Despite America's clarity of purpose in World War II, the horror of the war and its after math were a time during which, as the historian Stephen Ambrose said, it was "nearly impossible....to gain perspective." The scope of the war was staggering. Fifteen million Americans volunteered, and they served for three and a half years in a war that left more than 407,000 Americans dead. Reed's contribution was commensurate of the approximately 540 men who attended Reed from the classes of 1941 to 1944, 36 lost their lives in combat.
In important ways, though less dramatically, America remains involved in a worldwide struggle-preventing, or helping to right the balance in, many conflicts and their often long aftermath. We do this because of our concern for human rights, our economic interest, and our long-term perception of our own security. Yet there is, today, little of the World War II, or even the Cold War, "all or nothing" sense of urgency in that effort. Moreover, our military forces-and equally important, their relationship with society-are notably different than a half century ago.