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Monday, May 26, 2003

On the Crimson

So I was reading some Crimson archives this morning, and found this not unfamiliar-sounding quote:
Senator Burton K. Wheeler, in Boston yesterday to speak at the America First Committee's mass meeting against entrance into the war, warned that any attempt by the President to sent the U.S. Navy into the war zone would be unconstitutional.

"The President has claimed the right to sent the navy where he wishes," said the Senator from Montana, "but I believe he doesn't have this power."

What makes this quote interesting is that it does not date from a few months back, but from the first of May, 1941.

May today's non-interventionists be as wrong as this senator.

(aside: I'm always sickened by -- and shocked to find -- those who say we should not have joined WWII. Especially by the ones who say we shouldn't have joined because, you know, national sovereignty and all that, Hitler was elected, he could do whatever he wanted with his people, and the Jews were controlling finance and business and being a bother just like they are today.)

Anyhow; I wandered through the archives at length and found it a fascinating journey. For instance, did you know that Harvard offered a course in ditch-digging?

But let's do this chronologically: let's begin with the sinking of the Titanic. From it comes the most wonderful thing at Harvard, Widener Library (dedicated to the memory of Harry Elkins Widener, who perished upon the foundering of the steamship Titanic, a plaque informs us), the main Harvard thing I will miss.

Next, Harvard men showed their acknowledgement that the Cliffies were equally of an intelligence to enable them to vote; in 1914, they were marching in suffrage rallies.

By WWI, such novelties as airplanes were being used by Harvardians; the article's headline enthuses, "Actual Sensation During Flight Uniquely Described"!!!

Come 1940, the relationship between Harvard and Radcliffe appeared to be a very pleasant one, with much fun being had on both sides.

A few days later on that year, a speaker who could have chosen his words much better attempted to rouse the students to support of the British side in the war in Europe. While his specific words understandably fell flat, the response from the Crimson was that "flag-waving" also falls flat:
1940 cannot resuscitate the drunken enthusiasm of 1914, any more than ten million men can be resuscitated from the fields of glory. There will doubtless be a number of flag-waving enthusiasts in this country; and perhaps one of them will even climb on a rostrum in Memorial Hall to address an audience of future soldiers. But however noble-spirited his talk, it will not elicit the raucous cheers of olden times. To convince the new generation of the necessity of war, more plausible arguments are needed than the hackneyed formulae which sent the heroes of 1914 to their graves.

In another article which gives modern readers a sence of deja vu, the March 1, 1941, Crimson reports:
In a cablegram sent to the students of England this week, the Harvard Chapter of the American Student Union warned against the visit of President Conant and described his trip as a "visitation of American imperialism."

Things were different by December 8, just after Pearl Harbor. This article says,
The Chicago Tribune published an extra edition yesterday, emblazoning over its masthead the slogan, "Our Country--Right or Wrong." We do not agree with the Tribune. We believe in our country and in the right, and we believe that in the present war they are synonymous. In that belief we fight, and in that belief we will triumph.
The more interesting part of that article, however, is the description of Hawaii as "as much a part of the country from a psychological point of view as Omaha or Kansas City." Now, since that's written by New England-dwellers, that statement may just as well mean that, psychologically speaking, none of the above are a part of the country.

There were more changes the next day:
Learning the news of Japan's sudden attack upon the United States, American Defense, Harvard Group hastened yesterday to take a stand upon the new developments and stated that we should now be prepared to declare war on Hitler, the real instigator of Japan's actions, and on Italy, the other Axis partner.

But not everything had changed by the 9th, and there were still several Harvard leaders opposed to war against Germany:
Leaders of prominent political and University organizations were unanimous in their approval of the United States' declaration of war yesterday, although a few men distinguished between involvement in a Pacific war, which they supported, and entry into a European war, of which they disapproved.

As a counter-measure, a Harvard Conservative League was finally started in 1944.

Of course, not all wartime news was about the war: do check out the sunbathing regulations, from May of 1945, and be amused that even back in the 1940s students were warned away from the water in the Charles.

After the war, a Harvard professor was involved in reeducation of Germans:
Professor Jones, on a one year's leave of absence from the University, has prepared textbooks which will form the core of the English course for the German POWs. The book will be used not only to tech the elements of English, but size to further among the prisoners a better understanding of American ideals and traditions.

Contained in the textbook are English and German passages, so devised that a prisoner first reads the German text to a group and an American instructor then reads the English. Divided into thirty units, the text including ninety days of instruction, at the end of which period of prisoner should have a fairly substantial speaking and reading knowledge of the language.

A twenty-four course in American history and civics supplements the English course and is so devised as to stress the democratic ideals involved in history from its discovery by Columbus to the second World War. The English and history course are the foundations for this educational program, the purpose of which is to replace Nazi doctrines with sound democratic ideals.

And the gem of my browsing: a playful article felicitously entitled, "If You Can't Get a Woman, Why, Go Get a Harvard Man."


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