The wartime era—from the tense period of overseas suffering before
America joined the fight, through the four grim years of “our” war
that ended with victory over Germany and Japan, to the sudden and
dramatic changes to domestic economy and interpersonal relations that
came with peace—was a time of momentous change for Reed and
Reedites. The “date which will live in infamy” abruptly
settled the campus version of a national debate on the merits of American
involvement in what had been, until then, a strictly foreign war.
Less than a decade later, tremendous feats of destruction, sacrifice,
cruelty, and heroism had wrenched a largely local student population
still worn out from the Depression into the swirl of global upheaval.
The war sent Reed men (and some women) to the ends of the embattled
earth, and left some of them behind in simple soldiers’ graves;
the war brought hundreds of young recruits to campus in uniform, and
eventually sent waves of veterans to college; and the war opened hitherto-unimagined
avenues of professional training and income-earning for women, then
sent many of them unceremoniously back into the home to care for their
Reedites were soldiers, sailors, and bombardiers. They were anxious
wives, sisters, and girlfriends of servicemen. They were shipyard
workers, secret agents, bureaucrats, women pilots, and relief workers.
They were Japanese-American internees, corralled with their families
to harsh camps in the inland West. They made maps, charted weather,
drove ambulances, guarded POWs, and helped build the atom bomb. They
were reluctant draftees and eager volunteers. They were Jews who had
fled the Nazis and then went back to fight them, and they were pioneers
of American skiing who fought harsh mountain campaigns. They were
just like the rest of America, but they passed through Reed during
a pivotal time.
The war forced the college to govern itself on an emergency footing
and to scramble for financial survival, emerging as a more energized,
nationally minded institution of liberal arts higher education. As
peace settled back upon the United States, Reed continued to undergo
profound transformations, with intellectual tumult, tectonic demographic
shifts, intense politics, and an evolving ethos of self-reliant academic
focus. What emerged was a singular and single-minded emanation of
left: A wartime ad in the Griffin. Above: Muriel Reichart ’46, Betty
and Jay Maling ’47 collect books to send to the troops overseas.