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Feature Story
reed magazine logoAutumn 2007

The wartime era—from the tense period of overseas suffering before America joined the fight, through the four grim years of “our” war that ended with victory over Germany and Japan, to the sudden and dramatic changes to domestic economy and interpersonal relations that came with peace—was a time of momentous change for Reed and Reedites. The “date which will live in infamy” abruptly settled the campus version of a national debate on the merits of American involvement in what had been, until then, a strictly foreign war. Less than a decade later, tremendous feats of destruction, sacrifice, cruelty, and heroism had wrenched a largely local student population still worn out from the Depression into the swirl of global upheaval. The war sent Reed men (and some women) to the ends of the embattled earth, and left some of them behind in simple soldiers’ graves; the war brought hundreds of young recruits to campus in uniform, and eventually sent waves of veterans to college; and the war opened hitherto-unimagined avenues of professional training and income-earning for women, then sent many of them unceremoniously back into the home to care for their husbands.

War Stamp Ad

Reedites were soldiers, sailors, and bombardiers. They were anxious wives, sisters, and girlfriends of servicemen. They were shipyard workers, secret agents, bureaucrats, women pilots, and relief workers. They were Japanese-American internees, corralled with their families to harsh camps in the inland West. They made maps, charted weather, drove ambulances, guarded POWs, and helped build the atom bomb. They were reluctant draftees and eager volunteers. They were Jews who had fled the Nazis and then went back to fight them, and they were pioneers of American skiing who fought harsh mountain campaigns. They were just like the rest of America, but they passed through Reed during a pivotal time.

The war forced the college to govern itself on an emergency footing and to scramble for financial survival, emerging as a more energized, nationally minded institution of liberal arts higher education.  As peace settled back upon the United States, Reed continued to undergo profound transformations, with intellectual tumult, tectonic demographic shifts, intense politics, and an evolving ethos of self-reliant academic focus. What emerged was a singular and single-minded emanation of postwar America.

Women wrapping books

Upper left: A wartime ad in the Griffin. Above: Muriel Reichart 46, Betty Havely 45, and Jay Maling 47 collect books to send to the troops overseas.

Waiting for War


I have a very vivid memory of coming up to the college one morning—I’d come from home. As I walked up toward the student union, there was a large poster hanging on the front of the union—“It May Be God’s Duty. It Is Not Ours.” And this was a reference to entering the war. In other words, most sentiment among the students was strictly anti-war. Keep out. Not our business. That was a strongly prevailing point of view about the war. I remember talking with someone at the time France fell, and he said how much he regretted it. It was a sad story, but, he said, it’s their business, not ours.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2007