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During fall term 2023 Dr. Kara Ritzheimer’s History 310 (Historian’s Craft) students researched and wrote blog posts about OSU during WWII. The sources they consulted are listed at the end of each post. Students wrote on a variety of topics and we hope you appreciate their contributions as much as the staff at SCARC does!

Blog post written by Hannah Beine.

The disruption caused by World War II transformed the experiences of colleges and universities across the United States. The onset of the war led to the departure of students and staff, changes in enrollment and courses, and new campus activities. As the college community dealt with the changes, there were efforts from OSC faculty-led committees and student-led organizations to collect details on Oregon State College’s participation in the war. College administrators embarked on documenting and collecting an array of projects and experiences within the Oregon State College community. They selected specific items for collection, including reports on faculty members and students who left for military service, as well as documenting the college’s changes in financial, academic, and social aspects. The endeavor aimed to gather various publications containing information about the college and individuals associated with the Beaver community.

While the primary goal was to chronicle OSC’s financial, organizational, and academic changes, the collection process also placed an emphasis on capturing the war’s human impact both overseas and on campus. Each piece of documentation provided insight into the experiences of the Beaver community during the war that could be added to the collective archive. The war changed the way of life for college communities across the United States and “never before had the nation been so united in its commitment to a cause, both in spirit and deed.” [1]The work and devotion put towards assembling war-time information highlighted the patriotism and pride within the Oregon State community, not only from employees but the students as well.

Oregon State College’s efforts to record its history during World War II all began with a conference that took place in October 1944. William L. Teutsch, the Assistant Director of Extension Services,  sent a memorandum to Dean William A. Schoenfeld, the Dean of Oregon State College, that outlined the plan of action for collecting information regarding the college during the war, known as the World War II History Project.[2] The conference took place on October 24, 1944 and was led by Dr. L. S. Cressman, the Director of the World War II History Project and Director of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Oregon. The memorandum provides a complete list of the members present at the meeting, including the Acting Dean of Agriculture, the Dean of Forestry, a representative of the Dean of the School of Home Economics, and the College Editor and Chairman of the Campus Committee. The inclusion of diverse departments appears to be an attempt to provide the project with multiple avenues to receive documents and information regarding the college’s participation in the ongoing war.

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Exchanges between Assistant Director William L. Teutsch and Dean William A. Schoenfeld outlined the initial plan of action in regard to collecting information for the World War II History Project. This plan was agreed upon by the individuals present at the conference with Dr. L. S. Cressman, the Director of the project. Wm. L. Teutsch, “Memorandum of Conference with Dr. L.S. Cressman, Director of World War II History Project and Director of Museum of Natural History, University of Oregon,” October 25, 1944, SCARC History of World War II Project Records MSS OSCWW2  Box 1, Correspondence 1944-1946.

This document outlines the main points discussed and agreed upon at the conference, all of which provided a layout for the WWII History Project. These points included outlining and recording crucial war emergency activities such as records of OSC staff and students being released to serve in the military. It also provides examples of how to document these activities, emphasizing that the collection of records might span several years. The purpose of this project was to “make the experiences of war work a matter of record for use of the Executive Department in case similar occasion should arise in the future requiring executive action.”[3] This project recognized the importance of archiving information as a means to help guide future responses to similar situations.

There are multiple memorandums and related correspondence found within the archives, indicating that there was ample communication between individuals contributing to the World War II History Project. Often, there were requests for information or clarifying details between committee members and other individuals they were collecting information from. The well-preserved documentation implies that the committee members deemed the process of recording the activities of the Oregon State College community important and valuable.

Newspapers and publications like The Barometer, the Oregon State Yank, and other local newspapers provided the World War II History Project committee with a convenient means of collecting and requesting information. The collection and preservation of editions of the Oregon State Yank, a quarterly publication,  seemed to be an important piece of documentation.[4] This importance is underlined by the multitude of letters between L.S. Cressman, the Director of the World War II History Project, and Delmer Goode, the Editor of Publications at OSC, regarding the acquisition of the Oregon State Yank for the World War II History Project collection.[5]

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 This document is a letter between L.S. Cressman, the Director of the WWII History Project, and Delmer Goode, the Editor of Publications at Oregon State College. In the letter, Cressman is inquiring about the quarterly publication sent to men overseas called the Oregon State Yank. L.S. Cressman to Delmer M. Goode, November 16, 1944, SCARC, History of World War II Project Records MSS OSCWW2 Box 1, Correspondence 1944-1946.

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This publication was focused on sharing real stories sent in from service members overseas, providing first-person accounts of experiences, and “an insider’s view of the war from the frontlines.”[6] The attempt at securing first-hand accounts from OSC service members extended beyond OSC campus publications. In 1945, Cressman made an appeal in the Herald and News, a newspaper from Klamath Falls, Oregon, inviting families across Oregon to share information about relatives serving in the war. Information could be sent in by family members or other individuals with connections to OSC with the hopes it provided helpful insight to the WWII History Project collection.

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This column article, from the Oregon State Barometer published February 9, 1945, discusses the popular quarterly publication called the Oregon State Yank. The article references a serviceman who suggests an idea to have OSC rings made in order to identify fellow Oregon Staters overseas. “Our Voice in the World,” Oregon State Barometer, February 9, 1945, 2, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nk933

The endeavor to collect information regarding Oregonians overseas through newspapers demonstrated the importance of fostering a sense of community and unity. The war not only united all Americans towards a common goal but also seemed to instill a strong sense of solidarity and patriotism within the Oregon State College community.[7] The 1945 column “Our Voice in the Wind” from The Barometer refers to a suggestion by a serviceman to create an OSC ring that students and alumni could wear while in the service.[8] The serviceman proposed this idea in order to make it easier to identify fellow OSC members serving throughout the world. This emphasized the importance of maintaining school pride, not only for those still on campus but also for those who were longing for community overseas.

The World War II History Project collected reports from many different available resources, some of which exemplified this sense of OSC unity through on-campus student war-related experiences. One of the most valuable student organizations for understanding the involvement of students in supporting and gathering information about OSC’s wartime participation was the OSC Student War Council, including both male and female students on campus. The Student War Council’s main objective was to organize and report on all activities at Oregon State College connected to the ongoing war.[9] At the end of each activity, the Council would create a complete report on the activity, documenting the experience, which could then be put into the WWII History Project collection. Not only were these activities and reports a means of collecting information, but they also were a showcase of patriotism and school spirit.

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This is a page from The Beaver 1945, the college yearbook,describing the Student War Council at Oregon State College. This description of the War Council explains the origins, members, and responsibilities of the organization on campus. “War Council,” The Beaver 1945, SCARC, Oregon State University Yearbooks, 202, Oregon Digital, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/12579s71x.

A sense of collaboration between OSC and the other participating colleges in the World War II History Project is shown through the large amount of correspondence between them, as well as their willingness to participate in document collection. Colleges within California, Oregon, and Washington created the Federation of College War Councils which was a means of sharing information relating to war activities at colleges within these states.[10] These reports provided insight into the different activities that took place on various campuses by students who were not serving overseas. They provide a different perspective and insight into the civilian experience. These experiences, alongside those sent in and published in newspapers like the Oregon State Yank, offer a better understanding of the wartime experiences of students and faculty at Oregon State College.

The World War II History Project allowed members of Oregon State College, as well as the other participating colleges, to assemble the experiences of the Beaver community during the war into a consolidated archive. The collected documents highlight a more administrative look at the transformation of OSC during World War II while also showcasing the important work of OSC students in organizing and recording the campus experiences of community support for American troops fighting in the war. The Student War Council calls attention to the broader college and university experience during World War II. Oregon State College was not isolated in the participation of its students. The Federation of College War Councils confirms the focus on organizing and recording support from communities throughout the United States. The focus exhibited by individuals at Oregon State College to preserve the wartime experience underlines the importance of collecting documents. The World War II History Project has provided future generations with the opportunity to learn about the wartime experiences that helped shape the Beaver community.

[1] V. R. Cardozier, Colleges and Universities in World War II (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), 123.

[2] Wm. L. Teutsch, “Memorandum of Conference with Dr. L.S. Cressman, Director of World War II History Project and Director of Museum of Natural History, University of Oregon,” October 25, 1944, Special Collections and Archives Research Center (hereafter SCARC), Oregon State College History of World War II Project Records MSS OSCWW2, Box 1.

[3] “Memorandum of discussion between faculty members of Oregon State College,” October 24, 1944, SCARC, History of World War II Project Records MSS OSCWW2 Box 1, Correspondence 1944-1946, page 1.

[4] “Beginning with this issue,” Oregon State Yank no. 2 (May 1944): 1, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx719t22q.

[5] L.S. Cressman to Delmer M. Goode, November 16, 1944, SCARC, History of World War II Project Records MSS OSCWW2 Box 1, Correspondence 1944-1946.

[6] Mary Weaks-Baxter, C. Brunn, and C. Forslund, We are a college at war: women working for victory in World War II (Carbondale, IL:Southern Illinois University Press, 2010), 17.

[7]“Appeal Made for Documents Of Overseas Service Men,” Herald and News, September 30, 1944, 9, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn99063813/1944-09-30/ed-1/seq-9/.

[8]“Our Voice in the World,” Oregon State Barometer, February 9, 1945, 2, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nk933.

[9] “War Council,” The Beaver 1945, Oregon State University Yearbooks, 202,  Oregon Digital,, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/12579s71x.

[10]Cardozier, Colleges and Universities, 124.