In April 1918 the Department of Engineering began to provide vocational training to soldiers as part of the Section “B” (vocational) program, instructing in auto mechanics and auto driving, radio operation, electrician training, machinist training, blacksmithing, bench work, general carpentry, sheet metal working, and welding. A total of 1,580 men were trained between April 15 and November 1, 1918. The groups received eight weeks of training, and the classes numbered, at their highest point, 726 students. The five hundred auto mechanics and driving students in each class were housed, fed, and instructed at the Exposition Buildings (National Conservation Exposition of 1913) at Chilhowee Park. An unused school building housed 150 more, and a vacated factory near the university was rented to care for the rest. Considerable numbers of men were instructed at Estabrook Hall. The vocational program was folded into the Students’ Army Training Corps, and UT signed contracts with the War Department to train about 3,300 men, to be sent in lots of 835 for two-month periods. These were the Fighting Mechanics. UT was the only institution in Tennessee to provide “B” section instruction.
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