REED HOME Gryphon icon
Feature Story
reed magazine logoAutumn 2007

Dorothy Davenhill Hirsch ’52, who attended Reed after the war as one of a handful of female veterans, joined the Women’s Army Corps (the WACs) while working for the Soil Conservation Service in Portland. She served as a lieutenant at Camp San Luis Obispo, never getting overseas. But the experience has remained vivid for her: “I joined the army first of all to know the experience, and because we were all thoroughly patriotic,” she recalled. “Nobody was—there were people who did not wish to serve. But most everybody was, when I say enthusiastic, [they] felt obliged to enter into this war because it was a very important thing in our lives.”

Through it all, academic life went on. Deferment programs such as the Army Specialized Training Program and its navy counterparts allowed more than half-a-million college students to accelerate their studies and enter officer training, coming out as so-called “90-day wonders,” freshly minted junior officers whose status was sometimes viewed with derision by veteran enlisted men and noncommissioned officers.

These were popular options for many Reed students, and one offshoot—the Army Air Corps Pre-Meteorology program (AMP)—brought uniformed soldiers to campus for an intense stretch of scientific training, a move that helped provide financial support for the school during the lean war years (find online articles about the AMP program at www.reed.edu/reed_magazine/fall2007/).

1943 cartoon

Cartoon, 194344 AMP yearbook

Some Reed graduates went to war as quickly as they could. Many didn’t come back. Glenn Ditto ’41, who opposed U.S. involvement before Pearl Harbor, was one of the early casualties, as was Navy torpedo bomber pilot Ricky Scholz, whose father, Richard F. Scholz, was president of Reed from 1921 to 1924.

Hendrickson’s recollection of “working like hell to finish my thesis” strikes a timeless chord among Reedies. But the fact that he left specific instructions to the team of cleaning ladies not to disturb the papers strewn around the Winch dorm room he shared with Jack Dudman ’42 (who later became a math professor and dean of students)—even though the two of them were about to depart for military training—offers a glimpse of college life during war.

“The men just vanished,” recalled Sally Hovey Wriggins ’44. A rough estimate has 40 percent of the male student body leaving the campus by late 1942 to early 1943. Departing faculty included Noble, who took leave to chair the regional War Labor Board in Seattle. He joined the State Department in 1946. Munk left in 1941 to be director of training for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, returning to Reed after the war.

By May 1942, meanwhile, Reed’s small number of Japanese American students were gone, many interned with their families under Executive Order 9066. Hattie Kawahara Colton ’43, Midori Imai Oller ’42, Ruth Nishino Penfold ’43, and Gus Tanaka ’45 were among the 110,000 ethnic Japanese dispatched to harsh, isolated camps in the inland West. While there were protests in the Quest, and visits from professors and friends at the Portland Assembly Center, a converted stockyard that served as a transit point before internal exile, none returned to Reed after their uprooting.

Sewing sandbags on Canyon Day

Students sew up sandbags on Canyon Day, 194243.

“I had Japanese friends and I thought the whole business of taking the Japanese to camps was a terrible violation of everything we stood for,” Wriggins said.

Another wartime departure was far more welcome: the unpopular President Dexter Keezer left for Washington, D.C., in 1942 to become deputy administrator of the Office of Price Administration. Chemistry professor Arthur Scott stepped in as acting president, and along with physics professor A.A. Knowlton, they brought the war to campus in a patriotic and pragmatic move, securing the college a role in the Army Air Corps Pre-Meteorology program. The AMP was an accelerated academic endeavor that brought uniformed troops to the campus, saw the Woodstock Safeway converted to a barracks, and kept the college running nearly around the clock. The program also provided a financial boost that allowed the college to keep functioning.

“The faculty was down to bare bones,” M. Jeanne Hansen Gordner ’46 said in an interview. But the need to move male students through allowed little respite.

AT War

FRED C. SHORTER ’44

I was called up [for the draft] . . . and I remember long conversations with one of the faculty members at Reed, who was trying very hard to persuade me to accept. I said, “I’m just not going. I’m going to do something else with my life.” And I had no institutional religious affiliation, like a Jehovah’s Witness. I wasn’t even a Quaker, though I became one later. So I couldn’t beg out through religious belief. It was simply personal conviction. . . . I suppose, being a good Reed fellow, once I had convictions, there was no way to talk me out of them. So I remember the fateful day when I had to respond to the draft call, when I had to go down to the assembly building in Portland. . . . And I said that I wanted 4-F status or alternative service . . . and they said, “Nope. You’re going.” . . . A couple hours later, they called me in and told me, “You’re not fit for service. You’re physically unfit. You now have a 4-F” . . . I had some problems on my chest X-ray, which could have been the reason they did it. The other possible reason is that they didn’t like to have large numbers of objectors.. . . So I was free as a bird at that point to do it the way I wanted. But I still wanted to get out of college on the early run, just like the other fellows . . . I wanted to go and work with the problems created by the war.

M. JEANNE HANSEN GORDNER ’46

Army students would march across campus, counting cadence and singing as they marched to classes:

There are fairies in the garden every night
And they sing and they dance in the fair and starry light
When they’re sure no one’s looking
Then they open every rose
And sprinkle with the dewdrops
How they do it, no one knows

You couldn’t hear them singing the second [verse]. Then everyone would roar with laughter in the quad! So I have a pretty good idea what the second verse was about.

GENNY HALL SMITH ’43

It was either my senior or junior year when the United States entered the war. A lot of men students left. A number of women students also left, either to—well, they did all kinds of things. There was some recruiting for women to become pilots [Women’s Air Service Pilots—WASPs] . . . not combat planes, but to be ferry pilots, to pilot planes back and forth when they needed to. I remember a couple of the people I knew quit school to do that. I remember, at the time, I thought, what a crazy idea. What in the world are they doing that for? Later, I thought, how could I have been so stupid? What an opportunity! To learn to fly! Why was I so stupid?

SALLY WRIGGINS ’44

My friend Pat Beck [’44] and I got jobs in the shipyards in Oakland, California. We persuaded our parents that if we took a leave from school, we could work in the shipyards and earn a lot of money. She knew Alexander Schneider. . . who was the second violinist of the Budapest String Quartet. We used to go visit him during the intermissions . . . in those days, people dressed to the nines at the concerts, and they’d come up in their black, elegant clothes. And he would say, “These are my friends from the shipyards.” And we’d bare our arms and show the orange paint. So it was a great summer. We had a whale of a time going to concerts. And we had a whale of a time working in the shipyards.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2007