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Fighting (About) the War
I read my friend Daniel Voorhies’ (’03) apologia for joining the U.S. Army with great consternation [Endpaper, Autumn 2007].
As a fellow Reedie from a privileged background, I empathize with Daniel’s quest for discipline, camaraderie, and a seeming softening of the barriers of race and class.
One thing, however, was glaringly absent from his article: the war in Iraq.
If it doesn’t “sit well” with Daniel that his “fellow citizens were getting shot at and serving multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” then he should put down his gun and do everything he can to stop this war.
The Iraq War is fueled by a socioeconomic system that offers nothing but misery to poor folks, especially people of color. Daniel, with the class and social privilege of a Reed education, has a responsibility to fight against the war, not in it.
—Dan Denvir ’05
The essay by Daniel Voorhies ’03 was disappointing, at best. The title, “Why I Serve,” was hardly descriptive. In fact, Voorhies didn’t provide us with any possible reason for “serving”—instead he spent a page avoiding the main issue. He writes that everything he has learned in the army “has been for two reasons: to accomplish the mission and to take care of my fellow soldiers.” Other than trying to prove that Reedies are just as patriotic as anyone else, what is the point of the essay? Rather than approach any bigger, important questions, such as the moral quandary of willingly joining a military force in the midst of an illegal war, Voorhies pleads for our approval: “despite the hazards and sacrifices, I am proud to serve as an officer in the United States Army.”
Give me a break—is this Reed’s alumni magazine or US Weekly?
—Mitchell Tribbett ’04
Getting the War Right (and Wrong)
U.S. Army Air Corps Pre-Meteorology Program] that attended Reed during World War II, I enjoyed the article “Reed At War” [Autumn 2007]. Reed treated us well and provided us with an excellent education in the mandated curriculum.
While we were probably not the most military organization that existed during World War II, let me assure you that we did NOT salute with our left hands, as shown on page 16. Someone must have printed the photo backwards.
—Bob Putnam AMP ’44
Editor’s Note: Bob Putnam is among at least a dozen readers—mostly veterans—who got in touch with us as soon as the Autumn 2007 magazine arrived in their mailboxes, alerting us to our negative-reversal gaffe. We turned up this and other images from the A.M.P. program in an envelope in the library’s special collections; the photos had been taken by C. Herald Campbell ’33, and no prints could be found in the archives. We had the negatives printed, and none of the editors noticed the wrong-way salutes. Our sincere thanks to those who did note the mistake (which has been corrected on the Reed website). Several of the letter-writers below also mentioned the error, and added their own memories of Reed in a time of war.
My wife Jo (Josephine Pesman Chanaud ’49) receives the magazine. Being an ex-military officer, I found the article about World War II excellent. I also learned why Reed is considered so different. The soldiers in the lead photograph are saluting with their left hands. How gauche!
Congratulations on the latest issue—lots of interesting material, photos, etc.
I just wanted to be among the first (of what I expect to be many) of your readers to point out that in the photo on page 16, a careful inspection of the sundial would reveal that the Roman numerals that appear on its face are backwards, a tip-off that the photo was printed right-left reversed.
If you decide to keep count of the number of notes you get about the reversal, I’d be amused to learn what it turns out to be.
—Robert Reynolds, David W. Brauer Professor Emeritus of Physics,
I read with interest the many articles in the Autumn 2007 issue, including the discussion of our “left-” leaning history [Letters, “What’s in a Slogan”], Liz Fink’s (’67) progress since leaving Reed [Class Notes, “Still Fighting”], and the excellent review of the veterans who attended Reed during World War II [“Reed at War”].
For those conspiracy theory folks who think that Reed soldiers might actually be saluting with the left hand, I would point out that their jackets button from right to left, which is also reversed. Just a minor point, but I felt it was worth noting since the very thorough presentation rests between many articles on the history of Reed’s “left” leaning tendencies.
—David Levin ’66
That was a great article about the effects of World War II on Reed. I was in the Class of ’42 but left Reed after three years, having been accepted to the University of Oregon Medical School, and returned after completion of the second year at the U of O, and graduated with the Class of ’43 along with a Reed roommate, William Polson Smith. Right after Pearl Harbor, the medical school schedule was changed so that we had only one week between each quarter, thereby completing the four years of medical school in three years.
—Jerome Radding ’43
The alumni magazine that came yesterday was most interesting, especially the “Reed at War” article. I was one of the Japanese-American students at Reed when World War II broke out and the article mentions me along with about five other Nisei who were attending at that time. You may recall that you did a very comprehensive article on the JA experience in the alumni magazine about 10 or more years ago [November 1999, www.reed.edu/reed_magazine/
I think back on those days at Reed and have felt grateful for the kindness and understanding with which I was treated. Dr. Arthur Scott arranged my transfer to Haverford College at the time of the evacuation and Reed waived the end-of-year requirements (final exams, term papers, etc.) and granted me full credit for my freshman year. I didn’t even have to fill out an application form for Haverford.
While I deeply appreciated Reed’s kindness in granting me full credit and Haverford’s willingness to accept those credits on Dr. Scott’s request, I felt that the horrible distractions, including the FBI taking my father away on the night of the Pearl Harbor attack, were so disruptive that I did not really gain as much education as I desired. Dr. MacIntosh, the dean of students at Haverford, understood that I valued the knowledge that I failed to obtain as a result of those distractions more than the credits, and allowed me to enroll as a freshman and signed me up with freshman classes. In retrospect, I still think that was the best decision, as it permitted me to go on with my educational goals successfully. I am still appreciative of everything Reed did for me, and it turned out that I indeed got more out of my year at Reed than I originally thought, and it was truly an enriching experience.
—Gus Tanaka ’45
A comment on, and minor correction to, the well-done “Reed at War” article by Will Swarts ’92.
Its several references to “God save the King. It may be his duty, it is not ours” are to the Oxford Pledge, adopted in 1933 by the Oxford Union, which declared, “Under no circumstances would we fight for King and country.” The pledge reflected British disillusionment with the wholesale slaughter of the previous European male generation in World War I and a dedication to not allow future imperialist competition to ignite a similar conflict.
In the U.S., the Oxford Pledge was adapted by the National Student Union to a refusal “to support the United States government in any war it may conduct.” A national poll found 39 percent of the American student body endorsed the pledge (with an additional 33 percent saying that they would take up arms only if the United States was invaded). At Reed, anti-war sentiment was high. A photo of a 1930s outdoor debate over war preparations between Oscar Gass ’34 (for) and future U.S. Senator Richard Neuberger (against) is on p. 90 of my The Portland Red Guide (Reediana, Spring 2007).
And when Reedie war vets are honored, attention should also be paid to Harry Randall ’37 and the late Tom Norton ’37, “pre-mature” antifascists who volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic with the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Brigade (see pp.110-111 of The Red Guide). Had their cause received broader support, the sacrifice of the 38 Reedies on the memorial plaque in Eliot may not have been necessary.
Also, two corrections: Frank Munk left Reed in 1941 to teach economics at UC–Berkeley. He worked at UNRRA from 1944. Also, Frank Munk’s and Arthur Scott’s wives—Nadia and Vera, respectively—were sisters. So Vera Scott was Frank Munk’s sister-in-law, and Nadia Munk was Arthur Scott’s sister-in-law, but their husbands were not brothers-in-law.
—Michael Munk ’56
I enjoyed your article “Reed at War.” Bob Putnam (’44), my high school physics teacher, had participated in the A.M.P. program at Reed. One day in class he reminisced about this experience and rather casually remarked that Reed was a college that cared more about intellectual development than social regulation of its student body and so had minimal social restrictions.
Now, I was a public school boy who had grown up south of Seattle with aspirations no higher than to major in engineering at the University of Washington and go to work for Boeing. Circumstances lead me to enlist in the USAF after high school. While stationed in Florida, I wrote to MIT, which was generally considered to be the top engineering program in the country, and received a catalog. At that time MIT had a 3-2 engineering program, with Reed being one of the feeder colleges. Remembering Mr. Putnam’s remarks, I subsequently applied to and was accepted at Reed. Except for this I had never heard of Reed.
By the time I got to Reed, there were very few vets in the student body. The Korean G.I. Bill had expired and the ’Nam G.I. Bill didn’t kick in until 1966. I fell right into the gap between the Korean War and Vietnam but did receive that benefit my last three years of graduate school.
By the way, I am a recently retired physics professor from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, but continue to teach in the Whitman Core program. My interest there goes back to my humanities days with Marvin Levich and Kaspar Locher. I might add that I had never heard of Whitman College either until my girlfriend’s elegant dad described it to me as “Washington’s honor college.”
—Craig Gunsul ’63
The right ending?
Am I alone among Reedies to think that references to “Reedites” (at least three such in the most recent Reed magazine) sound like references to alien creatures? To say nothing of the fact that “Reedite” sounds stodgy and formal.
A faithful Reedie,
If the T-shirt Fits…
“Communism. Atheism. Free Love.”
It sounds like the rallying cry of some dirty hippy. Communism, as Mark Paglin ’82 points out [Letters, Autumn 2007], was known to the 20th century as totalitarian and murderous. (Although it’s difficult, for me at least, to understand how an authentic industrial worker’s rebellion like the kind called for by Marx could have emerged from the feudal, agrarian societies of early 20th-century Russia and China.) Free love is a good way to catch something—children, for example. Atheism, I believe, implies not only a lack of belief in any Gods (who needs ‘em?) but also a lack of spirituality.
These three words present an attitude of idealism that characterizes Reed College. I believe idealism must always come before praxis. Without idealism (radical idealism, of course) an action or statement will lack coherency and originality—reverting to tired forms and paradigms simply because they are comfortable. Without idealism, nothing new can emerge. A good example is Mark’s shirt. Replacing “Communism” with “Capitalism,” and “Free Love” with “Marriage,” is not nonconformity, but something like “reconformity.”
If I had the motivation to make my own seal, it would say—“Anarchism. Mysticism. Polygamy.” Well, I will always have my dreams.
—Daniel Lovejoy ’05
I just read about Mark Paglin’s “Atheism, Capitalism, and Marriage” T-shirts in the latest alumni magazine. My sentiments exactly! I haven’t felt too comfortable wearing that T-shirt in the last few years and it’s great to hear that somebody else has the same trouble.
—Sterling Paramore ’02
I won’t buy one of his T-shirts, but I will chip in to help buy Mark Paglin ’82 a new irony meter.
—Greg Shirley ’86
Building on Reed’s Endowments
I agree 100 percent with alumni board president Konrad Alt ’81 [“Reclaiming Our Admission Vision,” Autumn 2007] that Reed’s admission policies should be need-blind, but I question why we need to wait until we have an “incremental endowment of $80 million to $100 million.” When I was a student, tuition, room, and board were about $4,000 a year (making Reed one of the most expensive colleges in the country, believe it or not), and the endowment was about $4 million. The cost has gone up by a factor of about 12, while the endowment has increased by a factor of about 110, but we still can’t afford need-blind admissions?
Something’s wrong with this picture, and, to my mind, it’s a fiscal policy that’s too conservative. As long as the endowment shows a consistently upward trend—which it has since Paul Bragdon became president—we should admit students without regard to need and fund those who require aid. To admit 30-plus students each year who aren’t the best—just the richest—is unfair to those who are qualified, but too poor to make the cut.
—David L. Perry ’73
John Sheehy’s (’82) scholarly and lively article about the legacy of William Trufant Foster in the summer issue of Reed is very timely. His insightful portrayal of Reed’s visionary roots is particularly trenchant in the context of Konrad Alt’s article about Reed’s “two endowments” [Summer 2007] and the impending centennial. Reed can and should, first, look backward and accept well-earned kudos for its local and national educational achievements, but, second, look forward with a view to reassessing its future role as an institution.
—Peter Glusker ’58
American Studies Redux
The article on American Studies [Summer 2007] by Reed history professor Jacqueline Dirks ’82, while providing an admirable overview of the field, left out important aspects of its development at Reed.
I discovered American Studies on an island in Maine the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, where my host happened to have a copy of Merle Curti’s just-published The Growth of American Thought (1964). University of Wisconsin scholar Curti (1897–1997) did more than anyone else as a scholar and teacher to legitimate efforts to broaden our understanding of the American past to include not only politics and government, but also literature, ideas, institutions, the arts, and material culture. Both John Tomsich and his Reed colleague David F. Allmendinger were Curti students.
I returned to Reed fired with enthusiasm for ways of doing history that did not focus narrowly on politics, government, and Great Men. I was delighted to learn that John Tomsich would be teaching courses in this new field. Although his seminars were only open to juniors and seniors, I succeeded in persuading him to admit me.
Tomsich’s intro course was a brilliant and deep exploration both of American historiography and the forces that shaped it. Rather than studying historical events and movements, we studied their interpreters. While terms like “social construction” were never used, students in Tomsich’s classes learned about the power-knowledge nexus that has become so central to contemporary understandings of culture.
David Allmendinger’s approach, rather than focusing on classic intellectual historians like Perry Miller, Parrington, and Boorstin, introduced us to what was called the “new social history” through work of Christopher Lasch, Stephan Thernstrom, and Sam Bass Warner—all of them hot off the press. (Allmendinger went on to a long, distinguished career at the University of Delaware.)
While passing lightly over Tomsich and ignoring Allmendinger, Dirks gives credit where credit is definitely not due: political scientist Mason Drukman and literature instructor Howard Waskow were distinctly unsympathetic to the American Studies approach championed by Tomsich and Allmendinger. Both, in their teaching and advising, were—at least in my day—hostile to efforts by students to move across disciplinary lines.
I am surprised that Dirks omitted Susan Strasser ’69 from her roster of distinguished American Studies alumni. Now professor of history at the University of Delaware, Strasser’s pioneering books include Never Done: A History of American Housework (1982), Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the Mass American Market (1989), Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century (1998), Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash (1999), and Commodifying Everything: Relationships of the Market (2003).
In my case, the critical approaches and openness to new methods learned from the pioneer teachers of American Studies were also taken to heart. Given the fact that Tomsich and Allmendinger had both been Curti’s research assistants in writing his important study, Philanthropy in the Shaping of American Higher Education, it’s not surprising that most of my professional career— at Wesleyan, Yale, and Harvard—has been devoted to studying the institutional, financial, and policy dimensions of American culture.
—Peter Hall ’68
I graduated from Reed in 1974 with a major in American Studies. While I greatly enjoyed your article on the American Studies program turning 40, the failure to give recognition to John Tomsich, who served as the head of the department and was one of its preeminent professors, was a major oversight. John was respected and admired by his students. He successfully combined his own critical analysis of traditional American history texts with a superb ability to teach and generate critical thinking on the part of his students. I was fortunate to have him as my thesis adviser. His contribution to strengthening and developing the American Studies program was a vital factor in the success that the program enjoys today.
—Jonathan S. Feld ’74
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