18. Academe in the Post WW II Era, I

Alma Mater/Spring 2014
April 7, 2014

18. Academe in the ‘American Century’

US entered WW II relatively united
Had been attacked by the ally [Japan] of our  targeted enemy [Germany],
who had turned on its earlier ally [Russia], which had some supporters among America’s left,
including leftist academics (some with their primary loyalties to USSR but fighting for US)
“America Firsters” not about to take Pearl Harbor without retaliation

Ethnic strains in WW I largely absent – Irish/Germans/Chinese…

Churchill appropriately patient/deferential  in soliciting US assistance

University campuses already mobilized 18 months before UIS entry
The 1940 draft reducing men of age 22  on campus – some acceleration of degree programs…
Some faculty into secret war work à Manhattan Project
MIT Radiation Lab —  sonar/radar

Government/military to draw on academic expertise throughout the war
Young faculty in uniform – men and women (Elizabeth Reynard at BC)
More in gov’t service — Joseph Barker as Asst Navy Secy;  Grayson Kirk at State Department
Those with knowledge of foreign area-war-zones – North Africa; South Sea Islands; South Asia…
Language skills – German/Italian/Arabic/Japanese/Chinese/Russian….

Office of Strategic  Services (OSS)
William Donovan – recruited academics a la TR for his Rough Riders

On campus
Older faculty stay on to teach officer recruits — Trilling/Barzun teaching sailors…
Navy’s V-12 Program – on 130 campuses
At CU – several hundred at all times from July 1943 to spring 1945 –
hundreds of Columbia graduates on the Navy’s dime –
Few pacifists during WW II – Better accommodated than in WW I – Jim Shenton

Substantial blemish – treatment of Japanese-Americans along west coast
Internment camps – loss of property while away;  later provisions for enlistment….
Camps closed by end of 1944?

Half dozen leading universities become government contractors to the military
Elaborate procedures put in place – helped finance universities/new buildings….

MIT — $117 million
Caltech — $83 million
Harvard — $31 million
Columbia $29 million



Both the business community and academe regaining their favorable standing in public’s perception;
Unemployment disappears during war – more women move into the work force
Factories going three shifts;  unions cooperating


Post-war planning undertaken midway through the war worried about impact of returning veterans on the civilian job market – return to high % of unemployment??

Such worries – and gratitude to servicemen – produce the GI Bill –Servicemen’s Readjustment Act
June 1944 – same month as Normandy invasion
All military personnel eligible for 48 months  financial support upon demobilization
Secure admission – government covers tuition and a modest living allowance
Legislation permitted GIs to attend high-tuition private colleges ….

Impact of GI Bill – rapid increase in % of college agers in college; temporary reversal of male/female %s;
Did not do that much to diversifying colleges – cohorts born in the immigration-restricted  1920s
But does lead to many more Jewish students at top universities – especially those with college degrees
Post-war colleges accommodating twice as many students as before the war
Black colleges overwhelmed by black veterans seeking college education in South

Spring of 1946 at CU  – 8000 veterans on campus  à enrollments in late 1940s > 35,000
Columbia – SEAS/School of General Studies (1946) for spillover #s
College dorms out of Quonset huts at URI

Another look ahead during the war – What relationships entered into on a wartime basis worth keeping in peacetime?? –
National Defense Research Commiteee (NDRC) —  June 1940
Vanevar Bush/ James Bryant Conant, Richard Tolman (CalTech) Franj Jwett (Bell Telephone/MIT trustee) Karl K. Compton

Office of  Strategic Research and Development (OSRD)  à  May 1941 — Vannevar Bush, MIT provost/VP
Science – The Endless Frontier (1944) – scientific advances to come through federal support of scientific research at the best schools – à “research contract system”
Not separate research institutes
Not science funding dispensed by Congressional district

“Best Science” – The Navy’s poster of “The Rabi Tree”
Military/ Atomic Energy Commission/National Science Foundations…..
War’s ending – two aspects
1.  Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – cut a year off the war/invasion of Japan avoided…

Six months of post-war interlude to onset of Cold War

2. Strains in the Allied alliance – Russia’s demands for control of much of Eastern Europe; suspicions about its spying on US/Britain to secure military secrets;  to subvert western institutions

George Kennan
—  February 1946 — “The Long Telegram” – urged US to develop a policy of “containing”
USSR’s expansionary plans….

Winston Churchill
– March 1946 —  “Iron Curtain” speech

Creation of CIA – September 1947
Yale as the hatchery for CIA operatives and leadership for two decades

Creation of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Coalition of labor liberals and academic liberals who distrusted the USSR and were anti-Communists
Columbias — Reinhold Niebuhr; William Leuchtenburg
Harvards — John K. Galbraith/Arthur Schlesinger, Jr

Opposed Wallacites in ’48 – supported Truman
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Vital Center (1948) – New Deal anti-communists

Lessons of the War
Repudiation of Isolationist sentiments widespread in interwar period
US must stay involved – up front as the strongest nation coming out of the war
United Nations – San Francisco/New York à Virginia Gildersleeve
US should not disarm – but maintain a role as peacekeeper/enforcer should some bad hats come on the scene; need Americans to study places/people we earlier knew too little about to persuade them of the superiority of “western values”

New academic men of influence – Nation’s leading physicists à I.I. Rabi/ Ernest Lawrence/J.R. Oppenheimer….   2nd rung – John R. Dunning, SEAS dean 1950-69

Academe’s second set of  “new men of influence” – experts in international relations/area studies (especially Russian Studies)
Columbia – Russian Institute [other centers – Harvard [RRC] /Berkeley]

CU’s School of International Affairs [SIA] Not SIPA until last days of Cold War
President in 1948 – Dwight Eisenhower (1948-53) – succeeded by Grayson Kirk, IR expert…

On campus – NROTC Program – 1946 – 1969 – 40 incoming frosh to CC/some pre-engineers;
10% of a class; another 15% in some other officer-candidate ROTC program….
Accepted element of post-war campus life – fully integrated into campus life; among the stronger students; lots of jocks; a national pool….

Professional schools – Lawyers expecting to go into  JAG; MDs to get clinical experience in military…

Some campus critics of US cold war policies àBackers of Henry Wallace in 1948 who pushed for seeking Russia’s friendship;  Critics against US in Korea (anti-MacArthur) SANE (1957); critics of US ant-Castro Cuba policy (“Fidelistas”)

1950s – Academic consensus that Eisenhower was not very bright – but also not all that hostile to FDR liberal policies or trigger-happy….

Relative immunity to Right-wing charges of anti-patriotism:
Universities distancing themselves from those in their midst with communist pasts; but not wholesale firings and repudiation of tenure….
Lots of scholarship critical of Communism, Stalin, Lenin, Marx….

Agreed they would not knowingly hire a Communist (defined as someone whose political allegiance was to a foreign country/ideology) – but would not fire an ex-communist or one who did not “name names”
HUAC and later Joseph McCarthy – More success with Hollywood, State Department,  Army Signal Corps,  left-wing lawyers….


Last updated: April 6, 2014


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