines, in Hawaii, in Columbia, Guatemala, in Australia, Africa, California, Pensacola—everywhere, north and south, east and west as far as there is an east and a west” (Daily Lariat, 1942).
The Baylor Wings Club started to receive more and more interest from other military students who were not in aviation. Claude Cox, a student who was stationed in California, read about the club and wrote to Mrs. Martin, “It is awfully nice to be able to read about the fellows, what they are doing, where they are. The names do bring back a lot of memories. As I said, no wings on me. Strictly a foot soldier in the infantry, but I am interested in receiving the letter from the Wings Club” (Cox, 1944). From this, the officers decided to open the club to all Baylor military students. Although it is unclear why, the organization decided to stick with the title of Baylor Wings Club even though it was open to all military students. By 1943 the Club had grown to include over 500 current and past students with various service positions from captains to lieutenants to soldiers (Round-Up, 1943).
Communication between the officers and the student members was consistent and plentiful. The officers of Baylor Wings Club wrote letters to the members about their experiences and also brainstormed ideas for the future of their organization. Often students serving in the war would find time to write back to the officers and Mrs. Martin with their vision of the club. Many members were passionate in implementing a “Life Membership” title for those who paid $100 in dues to help carry on the club once the war concluded (Grumbles, 1943). Other Baylor soldiers wrote to Grumbles, “We’ve seen several Baylor men since we’ve been out here; the old school is certainly furnishing her share of men to win this war.” And another, “Phil Maros writes in from North Africa and gives some splendid ideas for our first homecoming after the war” (1943). The constant communication among the members and officers of the club helped them maintain an identity as a student to their institution while temporarily being away from Baylor.
Mrs. Martin and the members who were physically present at Baylor University took time to create a room in the Psychology building to represent the group. The room was explained to its members:
“The walls are being painted blue with series of silver wings. On the walls are dozens of pictures of every kind of army and navy aircraft, all of the pictures having been sent in by the boys. There are also pictures of boys who have lost their lives in crash, accident or actual combat, and in one corner are found pictures of officers and other Baylorites in the service” (Daily Lariat, 1944, September 26, p. 1).
The Wings Club president, also wrote to the members in one of his letters, “We’re putting clippings, scrap books, V-mail letter, etc., on the side walls. We have a real propeller with frazzled tips that adorns the front of the room. Please send in anything from Africa, New Guinea, Berlin, Tokyo, anywhere, to put up as souvenirs” (Grumbles, 1943). In addition, a member sent in a shoulder patch from the famous Dwight D. Eisenhower and another sent in a foreign bill with the signature of a notable military representative. The club then created an initiative called “Vipers” which stood for Very Important People. The idea was to fill the Wings Club room with monetary bills from around the world with signatures of important leaders (Martin, 1944). Much effort was put into making a personalized physical space at Baylor for the Wings Club members to symbolically have a place to call home.
As the war continued, Baylor Wings Club continued to grow and peaked at 3,000 members (Daily Lariat, 1949). In 1942 the club had an idea to erect lamp posts on campus to remember all of the students who lost their lives during the war. Each post would cost $250 to install. Mrs. Martin describes this idea to the members:
The lamps are a composition stone made of red granite which harmonizes the base of the Judge Baylor Monument. The light fixture is enclosed by a heavy, diamond-mesh crystal globe which is supported by aluminum brackets. Each lamp has an aluminum plaque at eye-level in the shape of a shield bearing their name of the individual memorialized and the principal donor or the memorial (Round-Up, 1945, p. 259).
Jack Hamm, a Baylor student, designed the lampposts for Baylor Wings Club. The club wanted to place these lamp posts between Pat Neff Hall and Waco Hall because they felt the path was the center of campus.
The members of Baylor Wings Club sought to make the club their own. With this idea of the lamp posts Grumbles explained, “It would be easier to ask some one person to finance this whole plan [to purchase the lamp posts]. But this is our business. These are our classmates we are honoring. I would not accept money from Baylor. Baylor backs this plan to the last person but it is our (The Wings Club) project.” (Martin, 1944). The members worked hard to come together as an organization to raise funds despite being displaced from one another. Students of Baylor Wings Club would mail in additional funds beyond their membership dues to aid in financing the lamp posts. Parents of Baylor soldiers and students on campus also donated money for the efforts (Martin, 1944).
The fundraising efforts of everyone involved paid off. Mrs. Martin on behalf of the entire Baylor Wings Club wrote a check to Baylor University for $6,905 which was to go to installing the lamp posts (Business Office, 1945). 125 Baylor men and women lost their lives during WWII. By 1945, 50 lamp posts were successfully unveiled at Baylor University (Round-Up, 1945). The remaining 75 lamps were order and arrived on September 1st, 1946 (Daily Lariat, 1946). In addition, in October of 1946 a dedication was held for all of the Baylor men and women in the service who had lost their lives. This service included scripture, an address, and presentation of all memorial lamps (Memorial Service, 1946).
Despite the hard times that the United States and those in the service were undergoing during the war, students were able to find a way to remain integrated at Baylor University. The Wings Club allowed individuals to maintain their identity as a student while serving in the war. The sense of community engendered by this organization was clearly seen within the interactions between the members through letters, creative ideas, and collaboration with the rest of the Baylor family. Through these efforts, young people were able to thrive in their environment as both a student of their institution and a member of the US military while creating lasting means of purpose with other members.
1200 Baylorites Receive Club News Letter From Their ‘Pin-Up Lady’ Every Month. (1944, November 10). The Daily Lariat.
Between the Lines. (1944, September 26). The Daily Lariat.
Business Office (1945, January 19). [Letter to Mrs. Martin]. Baylor Wings Club Collection (BU News & Service–Military, E203, Correspondence McKnight) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Cox, C. M. (1944, February 13). [Letter to Mrs. Martin]. Baylor Wings Club Collection (BU News & Service–Military, E203, Miscellaneous) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Four-Hundred and Sixty-Seven Days Ago. (1943, April 16). The Daily Lariat
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Grumbles is President. (1942, May 7). The Daily Lariat.
Grumbles, W. J. (1943, October). [Baylor Wings Club members]. Baylor Wings Club Collection (BU News & Service—Military, E203, Baylor Newsletters 1943) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
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Lamp Posts (1946, August, 8). The Daily Lariat.
Lamp posts on Campus Stand as Memorials to Ex-Students. (1949, November 29). The Daily Lariat.
Martin, C. (1942, May 20). [Letter to Baylor Wings Club]. Baylor Wings Club Collection (BU News & Service–Military, E203, General Info) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Martin, C. (1943, March 5). [Letter to Baylor Wings Club]. Baylor Wings Club Collection (BU News & Service–Military, E204, Miscellaneous) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Martin, C. (1944, April 15). [Letter to Baylor Wings Club]. Baylor Wings Club Collection (BU News & Service–Military, E204, Miscellaneous) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Memorial Service (1946). Honoring Baylor Men and Women Who Gave Their Lives in World War II. Baylor Wings Collection (BU News & Services—Military, E204, Commemorative Lamps and Citations) The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.
Naval Aviation Cadets Trained During Year. (1944, July 21). The Daily Lariat
Wood, J. W., Wallace, J. (Ed.) (1944). The Round-Up. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.