During World War I, the French "Chasseurs Alpins" were soldiers trained in alpine combat, native to the French Alps region. Because of their distinctive blue uniform, with a blue cape and beret, they were nicknamed "les Diables Bleus", translated as "the Blue Devils." They first entered the public spotlight for their courage in the March 1915 Vosges Campaign. Units of the French Chausseurs Alpins toured the United States, helping to promote the war effort. In 1918, Irving Berlin wrote a song honoring them, "The Blue Devils of France," with the lyrics, "He's a devil dressed in blue / And a soldier through and through ... Strong and active, most attractive / Are the Blue Devils / They came here the Liberty Loan to advance."
In 1920, Trinity College (the former name of Duke University) began intercollegiate competition in football. That first year, the team was simply known as the Trinity Eleven, the Blue and White, or the Methodists (nearby Wake Forest University's team was called the Baptists). In 1921, the student newspaper, the Trinity Chronicle, started a campaign for a "catchy name, one of our own possession that would be instantly recognizable nationwide in songs, yells and publicity." Nominations included Catamounts, Grizzlies, Badgers, and Captains. Many nominations used the traditional school colors of dark blue and white, such as Blue Eagles, Blue Devils, Blue Titans, and Blue Warriors. None of the nominations won strong favor, and the year ended without official selection of a name.
The class leaders of the Class of 1923 decided to simply select a name for their senior year. The editors of the Trinity Chronicle newspaper simply began referring to the athletic teams as the Blue Devils. With the war fresh in everyone's memories, the name needed no explanation. Although the name was somewhat unpopular and controversial on the Methodist campus, there was no opposition, even from the university administration. Eventually, the name caught on.
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