WW II MEMORIES
From Chuck Pomeroy '49
I remember Jim Walsh and his wife, Carol Jean [World War II and Reed, November '99]. We three were the only members of a class in sociology taught by Dave French in 1949. Jim's letter of April 9, 1944, caused the emergence of a host of wartime memories.
Despite a fervent desire to see action in the air war, various factors, which together probably saved my life, delayed matters. I finally got into the war and arrived at the 419th Night Fighter Squadron stationed in the Philippines just hours after the squadron had returned from its last mission of the war! I was terribly disappointed and realized full well that I might be the last U.S. officer off the island-a penal and leper colony-where the 419th was stationed. I asked the CO to transfer me back to the states, mentioning my attitude was poor and declining daily. He explained that my desperation was slight compared to his as he had been in the South Pacific theater for over three years. My experiences getting home would fill another page. I'll sum them up by writing that I was well treated and entertained wherever I found myself.
From Betty Jean "B.J." Perry Fox '45
I am glad that my class did get to enjoy a few months of normal Reed life before December 7, 1941, because the next three and a half years until our graduation were certainly different.
My admiration is great for the financial who and how that managed to keep the college going-by dipping into reserve funds, I suppose. Also, having the Army premeteorology cadets stationed here for a year surely helped a lot.
My recollection is that as our young men were called up in the service, Reed's enrollment decreased to not much more than 100. Even so, the college kept its outstanding faculty. Thus in the midst of wartime our handful of students had the unique experience of attending unbelievably small classes. Meanwhile, life on campus changed a lot. Our student body was mostly feminine, so there was little dating. "Dances" were in the student union building, to the music of a penny jukebox. Gas rationing kept us on campus most of the time. Daydodgers came by bus. There were empty tables in the commons. I came across what was left of my wartime ration book, and I will enclose some of the coupons out of it. During the school year we turned our ration books over to Miss Brownlee, director of the commons, and my recollection is that she made excellent meals with the restricted supplies.
For two years I served as treasurer of the student body, not an elected honor but a job I was paid for. Later I was president of the 30-or-so members of the class of '45-because no one else would do it. And then came graduation. I was shocked to receive an award from the economics department. The truth is that economics was a major usually chosen by men, but they had all gone to war. I was the only one who took it that year.
Three months later the war was over. The enrollment filled up with returning G.I.s, and our beloved Reed survived and thrived. The unique situation we lived through almost 60 years ago has become just an obscure part of history.
He points out that in World War II "Fifteen million Americans did not `volunteer'. . . . They could go in the service-when called-or damn well go to jail." His statement is accurate only if you define "services" as military service.
If you could convince a draft board that you were conscientiously opposed to all wars, you would be classified 4-E. You would still be drafted but into "Civilian Public Service" to do "civilian work of national importance." I spent three-and-a-half years in CPS doing Forest Service work. I do not remember meeting any other Reed graduate there.
This claim was repeated ad nauseam by our political leaders about our war of atrocities committed in Serbia. "Our" purpose there was not the salvation of human lives, but the destruction of a country through the deliberate targeting of the civilian infrastructure and the civilian population. The Geneva Convention is clear on this matter_these acts constitute war crimes.
The massive and wasteful military, gobbling up near half of all domestic spending, has kept America on a wartime budget that is strangling crucial domestic programs. Increasing poverty and child mortality, the growing gap between rich and poor, the massive number of people we imprison, the lack of medical care for millions, and the dismantling of the social safety net are among the many American shames perpetuated by these same elites whose motivation is quite simple: greed. War is good business, as is global domination.
What Reed College "owes" to this disgusting state of affairs is to educate its students to think critically about the dark and seamy realities of the American military juggernaut, and to not accept at face value the pronouncements of those in power about their role in our lives.
MORE ON SECRETARY DANZIG
Regarding David B. Tyler's assertion that Mr. Danzig is profoundly ignorant of military history, particularly regarding WW II, I can only advise him to re-read the article more carefully. Mr. Danzig honors those who served, either voluntarily or compulsorily (there were both, Mr. Tyler, and even the draftees served honorably); I believe his point is that the current geopolitical environment is much more complex today and less likely to galvanize the nation into voluntary, universal action.
I believe Mr. Danzig is right, that Reed College could produce terrific officers for our military. I've been pleased to find in my fellow citizens in uniform at the Pentagon some of the most brilliant people I've ever met. They are also deeply concerned for the welfare of those young men and women whom our nation's leadership sends in harm's way. Reed graduates would fit in nicely. Cri-tical thinking is always welcome.