December 7, 2003
Gregory Pejic, <i>Hullabaloo</i> staff writer
"We pause to remember those Tulanians, who, with unshakable faith in the ultimate triumph of good, have given their lives in their country's service. Such courage and devotion to duty have marked the glorious past of our nation, and have secured for us a future dedicated to the ideals for which these men died."
These words appeared in the 1944 edition of the Jambalaya, Tulane's yearbook, and resurfaced again in a program distributed at "Southern Memories of the Good War: The Impact of the Second World War on the American South."
The symposium was presented by the Deep South Regional Humanities Center Nov. 15 in the Freeman Auditorium of the Woldenberg Art Center. The event featured the personal stories of veterans, commentary by historians and 1940s music by the Pfister Sisters, and it marked the release of Waking Up To War: The Shock of Pearl Harbor, the first in a series of oral histories by Southern World War II veterans. Attendees at a lunch preceding the symposium heard a speech by Joseph Gordon, dean emeritus of the College of Arts and Science, the precursor to Tulane College, from 1964 to 1984.
The topics of the post-lunch lectures included how the war affected the South in general, the role Louisianan women played on the home front and memories of the war by New Orleans veterans. Among the numerous professors and historians who spoke were Charles P. Roland, from the University of Kentucky, who discussed the war's impact on the South, Anne Firor Scott, author of The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics 1830-1930, from Duke University, and Arvarh Strickland from the University of Missouri, who addressed black culture during the war.
The symposium was the result of the Veterans Oral History Project of the Library of Congress. This nationwide initiative intends to preserve oral histories from both those who served in the armed forces overseas and those who remained in the United States, and make them available to researchers, libraries, students and the general public.
The Center hired an historian in the spring of 2003 to collect the oral histories of more than 30 veterans in the South deposited in the National D-Day Museum collection to create the CD released at the symposium. The goal is to create up to nine more CDs over the course of the next six years for use by both researchers and as a teaching aid in the classroom.
Randy Sparks, interim director of the Deep South Regional Humanities Center, said, "It's been a really successful and wonderful event, it was moving for veterans to come back to Tulane and be recognized by each other for their contributions in the war and for Tulane to recognize those contributions too." In a letter to the over 80 people in attendance, Tulane President Scott Cowen said, "It is important that we put our remembrance in an academic context, exploring World War II and Tulane as well as the war's impact on the South, and that we take the opportunity to both learn from and honor our history."
Tulane alumnus Malcolm Arnoult recalls being on campus when America declared war on Japan the morning after the Pearl Harbor bombings. "On the bright sunny morning of Dec. 8, 1941, we all went to our early classes, but it was hard to pay attention. Then it was announced that we should all gather at McAlister Auditorium," Arnoult said. "A radio was placed at the front center of the stage, and we all stared at it.
At 11 o'clock we heard President Roosevelt ask Congress for a declaration of war, and we knew that our lives had changed forever." Both Tulane men and women contributed to the war in many ways. The University offered accelerated officer training for the Navy V-12 program. Furthermore, the 24th General Hospital Unit of the U.S. Army was formed from the ranks of the Tulane Medical School, which served primarily in North Africa and Italy.
The "Tulane Unit," as it was known, stayed in close contact with the "LSU Unit" and held the traditional "Tulane-LSU" football game in Italy. They also celebrated Mardi Gras by holding parades in both Bizerte and Florence. Newcomb students also contributed to the war efforts. Many formed a Red Cross unit, while others joined the Women's Army Corps and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
They produced over 15,000 bandages and operated a blood bank. Others helped by conserving rubber, scrap metal and meat. Tulane began a special publication distributed to students and alumni in the armed forces, called The Tulanniappe, in which the following appeared in a letter sent by Maj.
General Norman T. Kirk, U.S. Surgeon General, to Tulane President Rufus Harris commending the 24th General Hospital Unit for its work in North Africa and Europe: "You have particular reason to be proud of this work because your University contributed so much to the high standards of medical care which the Army is now, in this hour of need, able to make available to its fighting men. I realize what a serious deprivation it has been to your University. I do want you to know, however, that your contribution has been of inestimable value to the Army Medical Service," Kirk said in his letter.
In total, Tulane lost 121 men out of over 300 who served in the armed forces during the Second World War.
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