Reedites at War
The students sat together in the chapel on that Monday morning, the day after
the Japanese attack, mostly quiet, perhaps looking at each other or glancing
at the high ceiling, or lost in thought as they looked out the windows at
the wintry December sky. The voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only
president many of them had known since childhood, rang out from the radio.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in
infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately
attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Though the phrase is part of a larger historical record—it is
perhaps the quintessential sound bite of America’s march to
become a superpower—on that day it was just one among many responses
to a new and frightening future.
The ensuing convocation in the chapel stayed with Eleanor May ’45,
who recalled Professor Barry Cerf leading the gathering. She remembered
the scene vividly in a 2001 interview: “I’d been home
the day before, and so I already knew about it. But somehow it hadn’t
struck me until I was in this convocation with most of the student
body. I remember bursting into tears and running into that little
room. It seems funny, because nobody else was crying. I don’t
know why I had this thing about it, but anyway, I did.”
After the news broke, Ann Stearns Whitehead ’44 said, the atmosphere
on campus shifted abruptly, and abstract disagreements evaporated
almost overnight. “I hadn’t paid that much attention to
foreign policy and things that were happening. And I don’t know
that anybody else had a whole lot. It was tremendous discontinuity,
because here we were, in the midst of this kind of silly play thing.
And then suddenly we were at war. I remember everybody in the commons
was singing patriotic songs and the whole atmosphere shifted and the
draft suddenly became much more serious.”
The day after the big Doyle Owl party and the Japanese attack on the
Pacific fleet, Carroll Hendrickson ’42 and his cousin, Ames
Hendrickson ’48, were among the many Reed men who figured they
ought to act on their own before the army did it for them.
“My cousin Ames was in Eastport, and they had a big open house
that night, December 7,” Hendrickson recalled. “The day
after Pearl Harbor, December 8, Sam McCall [’42] and I didn’t
know what the hell to do. We’re calling around to the Chinese
consul to see if we can drive trucks on the Burma Road. We went to
the Royal Canadian Air Force office to see if we could join them.
We went to the Merchant Marines. They all said ‘no’ because
of what happened the day before at Pearl Harbor. ‘We don’t
know what the situation will be, so you’ll have to bide your
time.’” That was the universal response in a country newly
Fred Rosenbaum’s motivation for his early military career was
both savage and understandable. Rosenbaum, now 81 and battling cancer,
fled the Nazi conquest of Vienna in 1938, eventually landing with
a small cohort of Jewish refugees in the rough-and-tumble logging
town of Aberdeen, Washington. Though he wound up stationed in the
Philippines, away from most of the fighting, he volunteered for the
army, figuring to be a paratrooper and interpreter.
“I wanted to go to Europe,” he said in his oral history.
Listening to the interview, one hears a pause, and then Rosenbaum’s
voice softens. “God—I don’t know how to tell you
that. I wanted to kill as many Germans as I could get into rifle range.
I couldn’t wait to get going.”
Male students juggled their
studies and their draft notices after the U.S. entered the war.