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reed magazine logoAutumn 2007

CHANGES ON THE HOME FRONT and beyond

The men weren’t the only ones on the move. Wriggins and a friend left Reed for the Kaiser shipyards in Oakland, California, for a summer, getting solid wages for putting finishing touches on liberty ships; Dorothy Schumann Stearns ’45 did the same in Vancouver, Washington.

The ensuing changes in gender roles had a profound effect for some, including Lu Ann Williams Darling ’42. During her junior and senior years she worked part-time as a student intern at the Portland Civil Service Board. By spring 1942, the three male technicians in the office had been drafted and her responsibilities had increased.
Earlier, she had met her future husband, Dick Darling, there. “Like many wartime things, it was not a normal courtship,” she said. “We had a few dates, then he had to report. We came to an understanding before he left—in a car near a garbage dump in Southwest Portland. I got engaged by mail, the ring came in an envelope.”

They were married in June 1943 in Eliot chapel. Although his service did not involve combat, he contracted a disease in the Philippines that left him with a damaged kidney and extensive cardiovascular problems. Thereafter, he was unable to work for long stretches. He died in 1985.

“He was a war casualty, but not from combat,” Darling said. She became a human resources professional to support the family. “I had grown up expecting to be a good wife and support my mate,” she said. “Leaving Reed, my goal was to do something better than clerical work. In my senior year, the only job I was offered was statistical clerk at the gas company. So, had it not been for the war and the draft, no lucky break. It was not good for my husband, but it was good for me.”

Charlene Welsh Miller ’42 married her college sweetheart, Frank Miller ’43, and saw him shipped off to the South Pacific as an army medic. Charlene worked at the Willamette shipyards in the medical office, an experience that opened the native Portlander’s eyes to the disproportionate share of injuries incurred by recently arrived African American factory workers.

She also experienced the war vicariously through the ruminations of her husband, who died in 2006. The memories remain fresh from his letters home, which she has saved for seven decades. “He was very philosophical,” she said. “When he wrote those letters, some were musing on life in general, and some were about life after he came home.”

Frank, a dedicated Roman Catholic, wrote these words to his wife on July 8, 1944: “We just heard of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews being shipped to Poland and killed. I have no words for it. It’s too hideous to think about it, but we have to think about it.” He went on to say that “America still isn’t free of this disease” of anti-Semitism that impelled “the Nazi madmen” to commit genocide. “Little people stay at home, fix their drinks, bid two hearts, and tell the one about the Jewish businessman.”

“That was the time when it dawned on me that we were part of the world and not just part of Portland,” Charlene said. “It was a [great change] as far as an awareness of the world and the universe and how it works and why it works.”

Another Reedite who dedicated his later years to writing memoirs is Harris Dusenbery ’36. Now 93, the Vancouver resident was a 29-year-old father when he enlisted with the 10th Mountain Division, an elite unit that saw savage fighting in Italy’s Northern Apennines.

“The fighting, for short periods, was extremely intense, and then you had long periods with nothing to do,” he wrote. “When you’re actually in combat, it so concentrates your attention, though you’re not only concerned about yourself. The rifle squad is a very cohesive unit—they’re people you’ve been living with and are most intimately involved with, and now you’re involved in this fight with them.”

Memoirist Louise Steinman believes that even now, a lifetime later, war-fighting so divides those who have lived through it from the realm of normal human experience, that Dusenbery’s droll recollection that combat “concentrates your attention” may be as close as one can ever get to describing it. “For many veterans who saw combat, it forever separates them from people who haven’t,” she said. “Nothing is going to change the primacy of that experience, and that sacrifice, and the kind of bonding they went through.”

Reed students and graduates killed in World War II

Wayne W. Campbell
Robert W. Carlson
Phillip H. Carroll Jr.
Harry F. Chan, AMP
Warner Clark Jr.
William L. Dickenson
Glenn W. Ditto
Earl M. Erickson
Jesse H. Flowers Jr., AMP
Walter A. Ford
William W. Fordyce
Richard W. Gill
Maurice Gourley
John L. Gullette
Robert W. Hanna
Clyde M. Harlow
Willard P. Hawley, AMP
George R. Hogshire
Edwin O. Johnson
Ralph Keeney
Robert E. Lucas
Macgregor Martin
Vance I. McCormick
Walter E. McKay
Bruce A. McKean
Ned R. McKrill
John R. Meldrum
Jack A. Mundell
George P. Noble
Gerald E. Phillips
William C. Powell Jr., AMP
John T. Quillin
Ian S. Raeburn
Richard F. Scholz
John B. Steven
Henry E. Shields, AMP
C. Ulrich Vail
Harold R. Weinstein

Note: Class years have not been included, since many of those who died in World War II did not graduate and cannot be assigned presumptive graduation years.

These names appear on a memorial plaque in Eliot Hall designed by architect Pietro Belluschi.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2007