Campus Reacts to WWII

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A capacity crowd of students, faculty, and community members gathered inside the Field House on December 12, 1941. UW Archives S07306.

A capacity crowd of students, faculty, and community members gathered inside the Field House on December 12, 1941. UW Archives S07306.

No exclamation point was needed, but the editors of the December 9, 1941, Daily Cardinal used one anyway: “We Are at War!” The lead story following the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor noted that most on the campus were wondering, “What will happen to me?” Not long after, many UW students and staff left Madison to join the military. Some students would lose their lives on distant battlefields, including star football player Dave Schreiner ’43, a Marine killed on Okinawa.

UW–Madison Chancellor Clarence Dykstra tried to calm fears. In a letter on the student newspaper’s front page, he assured students that they would be ready if needed for national service. Later, students sang carols and “Varsity” at a convocation inside a packed Field House, where Dykstra gave a speech that expanded on that theme. “We are ready for a great all-out effort,” he said. “There is no question of sacrifice. There is only the deep desire to be useful to our common country in this period of crisis.”

Daily Cardinal sports pages were filled with stories about the future of Badger athletes, the possible disruption to team schedules, and historical accounts of how World War I affected UW sports.

Though it was a time of shock and dread, a Cardinal editorial published two days after the attack sounded a note of hope and reconciliation: “We may hate the war lords of Japan for plunging us into the blood bath we are facing, but at the same time, we must remember that the people of Japan breathe the same air, have the same desires, suffer the same sorrows, and shed blood very much like our own. We cannot hate our brethren.”

Published in the Winter 2016 issue

Tags: Athletics, Campus history, Student life

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