In 1920, the primary method of communicating the new Society of American Military Engineers was its journal: The Military Engineer.
From 1909-1919, the Corps of Engineers had published Professional Memoirs, which addressed topics mainly of interest to those in the Corps and did not often cover engineering matters of a broader nature. It, also, in late 1919, was facing financial challenges as well as emerging regulations constraining government entities from publishing their own periodical. A change was coming.
Those who founded SAME (primarily engineering leaders of the Corps) seized the opportunity. They leveraged the subscriber list of Professional Memoirs, transformed its editorial purpose, changed its title and design, and distributed it to existing subscribers carrying the message of the new Society.
The new magazine flourished. Advertising pages in the first issue totaled 13 pages; by the close of 1920 that number had reached 35. Notable military and American leaders penned articles on the status of the post-war environment and shared their views on political and military subjects; veterans of The Great War provided first-hand accounts of their experiences in Europe; engineers addressed challenges on the home front such as flood risk management and mapping; and Society leaders communicated the purpose and objectives of the new organization, recruited members, and championed the concept of Posts, all within its pages.
As was reflected in the September-October 1920 issue of The Military Engineer: “To fulfill our mission of promoting the National Defense, an organization of some kind, a society, was essential. And to maintain a national society, whose membership is scattered from coast to coast, some organ of communication, a live and up-to-date journal, was likewise essential.”
Since its inception, The Military Engineer has kept members informed both on a technical level and a personal level. Articles written about engineering projects and lessons learned are penned by those directly involved in the work. These from-the-field perspectives give an authenticity to the magazine, which has endured for a century. Additionally, notes from Post events and activities gave coverage to what members contributed through their interactions in the Society, whether that be networking/market research, professional development, or volunteerism in the local community.
The Military Engineer spread the impact that the new SAME was having—and in doing so helped the Society grow quickly and gain the attention of many influential leaders during its early years.
The Society of American Military Engineers is now 100. Founded in 1920, in the interests of patriotism and national security, the organization has never wavered from a vow to support the needs of the United States and strengthen the profession of engineering. As was stated in the inaugural issue of The Military Engineer a century ago: “this Society will serve no selfish purpose.”
The genesis of SAME was born from the lessons of World War I, and the realization of those who went “over there” that the engineering community was unprepared for what was confronted. That prescient leadership would prove invaluable, as “The War to End All Wars” was anything but.
During 2020, the Society is celebrating a century of service to the nation through local and national events, programs and special activities, and coverage in print and online. At Bricks & Clicks, we will be publishing information from the TME archives, capturing the growth of SAME and the emergence of engineering and technology on the world’s stage. Follow and contribute using #SAME100.