ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Four: Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, 1946-1970

Students at the Fort Trumbull Campus in New London, circa 1946.

Students at the Fort Trumbull Campus in New London, circa 1946.

UConn, like many other American universities, experienced a period of significant growth during the immediate postwar period in terms of enrollment and campus expansion. Long-serving president Albert Jorgensen struggled to accommodate the influx of returning students, mostly veterans, which doubled the university’s student body to almost 3,300 by 1946. The opening of the Fort Trumbull campus in New London, previously an officers’ training school acquired by UConn in 1945, provided a partial solution. Hundreds of returning servicemen were sent there to resume their education, receiving two years’ instruction at Fort Trumbull before transferring to Storrs for their junior and senior year. While effective, the campus was meant only as a temporary measure; it was returned to the federal government in 1950 and demolished in 1954.

At Storrs, meanwhile, the solution was to build, and build fast. In the five years following the end of the war, countless temporary and permanent structures were built on the Storrs campus to provide housing for students and staff alike. In 1948, construction was completed on a new building composed of surplus Army Air Corps hangars. Known as “the Cage,” it was originally built for the school’s basketball team, but would eventually become the new home of UConn ROTC when the former moved to Greer Field House in December of 1954. The School of Insurance followed in 1949, and in 1950 no less than twenty-five new structures were dedicated, including the Williams Health Service Building, the Budds Building, and the North and Northwest Campus residence halls (all but one, Wright, are still standing and in use today.)

An Air Force ROTC Color Guard passes in review on Gardner Dow Field in 1952.

An Air Force ROTC Color Guard passes in review on Gardner Dow Field, 1952.

Change came to ROTC as well. The program was not only reinstated under the prewar model, but joined by a new branch. So-called Air ROTC programs had been in existence since the early 1920s, but not at UConn, which only maintained “an Infantry unit of the Senior Division, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps” in accordance with its original 1916 mandate from the War Department. That changed in the fall of 1946 when the university’s application for an Air ROTC unit was accepted by the War Department, and Lieutenant Colonel Converse Kelly and Major Robert Eaton arrived on campus to oversee its formation. This action was superseded a year later by a Department of Defense order transferring all personnel of the Army Air Forces, including Air ROTC units, to the newly-created United States Air Force. Air ROTC became Air Force ROTC, and the instructors at UConn became known as Assistant Professors of Air Science and Tactics. The new program produced its first officers in the spring of 1948, and by the early 1950s both it and Army ROTC had relocated from the armory to more spacious offices in the basketball hangar.

UConn Army and Air Force ROTC units assembled at Memorial Stadium for Military Day observances, 1955.

UConn Army and Air Force ROTC units assembled at Memorial Stadium for Military Day observances, 1955.

In many ways the 1950s represented the “golden years” for UConn ROTC. As the campus grew, so did the program, and by the middle of the decade the combined strength of the Cadet Regiment (Army) and Division (Air Force) exceeded 2,000 students. With the increased enrollment came a proliferation of military-related social activities and clubs. In 1950, a UConn chapter of the Arnold Air Society was founded. Open to Cadets in the advanced Air Force ROTC, the aim of the organization was, according to the 1951 Nutmeg, “to help accomplish the mission of the Air Force, aid the Air Scout program, and to recruit for the ROTC program.” The chapter is still in existence today. An associated all-female group known as Angel Flight, founded at UConn in 1956, acted as an AFROTC auxiliary of sorts; members served as hostesses at Air Force ROTC events, helped Cadets type term papers, and sponsored events on campus.

Not to be outdone, Army ROTC established E Company, 10th Regiment of the National Society of Scabbard and Blade in the fall of 1951. A military honor society that promoted scholastic and leadership excellence on college campuses, the UConn chapter of Scabbard and Blade numbered some twenty-two Cadets by 1957 and was best known for its sponsorship of the annual Military Ball. Company F-12 of the National Society of Pershing Rifles came to Storrs in 1954. As a military fraternal organization, its members were dedicated to promoting the principles of discipline, loyalty and devotion through a focus on close-order and exhibition rifle drill.

Company F-12, UConn Pershing Rifles performs during a Military Day ceremony sometime in the 1950s.

Company F-12, UConn Pershing Rifles performs during a Military Day ceremony sometime in the 1950s.

The highlight of each school year continued to be Military Day, typically held in mid-May just prior to graduation. Alternatively referred to as Military Day, Military Commencement, Armed Forces Day, and 76th Division Day (due to ROTC’s relationship with the nearby 76th Infantry Division in West Hartford), the event dated back to the mid-1930s and was always well-attended. Each year, friends, family, and distinguished military guests turned out to watch as senior Cadets received their commissions as Army and Air Force officers. Beginning in 1954, the event was held on the football field of the new Memorial Stadium (dedicated 1953), and typically included a drill demonstration by the Pershing Rifles, a parade of the combined ROTC unit and band, the presentation of awards to outstanding Cadets, and a keynote address (usually delivered by President Jorgensen.) The festivities were often accompanied by a demonstration of military technology or firepower. In 1957 an Army assault force “captured” Hawley Armory after a helicopter insertion on Gardner Dow field (at that time spectators at Memorial Stadium could see clear across campus to the Armory, as Oak Hall, Babbidge Library, the Business Center, the ITE Building, and Gampel Pavilion had not yet been built.)

Brigadier General Walter Larew pins Second Lieutenant rank onto his son Karl’s uniform during Military Day ceremonies, 1959.

Prosperous as they were, the 1950s were not without hardship. The war in Korea, though perhaps less impactful than the Second World War had been on the campus, claimed the lives of seventeen alumni, including at least two Army ROTC graduates. The Cold War, and the U.S.-Soviet tension that characterized it, also took their toll. In 1958, Air Force Captain Edward Jeruss (’47) was killed when his unarmed aircraft was shot down over Armenia, and Lieutenant Paul Drotch (’57) died in May of 1960 while conducting a training flight near Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Still, the growth and improvement seen during the fifteen or so years following the end of the Second World War represented a high point in the history of UConn ROTC—especially considering what the 1960s would bring.

The decade began with a major shift in ROTC curriculum. In 1935, President Albert Jorgensen had arrived at UConn amidst a wave of protest against compulsory military training on campus. In the early 1960s, as he prepared to retire as President Emeritus, the issue had again come to the fore. In December 1961, after several months of debate, the Board of Trustees voted to drop the mandatory basic ROTC course beginning with the 1962-63 school year. The reason? In the words of President Jorgensen, “required ROTC is not considered essential to production of the necessary number of officers for the Armed Forces.” The decision at UConn reflected the general opinion of the Department of Defense that a large pool of reserve officers, and thus the compulsory ROTC program that produced them, was no longer vital to national defense as it had been previously. It was felt that an all-volunteer force could adequately meet the military’s manpower demands. Student response to the decree was exceedingly positive; the Student Senate had for years notified the Trustees that the student body was in favor of voluntary ROTC, and now they had finally gotten their wish. Many students believed that while enrollment numbers would plummet, the new system would lead to “less confusion, bad feelings and apathy among the cadets,” because those who remained in the program would truly want to participate.

In the fall of 1962, as the first year of voluntary ROTC got underway, Jorgensen left campus and UConn welcomed its new president, Homer D. Babbidge Jr.. Almost immediately, Babbidge gained favor with the campus community for his quick wit and empathy when it came to student issues. In the first few years of his tenure, he greatly expanded the library budget, rejuvenated interest in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, and took steps to increase private funding for the university. The popularity he gained early on would be put to the ultimate test during the latter half of the decade, however, as events abroad manifested themselves at Storrs in a major way.

Cadets and Protesters at Military Day ceremonies, May 1968.

Cadets and Protesters at Military Day ceremonies, May 1968.

As the war in Vietnam escalated during the late 1960s, protests erupted on college campuses throughout the country, including UConn. As the most conspicuous military presence on campus, ROTC was an early and frequent target. The trouble began in earnest in 1967, with a small demonstration of eight students outside the hangar. While this occurred without incident, more serious events were soon to follow. The following May, demonstrators led by members of the UConn Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) picketed the annual Military Day ceremonies at Memorial Stadium, taunting Cadets as they marched onto the field and chanting during Babbidge’s keynote address. Several protesters engaged in what they termed “guerrilla theater,” donning bloody makeup and ragged clothes and limping around the parade field. The object, they stated, “was to drive home to the ROTC cadets and all present that they…were being trained to kill and be killed.”

The trouble continued into the fall semester. On two separate occasions, SDS-backed protesters disrupted interviews taking place on campus between students and recruiters from the Dow Chemical Company and the Olin Corporation, both of which produced weapons and ammunition for the military. During the Olin protests, on what he would later refer to as “the saddest day of my life,” Babbidge was forced to call in the state police to disperse the crowds and restore order. Blows were exchanged, and several students and faculty members were arrested.  Similar actions against on-campus interviews continued into the 1969-1970 school year.

Tensions reached a boiling point in May of 1970, when National Guardsmen shot and killed four student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio. The incident sparked a new wave of unrest at UConn and elsewhere, as calls for a nationwide student strike led to requests that classes be cancelled for the remainder of the semester in order to allow the campus community “to respond in a constructive way to this ominous situation.” The UConn chapters of SDS and the Black Student Union issued a number of demands, including the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia and the abolishment of ROTC, with the intention that the hangar at UConn be converted into a free on-campus daycare center. When the University Senate failed to act on the latter issue, students took matters into their own hands, and occupied the hangar on May 11th for a “paint in.” Peace symbols and other related artwork were applied to both the interior and exterior of the building before the group dispersed that night. In a counter-protest, some 300 students who supported Babbidge and the ROTC signed up to repaint the building and repair the damage done.

It wouldn’t be the last time that the hangar was targeted that year. In the early hours of December 15th, 1970, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through an office window, and flames soon engulfed several rooms inside the building. The UConn Fire Department was able to contain the blaze, and no one was injured, but substantial damage was done to three administrative offices. Although UConn Police and the FBI began investigations immediately, a perpetrator was never identified.

It was a depressing end to a difficult period for UConn, Babbidge, and the university ROTC. The future of all three remained unclear as the new decade began and the war in Vietnam showed no signs of stopping. In the fifth and final installment of this series, we’ll look at the resolution to the events of 1967-1970, the introduction of women to ROTC, and the ever-changing relationship between the university and its Cadet units during the 80s, 90s, and present day.

Sources

Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Connecticut Daily Campus, 1946-1970
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1946-1970
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”

University of Connecticut Photograph Collection:
Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Record Group 1, Series II, Box 244
Record Group 1, Series XIV, Box 222

Misc.

Starger, Steve. “Military Day Punctuated By Protest.” Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), May 17, 1968
Stave, Bruce M. Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits: Creating the University of Connecticut, 1881-2006. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2006.

Unearthing and Preserving Elusive State Party Platforms

The following is a guest post by Matthew Carr, PhD candidate in the Political Science Department at Columbia University studying American politics, specifically institutions, political parties, and judicial politics.  In 2016 he was awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant to further his research using the political papers in Archives and Special Collections. 

Carrphoto1rev I was able to spend a few days searching the rich collection of political papers in Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center for an often neglected document – state-level political party platforms. Every four years, the national Democratic and Republican parties issue lengthy platforms, explicating their policy goals and objectives. However, the Democratic and Republican parties of the 50 states issue their own, independent platforms. While the historical national platforms are well-preserved and somewhat well-known political documents, the state party platforms are almost ephemeral and have never been systematically preserved. Although the most recent state party platforms are readily available on the party websites, the goal of myself and my fellow researchers is to locate all state party platforms from 1960 until present.

Since most state parties issue a new platform every two years, the enterprise of collecting all of them entails finding hundreds of (usually elusive) documents. Locating them presents several challenges. Chief among these is that, unlike many other documents related to politics and the policy making process, state governments do not archive party platforms. Therefore, in order to find them we have turned to a variety of sources. We initially thought that the state parties themselves might be the best preservers of their own history, but we quickly found that the parties rarely maintain any significant archives. There are encouraging exceptions; a handful of party offices maintain an attic or storeroom that serves as an informal archive with decades’ old documents. On the other hand it is a distressing experience being just a few years too late, which must be all too familiar to archivists and others concerned with historic preservation. Some parties told us that they once had a large collection of old platforms, but that – during the latest office move or a spring cleaning a few years earlier – they were purged.  We have therefore turned to other sources to find the documents. A small percentage of the platforms are given a call number and placed on a library shelf, and we attained those through interlibrary loan. We have also directly reached out to those currently involved in politics and received some platforms from long-term activists Carrphoto2who happened to keep them.

Archives and manuscript collections, however, have been by far our most fruitful source of platforms. The hope is that a politician, political activist, or political observer attained a copy of the platform (e.g., through being directly involved in the platform drafting process at the state convention that produced the document or simply by being given one by the state party) and kept it in his or her records. Given that the Archives’ at the Dodd Research Center is the premier repository of the papers of Connecticut political figures, searching its collections was essential in our effort to attain Connecticut platforms. Thanks to the Strochlitz Travel Grant, I was able to take a few days searching through the papers of Connecticut’s political luminaries. The Center has a rich political collection, housing the papers of senators (Prescott Bush and Thomas Dodd) and members of the House (Robert Giaimo, Stewart McKinney, Sam Gejdenson, and Nancy Johnson, among others). Although I found platforms among those collections, the most valuable source for the purpose of locating the documents I am looking for was the collection of the lesser-known Herman Wolf. He ran a public relations firm and was heavily involved in politics. Fortunately, he saved several state platforms – and for both parties, which is rare as most collections heavily document only one party or the other. Another particularly valuable resource was the collection of Audrey Beck, a state legislator who had a penchant for holding onto the platforms.

Carrphoto3Searching the papers illustrated the array of record-keeping practices, even among similarly situated political figures. Some collections are vast with a wide variety of documents, and other collections are smaller, even though the donor had a lengthy career. In short, the individual discretion they each had was on full display, and it was, of course, nice to encounter large collections with donors who were inclined to keep a wide variety of documents (including platforms!). I found clear evidence that some documents survived only by the skin of their proverbial teeth. The picture of the 1974 Democratic platform showcases this, as the original post-it note, with discussion of whether to keep or discard the document, is still attached.

Culling through literally hundreds of feet of political documentation requires calculation in order to efficiently find what you’re looking for. Here, the collections’ finding aids, describing the contents of each box, are invaluable. But when a single collection contains thousands of documents, it is impossible for the finding aid to have extreme specificity. Therefore, to get a full sense of exactly what’s in the collection, one really needs to take some time to go through the boxes in person. Thankfully, my trip to Storrs was successful in that I found several platforms. However, we’re still searching for the Connecticut Democratic platforms for 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000, and looking to confirm that the Connecticut Republicans stopped making platforms in 1974. The collections at the Dodd Research Center provided us with a firm foundation to eventually acquire a complete set of Connecticut platforms.

A lone state platform might be mildly interesting to those deeply invested in political history, but, frankly, the historical appeal and value of a single state party platform is limited. However, the entire corpus of state-level political platforms offers a rich documentation of political history and partisan belief which can help us better understand several phenomena highly relevant to the field of political science: the emergence and dispersion of political issues, the extent to which Carrphoto4the state parties differ from each other and their national counterparts, and the polarization and nationalization of the two parties. Some might expect these documents – crafted by politicians and political activists – to be stereotypically sparse and platitudinous. However, they tend to run several pages and offer highly specific policy recommendations on a diverse set of issues, including agriculture, criminal law, constitutional rights, transportation, education, and immigration, among many other topics. Therefore, we are hopeful that a systematic hand coding of these documents will allow for a better understanding of America’s two party system and the evolution of policy goals.

– Matthew Carr

 

The Balkans from Past to Present

–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), recently completing his internship at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.  

The Balkans are once again becoming a highlight in international news with the upcoming appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Of the 9 nominees from throughout the world,  5 have originated from the Former Yugoslavia, reflecting the importance of the region and its role in sculpting leaders that are prepared to lead one of the world’s most crucial international security organizations. The news could not put more light onto the region and my current work at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Through my research that has analyzed the various intricacies of the region, I have come across numerous UN resolutions and other documents written by Amnesty International that had been written by Slovenia’s Danilo Türk, one of the current nominees to the UN head position. With his nomination, we see that the plethora of archives possessed by the University of Connecticut have a deep and critical importance not only in the historic realm, but also in contemporary human rights and international relations sphere. These documents demonstrate Türk’s dedication to peace and an end to human rights violations early on in his political career and this nomination has evidently confirmed his fit for one of the most important positions for human rights.

Having spent four months on my research guide, I have taken the hundreds of documents, which are found in the Human Rights Internet archives, and broken them down into topics that easily pinpoint any reader to specific topics of the war. Many underlining factors for example lead to the Yugoslav war, and under my research guide, one can find information relating to the Polish Solidarity movement and how it had triggered revolt and unrest in Yugoslavia. In addition, Yugoslav-Soviet relations and the economic crisis of the 1980s, which had undercut stability in the country also had a detrimental effect to the incitement of the war. The indicators of violence and economic downturn before the outbreak of the war illustrate the factors that all together sparked a horrific genocidal and bloody war in Yugoslavia.

In addition to helping understand the underlying factors of the war, the research guide also has given a fundamental understanding of the wide amounts of advocacy that had been calling for an end to the war and the mass amounts of human rights violations. Amnesty International for example had initiated global advocacy for a cease-fire. Being able to gather all the advocacy reports and systematically break them down into specific topics within the over 50-page guide was very difficult, but it gave me the skills to analyze quickly and effectively within a very organized structure. Without a doubt, the time spent in the Archives had not only made me more knowledgeable about such a complicated history, but further provided skills that are critical for my future career as an International lawyer, such as efficient reading skills, an ability to apply the knowledge attained to the current contemporary events in relation to that part of the world.

I believe that one of the highlights of this internship must be the clear bias that western agencies have when covering an international conflict. The documents at the archives center, without a doubt, are heavily biased. Had I no background in the topic, I would have left this internship believing that the blame for the eruption of war was solely due to Serb aggression. Nevertheless, if we look into history and understand that for example there had been massive Serb emigration from Kosovo due to ethnic discrimination and cleansing of Serbs in Kosovo for hundreds of years, one should have a very different perspective on the current status of the quasi state. The sheer lack of documents that touch on the NATO bombings of Serbia and how thousands of innocent Serbs died essentially by American aggression is one of many examples that help us see this bias. While there may have been a few documents that touch on the topic, most Amnesty International documents avoid to discuss the horrific deaths of women in labor when NATO had “mistakenly” bombed hospitals.

In all, I would say that this internship has well prepared me for my future career and has allowed me to spread awareness of the importance of the region, and advocate for the halt of human rights violations, especially acts of genocide. Furthermore, the ability to organize a very complicated research guide that arranges various topics and hundreds of documents has benefited my skills to research and will further facilitate research for scholars in the future.

Matthew Kosior and the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Three: The Second World War, 1941-1945

Maurice “Moe” Daly, Class of 1923.

Maurice “Moe” Daly, Class of 1923.

While many Americans had expected for some time that sooner or later the country would be drawn into the war, the Japanese attack of December 7th nonetheless came as a shock. Even as the UConn community processed the news, ROTC alumni halfway around the world found themselves under fire. Major Maurice F. “Moe” Daly, Class of 1923, was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the Japanese attack there on December 8th, and was eventually taken prisoner when Bataan fell the following April.

While ROTC alumni went into action overseas, the campus at Storrs underwent a significant transformation. In February 1942, the Connecticut Campus ran an article asking for volunteers to man an air raid post located atop the university water towers (located between Towers residence halls and Husky Village, torn down in 2010), and practice blackouts were conducted to prepare for potential enemy air raids. Male students and faculty members alike left in droves to join the armed forces, and by April of 1943, for the first time in the school’s history, female students outnumbered their male counterparts.

In contrast to the standardization that defined ROTC curriculum during the interwar period, the war years brought significant changes to officer training programs across the country. By September of 1942, the unit at UConn was drilling without rifles, having had to return them to the army the previous summer, and the normal summer training for advanced course Cadets had been suspended due to a lack of facilities, equipment, and instructors. In February of 1943, the advanced course was done away with altogether, with no new contracts being issued for the duration of the war. The basic course was reduced in size, and upon completion, if slots were available, Cadets would be sent to Officer Candidate School (OCS) rather than continue onto the advanced course.

The suspension stemmed from the War Department’s realization that prewar ROTC was ill-suited to meet the demands of the current situation. With the military growing at an unprecedented rate, and casualties mounting as the war escalated, the armed forces needed thousands of junior officers, and they needed them fast. To be sure, the existing pool of leaders commissioned through ROTC during the interwar period represented a valuable source of manpower and leadership during the early days of the war, but by 1942 the demand was simply too great to be met by the traditional four-year commissioning track.

ROTC Cadets prepare to receive commissions from President Jorgensen during Military Commencement Ceremonies, May 1943. This occasion marked the last full dress parade of the ROTC unit for the duration of the war.

In place of the old structure, a number of programs designed to provide the military with officer candidates, enlisted men, and technical specialists were modified or put into effect. To begin with, existing OCS programs in all branches were significantly expanded. In addition, efforts like the Navy V-12 College Training Program provided would-be midshipmen and naval aviators with a college education before sending them on to advanced training for their specific duties. UConn hosted a small contingent of V-12 men during the war, and those enrolled in the aviation program (designation V-5, later V-12A) even took to calling themselves the “Husky Squadron.”

A group of students are inducted into the Army Air Corps Reserve by Captain Raymond Flint in front of Wood Hall, October 1942.

A group of students are inducted into the Army Air Corps Reserve by Captain Raymond Flint in front of Wood Hall, October 1942.

A Joint Enlisting Board, consisting of representatives from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, arrived at UConn in October of 1942. By the time they left, more than 500 students had joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC), Air Corps Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve. In doing so, they were allowed to continue their university work until called to active service, at which point they would report for basic training. The first such groups appear to have left campus during the spring and summer of 1943.

The Army’s answer to the demand for commissioned officers and specialists was the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Initiated in September of 1942, it involved more than 200 universities, and like the Students’ Army Training Corps of the First World War, the idea was to provide a large pool of technically trained recruits who could go on to serve in military branches deemed vital to the war effort. Accordingly, training was focused on subject like foreign languages, medicine, and engineering. The first recruits arrived at Storrs in June of 1943, and at peak strength the unit numbered some 800 trainees. The majority of the men departed in March of 1944 for active service, and the final semester for ASTP concluded in the fall of that year.

The ASTP came to represent the largest military presence at UConn during the war. Although they lived on campus, the men were enlisted soldiers and distinguishable from regular students. They wore uniforms, marched to class, and were subject to military discipline. That’s not to say that they were segregated from the general student population, however; trainees were allowed use of university facilities, invited to sporting events and social gatherings, and given their own weekly column in the Connecticut Campus where Private John Meyer entertained readers with the antics of “Homer Sapiens, Private at the U of C.” Relations between the two groups seemed more or less amicable during the nine months the ASTP men remained on campus; the Connecticut Alumnus, commenting on the program, called them “a clean cut group of young men,” and remarked that “it is just possible that a co-ed here and there shed genuine tears at their departure.”

The widespread changes to campus were also evident on the pages of the school newspaper. Ample space in each issue was taken up by news from the front or war-related issues affecting the UConn campus. Especially common were articles detailing the whereabouts and activities of UConn alumni in the military, including many who had received ROTC commissions before the 1943 suspension. News ranged from the mundane to the tragic. The February 2nd, 1942 edition of the Connecticut Campus detailed the exploits of James “Angie” Verinis, ’41, co-pilot of the famous B-17 bomber Memphis Belle, while an October issue announced the death of Captain H.R. Freckleton, an ROTC graduate from the Class of 1935 and the first UConn alumni to die during the war.

Then there was Lieutenant Theodore Antonelli, who had received his commission through UConn ROTC in the spring of 1941. By late 1942 he was serving with a rifle company of the First Infantry Division in North Africa. During a particularly brutal assault on a German-held hill, Antonelli’s commander was wounded. Taking command of the company, he ordered his men to fix bayonets, drew his pistol, and led them in a charge up the hill. The ground was taken, but at great cost to the young officer; fragments from an enemy grenade had torn through his chest, putting him out of action for several months. He later rejoined the division and served throughout the rest of the war, earning a Purple Heart, two Silver Stars, and two Distinguished Service Medals for his actions.

Antonelli was not alone in his bravery. Many UConn graduates and ex-students would be decorated during the course of the war, including Lieutenant Colonel T.R. Philbin, Jr. who had received an engineering degree and an ROTC commission with the Class of 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his daring capture of the Saar River Bridge before its intended demolition by the Germans on December 3, 1944.  Such actions directly contributed to the final defeat of Germany, made official on May 8th, 1945.

V-E Day observances in Hawley Armory, May 8th, 1945.

V-E Day observances in Hawley Armory, May 8th, 1945.

At nine o’clock on that fateful morning, UConn students gathered in the Engineering building and Library to hear President Truman’s radio address announcing Germany’s unconditional surrender and the end of the war in Europe. That afternoon, a modest ceremony was held in Hawley Armory, where President Jorgensen reminded those present that while victory had been achieved in Europe, the war still raged on in the Pacific. Fighting in that theater finally ceased some three months later, and on September 2nd, 1945, the official surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. After almost four years, the war was over.

The end of the war brought a sense of relief to the Storrs campus, but also the sobering realization that peace had come at a terrible cost; by 1945, at least 114 UConn alumni had been killed in action or were missing. Four of the fourteen members of the Class of 1939 who had received ROTC commissions that year had lost their lives, and Augustus Brundage, a long-serving Professor of Agricultural Extension at the school, had lost two of his four sons (also UConn graduates.) While there were occasionally bits of good news of men previously thought dead or missing turning up alive, there were also confirmations that others would never be coming home. Moe Daly, who had endured the fighting on Bataan, the Death March following his capture, and nearly three years in captivity, was unfortunately one of the latter; word came to campus in September of 1945 that he had died aboard a prison ship the previous January.

(The Roll of Honor, which hangs in the west end of the Alumni Center on campus, lists the names of UConn alumni lost in every conflict from the Spanish-American War to the present. An online version can be found here.)

Even as it mourned the dead, however, UConn and its ROTC program looked with determination into the future. Many young men had died, but many more had not, and those who had survived were determined to come back to campus, finish their education, and get on with their lives. The influx of veterans during the postwar period signaled the beginning of another period of drastic change. Next time, we’ll follow the UConn community as it faces the trials of the Cold War and the turbulent Vietnam era, and look at some of the resulting transformations to both the campus and its Cadet battalion.

Sources

*Unless otherwise noted, all sources courtesy of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

The Connecticut Campus, 1919-1940 (digitized through 1926)
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1923-1944
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”
University of Connecticut Photograph Collection, Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Connecticut Alumnus, Vol. 22 No. 4, 1944

John Temple Papers Project Now Open

0a831b0c3d2aeb112f08aeb7a5084fcdAs the spring semester ends and students turn their collective gaze and energies happily elsewhere, those of us that remain on campus pause to catch our collective breath.  Today I ponder and feel a heady lightness of gratitude as I reflect on the amazing exhibitions (such as Archives Reveal and Cuban Bricolage), student projects (such as Children of the Soil), and partnerships (including Celebrate People’s History and Interference Archives) of this past semester.  Wow!  Each incorporated and illuminated archival materials from collections here in Archives and Special Collections and in very different ways. It brings to mind that other activity of spring time in Storrs, the engine-like turning and tilling of the soil, the annual aeration and tending of ground that make deep roots and plentiful, fertile, bee-worthy blossoms possible.

It was a special pleasure on April 21 to attend the launch of the John Temple Papers Project and to hear the clever, funny and wise words of Eleanor Reeds, PhD candidate in UConn’s Department of English, teacher, blogger, and now publisher and creator of the John Temple Papers digital exhibition and digital humanities project. The celebration featured poetry readings, a demonstration of features of the web site,  and a presentation by Reeds who emphasized the theoretical foundation and origins of the project.  After two years of work, close-reading, experimentation, textual analysis and transcription, and decision-making, the John Temple Papers Project – a work of scholarship and an inventive peeling back and applying of layers of 31b3c55a8b8d126f2491e0c560aa80c3b92f03029026e90c67d51c46269ab47ctechnological onion skin – makes available digitally for the first time a selection of the poet’s literary manuscripts, typescripts, letters and production galley proofs.  Readers are invited to “Experience the Archive” and to explore Temple’s revisions of individual poems via a digital interface.  The materiality and arrangement of the manuscripts, and the play and presence of the author’s hand, are emphasized.  With permission of the poet himself, Reeds presents the manuscripts as high-resolution images derived from the original documents in the John Temple Papers preserved in Archives and Special Collections.

Reeds explains,

As a scholar of predominantly nineteenth-century poetry and print culture, I had always been interested in the process of editing poems and the assumptions underlying any approach to the reality that almost every poet significantly revises their work, before and even after publication. By making available all the possible versions of a poem—including those represented within a single document through annotation—I hope to prompt further interest in how we can allow readers to appreciate poems as far from fixed entities that should not be regarded through a narrative timeline that privileges either original inspiration or teleological perfection.

 

With this end in mind, the Omeka platform has been utilized to enable users of this website to browse multiple instantiations of three poems written by John Temple as his 1973 collection, The Ridge (originally titled The War Changed Me), was developed for publication under the editorship of Andrew Crozier. Temple is a British revival poet whose connection with Charles Olson is what likely led to some of his papers coming to the University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections.

 

Writing in 1970, Jim Burns described Temple as “too little known or published,” noting how he had “absorbed American technical innovations and applied them to his own experiences in the North-East of England.” Burns’s essay—now collected in Brits, Beats, and Outsiders (Penniless Press, 2012)—is entitled “English-English Poetry.” It surveys a contemporary group of “non-Establishment” poets with “small, quiet voices,” poets characterized by their “long-lined dense texture in which they seem to write around the subject rather than about it.” The three poems by Temple I have chosen to feature in this exhibition tend toward a shorter line length. However, in their evocation of complex emotions through the anecdotal details of otherwise quotidien experiences, they can certainly be regarded as exemplifying Burns’s judgment.

 

Congratulations Eleanor Reeds!  Thank you John Temple, and thank you to staff of the University of Connecticut Libraries’ Scholars Collaborative, and UConn faculty.  I am delighted that John Temple’s poetry and his archives are available and presented anew, from the page to new fertile ground, to another generation of readers.  Read on!

 

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Two: The Interwar Years, 1919-1941

At the end of my last post, the Cadet battalion of the Connecticut Agricultural College had made the successful transition to a full-fledged ROTC unit and weathered the trials of the First World War.

The program remained in a state of flux for the first few years following the Armistice. Captain Cranston remained in Storrs less than a year, but between his efforts and those of his successor Captain Benjamin Ferris, the battalion grew to an unprecedented size; a September 1919 edition of the Connecticut Campus stated that enrollment was large enough to form between three and five companies of Cadets. The ROTC band was also reestablished that same November following a brief hiatus during the war.

The training itself also underwent a gradual standardization. By regulation, CAC males completed a mandatory “basic course” in Military Science during their freshman and sophomore years, and then decided whether or not to continue on to the advanced course, which would lead to an officer’s commission following graduation. As members of the advanced course, Cadets were paid a daily stipend during the school year (in 1921, it was 40 cents.) Satisfactory completion of the basic course was a requirement for graduation, regardless of whether or not the student continued his participation past sophomore year. The curriculum amounted to three hours of study and practical exercises per week, and included target practice (both at the lighted indoor range in Hawley Armory and an outdoor range near the New Storrs Cemetery on North Eagleville Road) and instruction on personal hygiene, military organization, and map reading, among other subjects. There was also time allotted in the early morning for drill and ceremony, and overnight campouts and route marches to nearby Coventry and Willimantic were made possible following the issue of individual “pup” tents to the Cadets.

Cadets undergo marksmanship instruction inside Hawley Armory, 1920

Cadets receive marksmanship instruction inside Hawley Armory, 1920.

For all the progress, however, there were issues. Cranston’s sudden departure and the arrival of a new commander at the beginning of the 1919-1920 school year caused some confusion and fostered what one student later called the “disease” of “indifference in the cadet personnel of the battalion.” The turnover rate for Professors of Military Science would remain high; Captain Ferris departed in the fall of 1920, and his successor Captain Boyer spent just two years at Storrs. Moreover, instructions from the War Department necessitated frequent changes to the training schedule, and cadre struggled to maintain a sense of continuity between school years. As a result, few upperclassmen were enticed to move on to the advanced course once their obligation was fulfilled, and morale suffered.

CAC Cadet Battalion, 1924, with Koons Hall and Hawley Armory in the background

CAC Cadet Battalion, 1924, with Koons Hall and Hawley Armory in the background.

It wasn’t until early 1921 that progress began to be made through the establishment of a permanent command structure for the battalion, and the appointing of juniors and seniors as Cadet officers. This organizational change was supported by the arrival of new equipment, including modern Springfield 1903 rifles and one of the new M1918 Browning Automatic Rifles. That fall, a group of returning seniors vowed to continue improvements, stating that “as much college spirit should be shown in the conduct of the battalion as in the conduct of our athletic teams, or any one of our activities.” By 1922, attempts were being made to reestablish traditions like the annual military ball, and the following year it was reported that some twenty juniors would be continuing on to the advanced course.

These changes within ROTC were mirrored by significant transformations to the campus as a whole. The old wooden buildings of the nineteenth-century—many of which had burned down or been demolished by the 1920s—were gradually replaced by the more fireproof red brick structures that are so well known today. A new dining hall, known as the “Beanery” (namesake of the café currently in the Benton Museum), opened in the spring of 1920. Holcomb Hall, a women’s dormitory, was completed in 1922 to replace Grove Cottage, which had been destroyed by fire in 1919, and construction of the William Henry Hall dormitory (the future home of UConn ROTC) was completed in 1927. (Photographs of these and other early campus buildings can be found in our digital collections.)

CAC Student Handbook, 1916 edition

CAC Student Handbook, 1916 edition

Then, as now, Cadet life had its benefits and hardships. A system of demerits for student infractions had been in place on campus for years, as indicated by a 1916 edition of the CAC Handbook. Accumulating too many would result in extra duty on Saturdays. For a time, dormitories were inspected each weekday morning and in the afternoon on Saturday, and failure to keep things in good order resulted in demerits or monetary fines: floor not swept, 10 demerits; paper cans not emptied, fifty cent fine; and so on. There were also regulations which governed everyday activities. Among the more interesting punishments:

Any cadet who plays a musical instrument during class or study hours will be punished by a minimum of 10 demerits. 

Any cadet who practices football or baseball or who throws snowballs, apples, stones, dirt, etc. within 100 feet of a dormitory will be punished by a minimum of 25 demerits.

These rules evidently didn’t stop some Cadets from occasionally letting off steam. Captain Ferris penned a letter to President Beach in 1920 concerning the possession of firearms on campus, complaining that “[the students] are constantly firing from the windows in the dormitories.” Beach subsequently reiterated in a bulletin part of the CAC Student Regulations, which stated that “students are not allowed to keep in their possession firearms of any description other than the service rifle.” The punishment for discharging a firearm on campus? A minimum of 50 demerits.

There was, of course, the requirement to wear a uniform, but by 1923 training was organized in such a way that students were required to do so only one day a week (not including the occasional parade, field exercise, or social function.) The off-campus hikes and campouts were seen not only as training exercises, but as opportunities to escape the tedium of campus life; upon announcing one such excursion in May of 1919, Commandant Cranston noted that he intended “to give the men as good a picnic as is possible without interfering with the instruction which they are to receive,” and extended an invitation to all faculty members wishing to join in on the activities.

Cadets on the machine gun range at Camp Devens, summer 1925

Cadets on the machine gun range at Camp Devens, summer 1925

Even the six-week summer training camp required of advanced course Cadets after their junior year, which might have been seen as arduous by those used to the pace of on-campus training, was far from miserable. Those attending the training in 1924 at Camp Devens, for example, found time for “baseball, swimming, riding, movies and exploring” once work ceased for the day at 3:30pm. The following year, in addition to qualifying on the range with their service rifles, Cadets had the opportunity to conduct familiarization fire with automatic rifles, machine guns, and pistols. A howitzer demonstration had been planned, but was cancelled due to lack of facilities.

For all its ups and downs, military training remained mandatory for male students at CAC, even if it only consisted of a few hours a week for the first two years of their college career. This fact was the cause of considerable debate during the interwar period; many pointed out that under the terms of the Morrill Act, courses in Military Science need only be offered by land-grant colleges, not required. As early as 1926, some CAC students protested the idea of a male student being forced onto the parade field every Friday morning, “prancing around for two hours, laboring under the weight of a baby cannon perched on his shoulder.” In the 1930s, Psychology Professor Florien Heiser claimed that “a large number of students dislike the requirement because it is boring, of little or no educational or physical value, interferes with other work and because of opposition to all war and militarism.”

These sentiments reached a boiling point in 1935. In April of that year, responding to agitation against ROTC at a number of colleges across the nation, the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut State College (the name had again been changed in 1933) passed legislation forbidding public debate over military training on the Storrs campus. Quickly dubbed the “gag rule” by those opposed to it, the act garnered significant criticism from students, faculty, and outside groups. On May 15th, just a few days after a large on-campus protest, Charles McCracken resigned as President of CSC, though he maintained that he had made the decision to leave before the Trustees had issued their ruling. Shortly after, on May 17th, CSC’s Social Problems Club organized an off-campus discussion on the gag rule featuring a guest speaker from Columbia University. This was interrupted by a mob of pro-ROTC supporters, who threatened members of the Social Problems Club and forced another student, who had reportedly spoken against the gag rule, to jump into Swan Lake.

While this marked the end of major protests, tensions remained high throughout the summer of 1935, with the Trustees refusing to rescind the gag rule. It was only after Albert Nels Jorgensen was appointed as CSC President in September that the Board at last felt secure enough in the abilities of the college’s administration to repeal the motion. Jorgensen’s appointment seemed to bring a measure of calm to campus, and his arrival signaled another period of growth for the college. Within the first five years of his administration, no less than four new campus buildings were built using funds from the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), including Manchester Hall, a women’s dorm, the F.L. Castleman (Engineering) building, and Wood Hall, a men’s dorm completed in 1940 (now home to the History Department and other offices.)  There was also a fifth and final name change: in 1939, Connecticut State College became the University of Connecticut.

The calm would not last long, however, as events overseas would soon make themselves felt in Storrs. Beginning in October of 1939, the Connecticut Campus ran a column entitled “History in the Headlines,” in which History Professor Andre Schenker offered commentary on the war which had begun that September in Europe. The following May, as students prepared to leave campus for the summer, Germany invaded France and the Low Countries. By the time they returned in September, nearly all of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis, and England stood alone. To bolster America’s defenses, FDR signed the Selective Service Act into law on September 16th, and as a result those UConn students 21 years of age and older were required to register for the draft (unless they were seniors enrolled in the advanced ROTC course.) As worrisome as these developments were, America remained neutral, and so for the next year or so it was enough to simply note, in the words of the Connecticut Campus’s editor, “that the average college student stands ready to ‘do his part’.”

On the evening of December 7th, 1941, Professor Schenker was attending a performance in Hartford when an usher approached him with an urgent message. After speaking with him, Schenker immediately set off for radio station WTIC, where he served as a world affairs commentator. Later that night, he began his broadcast with the following words:

“It has happened. Japan has decided to commit suicide by attacking the strongest power on earth, the United States…As you all know by now, this morning in the Far East, which means this afternoon our time, a Japanese force suddenly attacked Manila, in the Philippines, and another force attacked the Gibraltar of the Pacific, our base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.”

(The complete recording of Professor Schenker’s broadcast can be found here.)

War had at last come to the United States, and to Storrs. Next time, we’ll look at the role played by the men and women of UConn—and the Cadets of its ROTC program—in the deadliest conflict in human history.

 

Sources

*Unless otherwise noted, all sources courtesy of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

The Connecticut Campus, 1919-1940
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1919-1935
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”
University of Connecticut Photograph Collection, Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Walter Landauer Collection, Series I, Box 1
Office of the President Records [Charles Lewis Beach, 1908-1928], Box 9

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part One: The Early Years, 1893-1920

This is the first of a series of blog posts by Nick Hurley, who recently completed his M.A. in History at UConn and now works as Research Services Assistant here at Archives & Special Collections.

How time flies!

Since its founding in 1916, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (better known as ROTC) has become a fixture on many U.S. college campuses, and UConn is no exception. More than two hundred Huskies are currently serving as Cadets in either the Nathan Hale Battalion, the Army’s only ROTC unit in Connecticut, or Air Force ROTC Detachment 115, “Snake Eyes Five”.

I spent four years in the Nathan Hale Battalion, from 2009-2013, reaching the rank of Cadet Captain and eventually commissioning as a Field Artillery officer. Given my personal connection to UConn and the military (not to mention my love of all things history), I thought it would be appropriate, especially because ROTC is turning 100 this year, to examine the long and fascinating story of military training at UConn.

Cadets conducting a "mock battle" on campus, WWI era.

Cadets conducting a “mock battle” on campus, WWI era.

To do so, there was no better starting point than the holdings here at Archives and Special Collections. Series VI of the University of Connecticut Photograph Collection contains three boxes of photographic prints which document all aspects of Cadet life from the early 1900’s to the present, including training exercises, social events, and inspections. There are also numerous portraits of Cadets, Instructors, the Cadet Band, and the Color Guard. A small number of these photographs have been uploaded to our digital repository. Physical artifacts are contained in the UConn Memorabilia Collection, including a dress uniform jacket from the late 1930’s and a unit patch dated 1918, and general administrative files from both Army and Air Force ROTC can be found in the UConn Office of Public Information (OPI) Records.

CAC Cadet Band, circa 1907. Note the blue uniforms and collar insignia marked “C.A.C”. These would be replaced by Army green uniforms and ROTC insignia beginning in 1917.

Though this year marks the centenary of ROTC, UConn’s affiliation with military training in general dates back to 1893, when the Storrs Agricultural School was renamed the Storrs Agricultural College. Along with the name change came the conferral of land-grant status to the university. Under the terms of the Morrill Act of 1862, land-grant colleges received federal land and assistance in return for offering academic programs in agriculture, engineering, and military tactics. The administration at Storrs deemed it appropriate to not only offer military classes, but make them mandatory, and thereafter every male student who enrolled at the school received instruction under the direction of a newly-hired Professor of Military Science. This training was not intended to produce commissioned officers, however, and students incurred no military obligation upon graduating from Storrs Agricultural College, which in 1899 became the Connecticut Agricultural College (CAC).

Members of the CAC Cadet Battalion, 1905. The officer in the second row, fourth from left is Lieutenant E. R. Bennett, Commandant of Cadets

Members of the CAC Cadet Battalion, 1905. The officer in the second row, fourth from left is Lieutenant E. R. Bennett, Commandant of Cadets

The roots of what we now know as ROTC can be traced back to the National Defense Act of 1916. Among its other provisions, it provided federal assistance for the establishment of officer training programs at a number of universities. UConn was one such institution, and on November 1st, 1916, War Department Bulletin No. 48 announced the creation of “an Infantry unit of the Senior Division, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps” at Storrs.

The introduction of ROTC brought both change and continuity. Activities like the Cadet Band and Color Guard remained integral components of ROTC life, and drill continued to be held in Hawley

Rifle range, Hawley Armory basement, circa 1920

Rifle range, Hawley Armory basement, circa 1920

Armory, named for SAC graduate Willis Nichols Hawley following his death during the Spanish-American War. Completed in 1915, the facility also housed facilities for athletics, an auditorium, and even a rifle range in the basement. (Today, the armory continues to serve as a supply room and exercise area for UConn Cadets—but, not surprisingly, the rifle range is no more!)

Still, no one could deny that a significant shift in military training at Storrs had occurred. An article in the April 30, 1917 edition of the Connecticut Campus noted that:

A young man now entering the Connecticut Agricultural College, if a citizen of the United States and physically fit, becomes a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Without cost he is furnished with rifle, uniform and necessary equipment. For two years he devotes three hours a week to military training under the prescribed course. At the end of the two years, if he so elects, and if he is recommended by the President of the college and the Commandant he may sign an agreement to devote five hours a week to the advanced course in Military Training for the remaining two years of the college course…a graduate of the college who has completed the advance course is eligible for appointment by the President of the United States as Second Lieutenant in the regular army for a period of six months with pay at $100 per month and to a commission in the Officers’ Reserve Corps.

Calisthenics in Hawley Armory, 1920

Calisthenics in Hawley Armory, 1920

There were more visible changes as well; students no longer wore the Cadet blue uniform, exchanging them for Army greens with an olive drab cuff insignia emblazoned with the letters “U.S.” and “R.O.T.C.” In addition, new rifles and other equipment were soon delivered to campus courtesy of the War Department, and Lieutenant Frank R. Sessions arrived in October of 1917 to replace Captain Charles Amory as Commandant. The arrival of Lieutenant Sessions was not a moment too soon. War had been declared that April, and many male students had already left campus for the battlefields of France and Belgium. Of the nearly six hundred CAC students and alumni who would ultimately serve in the Great War, at least seven would not live to see the armistice declared in November of 1918.

Those who remained in Storrs trained with a new sense of purpose and urgency. By the summer of 1918, however, the Cadet contingent at CAC was overshadowed by a new government-initiated program: the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC). The Corps essentially placed participating universities on a war footing; students and staff alike were inducted into the military, and remained on campus for instruction in trades and skills deemed vital to the war effort. At the completion of such courses, the intent was to assign graduates to officers’ school, regular duty as enlisted men, or further technical training. Some four hundred CAC men had signed up by the time the short-lived program was disbanded in December of 1918. Following a brief lull, ROTC was reinstated the following January with the arrival of Captain Claude E. Cranston as the new Professor of Military Science. By the end of that year, Cadet training had more or less returned to what it had been before the introduction of the SATC.

ROTC Cadets standby for inspection of their encampments and equipment, 1919. Hawley Armory is in the background. Laurel Hall now stands on the site of the parade field

ROTC Cadets standby for inspection of their encampments and equipment, 1919. Hawley Armory and Koons Hall are in the background. Oak Hall now stands on the site of the parade field

Notwithstanding a brief suspension during the First World War, then, ROTC had by 1920 established itself as a fixture on the Storrs campus. The future of the program would be anything but tranquil, however, as the remainder of the twentieth century would prove eventful, both on campus and abroad. In my next post, we’ll look at the debates over compulsory participation in ROTC. Stay tuned!

–Nick Hurley

Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia

–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), currently interning at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.  

Violence and Terror in Kosovo, SOS-Kosovo Committee, Geneva, Switzerland. Human Rights Internet, box 99.

With ever normalizing relations between the Balkan states, especially with the recent Serbia-Kosovo talks as well as Montenegro’s invitation to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), from an outsider’s perspective the progress made in the region seems ordinary. One cannot however ignore the fact that the former Yugoslavia has endured violent waves of wars that would permanently strain relations between the various ethnic groups and nation-states that would emerge from the chain of conflicts. The complicated history of the region and its path towards stabilization can be found through the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection (HRIC) found in the Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, which contains a plethora of articles, resolutions, and books relating to the former Yugoslavia. Continue reading

Orienting Oneself Inside Charles Olson’s Thought – A Prospector’s Guide

by Matthew L. Kroll

To say that readers need a roadmap to guide them through the prolific, often perplexing work of American poet Charles Olson (1910–1970) perhaps edges too close to cliché —  the kind of bland and general statement which Charles Olson successfully and adamantly avoided throughout his career.  But it is, I think, true.  As is the fact Charles Olson spent much of his career making ‘maps,’ of one kind or another.  Olson’s interest in cartography and archival maps, and his almost ontological understanding of geography, manifest his acute thinking of and through space and place.  But Olson also created ‘maps’ of thought across his writings and lectures: uncovering and connecting people, places, languages and literatures across various eras of human history, including his own.  The work of the Olson scholar involves tracing these ‘thought-maps,’ if you will, to the benefit of readers and students of Olson.

To add clarity and depth to the scholarly exploration of Olson’s idiosyncratic thinking and writing, a researcher will surely benefit from the vast and varied Olson material available at the Archives and Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.  Thankfully, this carefully curated collection has a detailed finding aid, and the staff has a wealth of knowledge to further help visitors navigate the collection.  But all that guidance could not fence me from the inevitable sense of disorientation I felt after my first day engaging with the Olson archives during my research trip.

Suffice to say, the breadth of Olson’s knowledge can make his readers’ head spin, leaving us grasping for a sense of direction.  The archived material available in Storrs attests to the immense range of thinkers and writers of various fields and genres with which Olson engaged.  The unpublished material there can help us fill in the gaps and make our own pathways through his dense thought.  The Olson scholar must, I think, (paraphrasing his line) “find out for him-/herself” a way to orient oneself to Olson’s mind.[1]  For my own research purposes, this has been to focus on Olson and early Greek thought.

Before arriving in Storrs I was confident I had a good plan of research going in.  Within only a few minutes of arriving at the Charles Olson Research Collection, however, I realized the most important, and unexpected, task of my week: orienting myself to Olson’s often unintelligible handwriting!  The image below demonstrates both the difficulty in reading Olson’s handwriting, and offers us a glimpse of how his mind worked.  Note the multiple directional orientations of his handwriting across these two pages from a notebook dated 11 November – 13 December, 1964 (Box 56, folder 103).

KrollCOB56f103pp45revA dizzying experience, indeed.  This image is particularly relevant here as it shows us Olson working through Whitehead’s concept of the ‘extensive continuum’ (from Process and Reality), essentially, the spatio-temporal extensiveness of the world.  This is vintage Olson: working through a philosophical concept which is fundamental to how human beings orient themselves in the world, doing it with such freedom and instantaneous changes of direction that he actually writes along several different axes across the page.

But for all the frustration readers and researchers may find in Olson— his layered and obscure allusions, his frequently challenging syntax, his penmanship—there are some constants in Olson’s writing, especially in his magnum opus, The Maximus Poems.  Olson’s modern verse epic is populated with many historical and geographical explorations of his adopted hometown of Gloucester, MA.  We see through Maximus’ (Olson’s?) eyes Stage Fort Park, Dogtown, the waters and islands off Cape Ann and its surrounding environs, the settlers and early inhabitants of the area, its fishermen, its modern inhabitants, its poets…we even get a sense for life inside his 28 Fort Square apartment and the very desk he enveloped with his physical and intellectual magnitude.  The early published versions of each of the three volumes of Maximus featured maps on their covers, maps which would later feature as the first pages of the volumes in the collected edition (ed. George F. Butterick, 1983).  This was not merely a decision by Olson and his publishers to add cover art to the Maximus volumes.  These maps serve to orient the reader to the directions which the subsequent poetry will take: from Gloucester out to the sea; from Gloucester back through deep and mythological history; and finally from Gloucester toward the West.

KrollCO710HomermapcovrevAs I came to “find out for myself,” Olson himself mapped out the geography present in his favorite literature.  I couldn’t help but laugh when I came across Olson’s Modern Library Edition (1935) of The Complete Works of Homer (Olson #710).  Upon opening the front cover, I found a rather impressive freehand map of Greece which Olson drew in pencil.

And later in the volume, on the first page of Book IX of The Odyssey, Olson again appears to be orienting himself to his reading, this time drawing a map of the west coast of Italy and the Tyrrhenian Sea.  In his challenging fashion, the map is drawn right through the type!

This kind of interaction with his books is apparent throughout his library—as if Olson were responding to the text in his own hand in live time, creating a sort of interactive textual dialogue with whatever he was reading.

KrollCO710Homerpp126rev

To conclude, Olson’s work is if nothing else rooted in place.  It expresses particular locales with an energy that, for me at least, few poets have been able to transfer “all the way over to the…reader” as successfully as he does.[2]  Fitting that a particular place exists—the University of Connecticut, where Olson taught briefly during what became the last year of his life—where Olson scholars can enact the very “prospecting” which his projective verse calls for, digging through his archived material to, hopefully, uncover some new place on the map of his thought—a new connectivity between his writing, his life, and the places, peoples, histories, and literatures which live in his work.  Thanks to the generous support of a Strochlitz travel grant, I was able to at least begin the digging for my own research project.  The Charles Olson Research Collection reinforced the aspect of his work which I think most gives it a unique vitality: it emanates a multiplicity of intense localities he’s “prospected”: places (physical, literary, and psychological) he inhabited, studied, and mapped.

Matthew Kroll is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Purdue University working on his dissertation titled “The Poet and the Polis: Early Greek Thought in Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems.”  Mr. Kroll was awarded a 2015 Strochlitz Travel Grant from Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut to support his ongoing research.

Notes:

[1] Olson’s line is in “A Later Note on Letter # 15” [Maximus, 249 (II.79)], in reference to Herodotus’ “concept of history”, ‘istorin, which Olson tells us “was a verb, to find out for yourself.”  This understanding of the term is largely informed by J.A.K. Thomson’s The Art of the Logos (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1935).  Olson’s copy is in the Charles Olson Research Collection in Storrs, call no. Olson 450.

[2] “Projective Verse”, in Selected Writings, ed. Robert Creeley (New York: New Directions, 1966), p. 16.

 

Semiotics in the archives: Reflections on ‘Eviction and the Archive’ by scholar Daniel Nemser

image of front cover of Book written by the architect Lucas Cintora defending his work at the Lonja de Sevilla which will housed the new Archivo General de Sevilla.

Book written by the architect Lucas Cintora defending his work at the Lonja de Sevilla which would later housed the new Archivo General de Sevilla.

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.” ― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.

Today’s story is not about books talking about books necessarily but of a book talking about archives and their buildings, and the rationale, in this particular story, to evict people from a building to replace them with books and records in the name of history and imperial memory. In a way you can say that this is story of semiotics of archives, signs and meanings found in an article talking about a book talking about an archive to be born…

As I said in a previous post, it is valuable to hear from our researchers and to learn about how they used our archival materials in their work. Professor Daniel Nemser contacted me in April 2014 asking for access to one of our rare books titled, Justa repulsa de ignorantes y de émulos malignos: Carta apologético-crítica en que se vindica la obra que se está haciendo en la Lonja de Sevilla (1) written by the architect Lucas Cintora in 1786. Prof. Nemser needed to consult the piece for a scholarly article he was writing. As far as we know, there are two known copies in the world, one located at the University of Seville’s library and the other at the Archives and Special Collections here at UConn Storrs (2). Prof. Nemser was able to visit us last May 2014 to consult the book and last September 2015 he contacted me to let me know that his article, “Eviction and the archive: materials for an archaeology of the Archivo General de Indias” was published in Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies that month.

I was immediately intrigued and enchanted by the title of the article. It is not common to see literature scholars studying archives and their place in history. But this article delved into the history of the establishment of one of the most important archives ever created – an archive which documents “four centuries of Spanish colonial rule” and is considered the “first modern archives in Spain and one of the first in Europe” (page 131), el Archivo General de las Indias.

The article documented how a particular building known as La Casa Lonja de Mercaderes in Sevilla, designed by architect Juan de Herrera, a magnificent building to house the Consulado de Mercaderes (the city merchant guild), was repurposed to become the Archivo General de las Indias. After the construction “la Lonja”, the guild moved their office to the city of Cádiz and the building was abandoned, but right after people of poor means moved in and occupied the upper levels. The article explored how the founding of the archive, the eviction of its inhabitants and the modifications to the original building were part of an Enlightenment project by the Spanish crown to create a “modern archive” that justified their imperial project. Prof. Nemser explained that “the materiality of the archive itself would tell an epic tale about Spain’s colonial achievements and highlight the value of its ongoing colonial enterprise” (page 136).

The rare text from our collection was key to Prof. Nemser’s argument that the modifications of the original building by architect Lucas Cintora served to reshape the building’s functionality to conform to this enlightenment project. The modifications also represented a break with the past and the embrace of a new future, one that emphasized the importance of the Spanish empire and its validity to rule its colonies in the Americas. Prof. Nemser explained:

Since each type of building has a specific function and as such requires different formal characteristics, it will be necessary to “destroy” – Cintora does not pull his punches here – any elements of the original that are contrary to this new purpose. Of primary importance for an archive, he argued, was an open layout with what he called a “diaphanous” character. This was especially the case for an Enlightenment project such as the AGI [Archivo General de Indias], and as such it is understandable that the metaphor of light runs through much of the writing about the archive. In the structural transformation of the building, however, this metaphor takes on an architectural dimension: the need for light, clarity and transparency was precisely why the separation walls [inside the Lonja] had to be demolished (136).

As an archivist, it was fascinating to discover through the work of this scholar that Archives and Special Collections had a text in its collection that sheds light on the colonialistic root of the AGI. Prof. Nemser’s research left me pondering about the origins of other archival institutions, including our own. As Umberto Eco deftly explained in his novel The Name of the Rose, archives and libraries’ books are full of signs and meanings in constant dialogue with each others through the eyes of its readers.

We are honored and delighted to have facilitated Prof. Nemser’s research and to learn more about the complex history of archives.

 

Notes:

1: We recently digitized this book and now it is available at the Connecticut Digital Archive.

2: From the article, “According to Humanes Bustamante, 200 copies of Cintora’s book were printed but later withdrawn and destroyed (339n11). However, at least two copies remain. Zerner has analyzed a copy held at the AGI, while the copy I consulted is located at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. I am grateful to Marisol Ramos for her assistance.”

Can We Save the Botany Degree? Naturalist & Teale Researcher Richard Telford’s Latest Post, from Connecticut’s Trail Wood

By Richard Telford, The Ecotone Exchange, 23 October 2015 (excerpt)

fungi-trail-wood-rOn October 17, 1959, less than six months after moving to Trail Wood, the beloved private nature sanctuary where he would spend the rest of his life, American naturalist writer Edwin Way Teale wrote the following entry in his private journal:

We are presented with life memberships in the Baldwin Bird Club and  given a fine vasculum for collecting plants. So we round out our long association with this nature group—over a period of more than 20 years.  Now we ‘have other lives to live.’  We watched them go with thankfulness in our hearts that we could stay.

I first read this passage two summers ago while researching Teale’s early days at Trail Wood with the generous support of the University of Connecticut, where Teale’s papers are permanently housed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. At the time, I was examining the extraordinary transformation that occurred in the lives of Edwin and his wife and collaborator Nellie with their move to Trail Wood, a site Edwin would subsequently declare to be “our Promised Land” (September 8, 1959). Teale chronicled this transformation in The Hampton Journal, 1959-1961, the first of four 500-page unpublished observation journals he kept at Trail Wood over a period of twenty-one years.  Continue reading…

Esphyr Slobodkina – Modernist (Children’s Book) Illustrator/Author

by JoAnn Conrad

Part of my ongoing research into children’s picturebooks of the mid-twentieth century has to do with the ways in which the work of illustrators has insinuated itself into the public memory even as the names of individual artists may be relatively obscure. This is the case with the rare female artist and, particularly, Esphyr Slobodkina, as her influence is inversely proportional to the obscurity of her name.  “Esphyr Slobodkina . . .helped pave the way for the acceptance of abstract art in the United States and translate[d] European modernism into an American idiom.”[1]

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A simple and serendipitous anecdote demonstrates this: While researching her papers at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections this summer, I was living across the street from the UConn Bookstore. One day, I noticed a display in the window announcing “Caps for Sale” [Fig. 1], clearly alluding to one of Slobodkina’s most popular books of the same name [Fig. 2]. The power of the sale poster derives from and depends on the reference to the book, which is assumed to be automatic.

There is a fair amount about Slobodkina’s life and work available. The Finding Aid for the Slobodkina Papers at Archives and Special Collections provides a brief biography as does the website of the Esphyr Slobodkina Foundation.  The 2009 Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction includes information on her life as well as her contributions to the art world, but the full biography has yet to be written.  Esphyr Slobodkina anticipated that it would be written, however, and drafted a comprehensive, detailed, 5-volume manuscript “Notes for a Biographer” which resides in her papers. The Slobodkina Papers contain much more than is in her books – things that would never be published but which give a researcher like me access to insights into the thoughts and motivations of the artist. One of the pleasures of this kind of archival research is not only this intimate and personal connection one makes across time, but also the unexpected revelations into the personality of the artist that informs her work. My intention here is to provide some of those “off the books” glimpses into the work and person – Esphyr Slobodkina.

Esphyr Slobodkina was born to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family in Russia before the Revolution. After the Revolution and her fig3scrapbookpeddlerfamily’s fig4scrapbookdressdesignchange in fortune and status, they moved east, to Harbin, and then, via Vladivostok, to the United States. The readjustment to their diminished financial situation was the beginning of her fashion design career – helping her mother sew dresses for clients in Harbin. Throughout her life, Esphyr (whose friends called her Phyra) would sew and consult on fashion and home décor to supplement her income, just as she did with children’s books (in amongst her papers in Box 13 are two experimental fabric children’s books; an attempt at combining her two skills).  Slobodkina kept scrapbooks, using large binders of wallpaper samples as her medium. Here, along with dummies for greeting cards, sketches, reviews, letters from children thanking her for her books, fashion design [Fig. 3], the peddler from Caps for Sale interacts with Slobodkina’s “poodies” from her very first children’s book attempt – Mary and the Poodies [Fig. 4]. In these scrapbooks, then, Slobodkina’s various artistic and commercial endeavors combine and interact. Unlike her biographers, perhaps, she did not segregate her work into compartments.

After arriving in the US in 1929, Esphyr became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists Association, and worked on various WPA projects during the Depression (including many murals in the New York City area).  But in 1937, as the Artists’ Union was disintegrating and the New Deal was succeeding, those WPA jobs became more scarce. Phyra again turned to the industrial arts – as a fabric print designer at the Arrow Printing Co. in Patterson, NJ, under the name Phyra Nay.

While still in Russia during those turbulent days, Phyra was not only tutored in art, but was also exposed to the work of the avant-garde that so dominated the art scene of the 1910s and 1920s in Russia: “I liked the early Russians, the Constructivists. And there were some very good women artists – Nathalia [sic] Goncharova. And there were of course decorative Russian artists. I happen not to sneeze at the decorative artists either.” And from another passage about living in Harbin:

We didn’t hear everything but some things reached us . . . There was a great big exhibit of Cubist art in Ufa . . . the next town from the town where I was born [Chelyabinsk]. That was the Cubists of the Italian type, Futurism, and it was all in those primary colors, broken up colors, purple and green . . . and all the nudes were triangles and squares and all broken up like spectral colors. That was as far as we got and we went and we stared and of course we understood nothing, but everyone laughed and said that was modern art [Interview transcript March 23, 1991, in Box 4, Esphyr Slobodkina Papers].

fig5turnipLater, living in the US in the 1930s she describes other influences: “We were into the German Expressionists, with a dash of [Oskar] Kokoschka and [Chaim] Soutin[e] here and there”(Box 1, Esphyr Slobodkina Papers, MSS pg. 517). [2] The avant-garde was to be a major influence in her artistic career as she deepened her interest in abstract art and that most deconstructive of techniques – collage. Here again, Slobodkina was able to translate the techniques of the avant-garde into the “decorative” or public arts, and in the process normalizing an avant-garde aesthetic in the popular imagination. In her collaboration with the great children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown, first with The Little Fireman (1938), then with The Little Farmer (1948) and The Little Cowboy (1948), Slobodkina introduced collage into children’s picturebooks.  Barbara Bader would later refer to this pioneering picturebook as “perhaps the apogee of modernism in the picture book.”[3] Slobodkina’s published children’s picturebooks featuring collage are readily available, but in the collection in Archives and Special Collections there are four large collages for an unpublished story “The Turnip that Grew” which she refers to as a “Russian Folktale” (the manuscript for the story is in Box 2, the pictures are framed but are also part of the collection) [Fig. 5].

Collage was also the basis for the illustrations of Caps for Sale and the one of the original collages is pasted in the aforementioned scrapbook [Fig. 6]. Preserved under plastic wrap, the image not only makes emphatic the link between handiwork and art, but also is penetrated by the impish Poodies. Slobodkina, in an interview, relates that the inspiration for the book came from a story she heard being told by the teacher of her sister-in-law’s child, and because of this ambiguous authorship, that William Scott had been hesitant to publish it. On the advice of Bertha Mahoney (of The Horn Book), Esphyr gave the peddler a name, and developed the plot more, whereby it was published by Harper Collins (1940) under the editorship of Ursula Nordstrom, and then later by Scott.

I want to close this insider’s look into the Slobodkina papers with the one item that is not fig8poodiesonly my favorite, but which shows how funny, creative, and engaging Phyra was. It again is related to Mary and the Poodies [Fig. 7], an unpublished children’s book that served as Esphyr’s introduction to Margaret Wise Brown and Wm. Scott Publishers. The book was not an ideological fit with the Bank Street “Here-and-Now” pedagogues because it featured the whimsical imaginary creatures – the eponymous Poodies.[4]  But the art work and use of collage attracted their attention and eventuated in the collaborative work between MWB and Slobodkina that began with The Little Fireman. In the Slobodkina Papers, however, was a small “promotional” sheet that she’d worked up for Mary and the Poodies, a kind of contest for kids to name the Poodies. To the first to respond awaits either a  Bachelors or a Masters of Poodology, conferred by Prof. Amoritus Maximus!

JoAnn Conrad is a professor of Anthropology and Folklore at California State University, East Bay (Hayward).  Her current research focuses on the impact of immigrant artists on the American cultural landscape in the post-WWII period, particularly in their role as illustrators of children’s picture books. Conrad feels that these immigrant artists, through their work in such quotidian, mass-produced materials as children’s books, magazines, and even film and animation, were important translators of a modernist aesthetic into the day-to-day lives and sensibilities of millions for whom the art world was a distant and foreign sphere. Conrad has researched such artists as Feodor Rojankovsky, Tibor Gergely, and Gustaf Tenggren.  In Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, she was specifically researching Esphyr Slobodkina and Leonard Weisgard (not an immigrant to the US, but influenced by European modernism). Conrad is the recipient of the 2015 Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant.

Sources cited:

All archival material referenced is from the Esphyr Slobodkina Papers.  Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center,  University of Connecticut Libraries.

[1] Slobodkina, Esphyr, and Sandra Kraskin. Rediscovering Slobodkina: A Pioneer of American Abstraction : [ Catalog of an Exhibition Held at the Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, Ny … between Jan. 10, 2009 and Apr. 18, 2010]. Manchester, Vt: Hudson Hills Press, 2009. Print.

[2] In an email correspondence with John Bowlt, dated Aug. 6, 2015, he indicates that David Burliuk, the so-called “Father of Russian Futurism”, held a one-man show in Ufa in 1916.

[3] Barbara Bader, “A Lien on the World.” (New York Times Book Review, November 9, 1980): 66.

[4] For more on the collaborative work of Margaret Wise Brown and Esphyr Slobodkina, see Leonard Marcus, “Modernist At Story Hour: Esphyr Slobodkina and the Art of the Picture Book” (http://www.slobodkinafoundation.org/books-illustrations/essay-by-leonard-marcus/).