The Final Days ROTC-Nobody Said Goodbye
Take a trip down memory lane, the narrow shady pathway that runs next to the Bio labs on Divinity Street, pretty far removed from the battleground of University Hall and the Stadium and the Loeb drama center Faculty meetings where ROTC lost its last battle at Harvard two years ago.
Take the trip sometime and when you get to the red-shingled wood building, take a look at the sign "Vansberg Building." But what happened to Shannon Hall? Where's ROTC now?
With the June 30, 1971, Faculty deadline fast approaching, the remaining Navy and Air Force ROTC units-an eighth of what they were two years ago-are pulling out in the next two weeks. And nobody's coming around to say they're sorry.
Wicked Alma Mater
ROTC has been getting the Cinderlla step-child treatment from the Harvard bureaucracy. Last August, the name of their building got changed overnight and new signs for the "Vansberg Building," whatever that means, replaced "Shannon Hall."
A man from the Harvard Archives walked in last month to scoop up souvenirs and knickknacks-wall maps, posters, trophies and records-for an exhibit sometime in the distant future when "someone may come in and think, gee, Harvard once had a ROTC unit here."
There are no more Faculty meetings to attend. The Army ROTC unit, which left last year, had to make a special application for a room in order to hold its commissioning ceremonies for the last 18 graduates one night last week. The Committee on ROTC refused to give the Naval ROTC Commander Harold "Red" Pollack a single room to advise the nine midshipmen who will finish at Harvard next year. Harvard also turned down a last request to list ROTC grades on the student transcript as extracurricular activities.
"We've done everything we could to bend to the regulations," Pollack said yesterday. "And we got nothing. We got nothing for keeping faith with the midshipmen. It's been a total compromise. We compromise on everything."
"If you took a poll of undergraduates in the Yard, I'll bet the majority don't even know we exist," Pollack said yesterday. "You don't see the middies drilling. We took them out of uniform last year. The sign is off the building. We're as good as out."
"The Faculty resolution was final as death, yeh, final as death. No one attempted to renegotiate. The death knell tolled and no one did a thing," he said.
In the lull of reconversion into classrooms and offices for the Physics Department and professors in Social Relations, Shannon Hall is an eerie empty shell. The upper stories are barren since the Army took away their two Jima pictures and recruitment posters last year. The Air Force unit still occupies one office, but it is impossible to find. The Navy has been ghettoized off in a basement corridor.
A janitor nods half asleep on the front stairway, but jumps up when the door opens and starts vigorously buffing the oak handrail. This is the fifth time he has polished it this week.
Pollack and another Naval officer, Lt. Michael Smithlin, now spend most of their time in their offices doing busy work to keep themselves occupied. All the officers have been reassigned to new posts. Pollack and Smithlin are going to the Business School on a Navy training program. Others on the staff will split up to different reserve units in the East. One has the pleasure of leaving this postmortem for another at Brown, where the ROTC program will be closing out to meet Brown's June 1972 deadline.
Harvard is the first of six Ivy Schools to actually pull out of ROTC after confrontations in the last few years led to Faculty resolutions banning participation. Most of the other schools-Yale, Dantmouth, Princeton and Columbia-will end their ROTC training next year.
Pollack took over the Naval unit from Captain Robert Moriarity last year and has had lots of time to savor his year of neglect.
"I wrote an article for the CRIMSON, a short funny thing about the last year here, which was kind of bitterly ironic. I was going to send it over, but I never did," Pollack said. "It started out being a serious goodbye letter. Then I decided to make it funny. But it got to be pretty bitter humor in places, and when I read it through three or four times, I decided it wasn't humorous at all."