Friday, November 8, 2019

Doing What Has to Be Done

Letter from Hopkins to Dartmouth alumni serving in the US military
This coming Monday, November the 11th, is when the United States of America celebrates Veterans Day. This federal holiday shares the date with holidays celebrated by other countries such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Whereas those holidays traditionally mark the anniversary of the end of World War I, Veterans Day celebrates the service of all US military veterans. Dartmouth has historically seen significant participation in wars that have involved the United States, especially the world wars. In World War I, a total of 2,672 Dartmouth alumni were in uniform as well as another 700 in the Student Army Training Corps on campus. The number of Dartmouth participants in World War II was even greater; a guesstimate by the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in August of 1942 affirmed that more than 6,300 alumni would have enlisted within the year.

Here at Rauner we have an amazing collection that bears testimony to and honors the memory of military veterans who served during that war. This collection of World War II narratives contains letters, postcards, V-mail, newsletters, transcripts and newspapers clippings of personal narratives of Dartmouth men involved in World War II. The narratives, mostly in the form of letters, document the lives and activities of Dartmouth affiliated men and women in civilian life, military training and in active military duty in all theaters. Many of the narratives are short, but some provide details about life during the war. The letters were sent to various members of the Dartmouth community and collected into a group following the war, most likely by Maude French and Harold G Rugg. The primary recipients are Alan Ackerman Beetle, Class of 1936; J. (James) Moreau Brown, Class of 1939; Maude French, Art Librarian; Harold Goddard Rugg, Assistant Librarian; Herbert Faulkner West, Professor of Comparative Literature and William Maynard, Professor of Romance Languages. Also included are an assortment of pamphlets, guides and ration books.

In a letter that Ernest M. Hopkins addressed to "Dartmouth Men in the Armed Services," dated December 20, 1944, the President of Dartmouth College at the time emphasizes the "mingled feelings of pride in you, anxiety about you, and affection for you that we here have for you there." For each one of the alumni in service at the time, Hopkins goes on to say that he realizes "what it means that among the thousands of you who serve, some live daily amidst deadly hazards, other in suffering of mind or body or in dire discomfort, and still others in demoralizing boredom. This knowledge makes us living comfortably at home very humble concerning the little that we can do but vicariously very proud because of the spirit in which you are doing what has to be done." Today, we feel the same measure of humility and gratitude for all who have and continue to put themselves in harm's way while serving their country.

To see the World War II Narratives collection, come to Rauner and ask for MS-460. To see Hopkins's letter to the alumni servicemen, ask for the World War II vertical files.

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