"There can be no question that, in the days ahead, this University and its sons will bring new honors to justify the expectations of ten generations of Harvard men," said President Conant. He was speaking at a hastily assembled mass-meeting of the University community in Sanders Theatre on the night of December 8, 1941; three years ago today.
President Conant's expectations have been fulfilled. While he himself became chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, Harvard faculty men to an ever-increasing extent put their abilities and experience at the disposal of the government and the armed forces. Harvard itself began its change from an intellectual center into a vast training center for military personnel, as its upperclassmen gradually vanished into Army camps and Naval stations.
With Yale and Princeton, Harvard drew up far-reaching plans to revise its educational program for the duration. Early in 1942 the University heralded its present 12-month program. Air raid precautions lectures were opened, the Fine Arts Department gave courses in camouflage, athletics were compulsory for all, and President Conant and others urged that the University's humane and liberal traditions be preserved through the war.
Cruft Laboratory added emergency instructors and intensive courses in Russian and Japanese were announced, setting the scene for the invasion of servicemen that was due soon. The Navy Supply Corps School had been at the Business School since before Pearl Harbor, and Signal Corps officers were already studying at the laboratories.
By the spring of 1942, the pace had quickened. President Conant told undergraduates that the demand for speed was desperate and "for young men the needs of the armed services now over-shadow all other considerations." Rationing set in, and student waiters supplemented the waitresses in the House dining halls, but the Freshmen still had their Smoker, and the 18-year-old draft was still many months off.
Navy Occupies Yard
The summer of 1942 was the last of peace-time Harvard, and already Freshmen were living in the Houses. Undergraduates joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps as Selective Service director Hershey warned that every able-bodied man in the United States must find his place in either the armed forces or in industries needed to win the war. The old-style summer school, with plenty of girls and plenty of beer, ended with 1942's last cry of "Rheinhardt." Naval communications officers had occupied the Yard since June, chaplains were studying at the Divinity School, and the Navy Indoctrination School had already graduated its first class.
A week after the 1942 fall term began, the axe fell on American colleges--Washington announced its plan to draft 18-year-olds, and President Conant urged total conversion of education facilities to war training: liberal education must be revived after the war--the war's the thing now.
Yet Harvard's intercollegiate football season ran as usual, Coach Harlow receiving a Navy commission at its end. It was still Fair Harvard, but the transition to war was making swift advances and most undergraduates were living on borrowed time.
Crimson Suspends Publication
Six days after the first anniversary of America's entrance into the war the Harvard Guardian became the first University publication to suspend for the duration. The political magazine was joined by the CRIMSON on May 27 and the Advocate on July 16.
Undergraduates read the CRIMSON extra of December 17 with bated breath as the Army announced the call to active duty of the entire Enlisted Reserve Corps, most of which went into service early in the spring term.
On February 8 the Army announced the assignment to Harvard of three training schools, which were supplemented by a fourth Army school on the 19th and five more mixed training detachments on March 3.
Acting unexpectedly alone, the University abandoned formal football on May 7, instituting an informal schedule on September 1. All Harvard athletics dropped out of the Ivy League while the hockey, fencing and golf teams disappeared entirely.
The University made national headlines on September 7 when it awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws to Winston Churchill on the occasion of the Washington conference. The British Prime Minister became the eighth foreigner to receive the degree.
War Figures Released
A special issue of the CRIMSON on December 7, 1943, showed that some 19,000 Harvard men had entered military service, and the figure was still climbing. Almost 200 had been killed, taken prisoner, or were missing in action. The civilian enrollment had plunged to new depths, while the service personnel in training at the University had increased to a high of nearly 6,800; or more than four times the size of the civilian student body. Harvard was definitely at war.
Plans, perhaps premature, were already being made late in 1943 for the ultimate reconversion to peace. Long before the G.I. Bill of Rights hit the floor of Congress, President Conant and others were making tentative decisions for accommodating returning servicemen.
Civilian Enrollment Drops
Despite the continuing success of the war effort, however, the needs of the Armed Forces were growing and, correspondingly, the civilian enrollment of the University was decreasing. The bottom was reached at the beginning of the past summer term, when the total enrollment went down to 1,284 civilians, the smallest figure in 69 years, and a far cry from the peacetime averages of some 8,000 in the University.
With post-war plans being made with more assurance, the University entered its 309th year with 1900 civilians, 145 of them discharged veterans. Harvards participation in the war had reached its maximum--reconversion was, and is, still a long way off.