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Rutgers Prepares

Rutgers Prepares for War!

The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese forces on December 7, 1941 prompted state and local governments as well as institutions to take a realistic look at civilian defense. Despite the fact that New Brunswick, NJ is located on the East Coast of the United States and Hawaii is 10,000 miles away, preparations were made. When Germany declared war on the United States three days later, the possibility of war hit a little closer to home. The following list of documents, taken from the archives of Rutgers University, will take the reader step-by-step through the early stages of World War II. Click on the highlighted dates or graphic icons to view the complete document. Use of this material for scholarly purposes is encouraged with the proper citation. Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives.


Due to the age and quality of the original material, we suggest that you print the documents out as your monitor/browser may not adequately capture the material.

  • Life BEFORE wartime...what was on the minds of many on the campus? View the front page story of the Targum. (December 6, 1941)
  • On campus, the semester was winding down, nearing Final examinations, yet minds could not concentrate when news of the attack was broadcast on radio. University President Robert C. Clothier felt compelled to address the faculty with his concerns about distracted students. (December 9, 1941)
    Letter From Rutgers President Robert C. Clothier, Dec. 9, 1941 to the Faculty.(Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives.)
    Critical Thinking Questions for use by teachers:
    1. Why would war bring on an "unduly excited" reaction by the students?
    2. Why would President Clothier think that it was an "unduly" excitement?
    3. Compare and contrast the student being glued to their radios with the student reaction to the start of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
    4. Evaluate the timing of the Japanese attack to a typical college schedule- what are the problems?
  • President Clothier's first address to the student body/campus reprinted from the Targum. (December 10, 1941)
    The reality of the United States at war could not have been more sobering than for the students at Rutgers University who would soon be recruited to fight. This document is the first public reaction to the news of the war on the Rutgers campus by the administration and student leadership. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    1. What is President Clothier asking of the Rutgers community?
    2. How does President Clothier appeal to the student body to serve their country during this crisis? What emotions does he attempt to arouse?
    3. Based upon the headlines and articles on the front page of The Targum, how would describe the mobilization efforts at Rutgers University?
  • Concerns about the safety of Rutgers' students and university property was addressed by the various department heads and college deans. (December 10, 1941)
    Letter to Chemistry Dept., Dec. 10, 1941: Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives) NOTE: The handwritten note on top refers to the committee that is organizing a preparedness plan. There are other notes on this site about their work.
    Critical Thinking Questions for Teachers:
    1. Why would there be a concern for the equipment?
    2. Why would this department receive special attention?
  • Statements taken from staff and students immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor/Targum. (December 10, 1941)
    • "I think it is regrettable that we're at war. I was almost swept off my feet by the news. I've thought that war is no way to resolve a problem. Nations should try and build a new world order. The establishment of peace and is important. I am certainly not an interventionist, but I am also not an isolationist. It is not a question of war or peace, but a question of what kind of war and what kind of peace. It will very difficult to attack Japan and equally as difficult for them to attack us." --Dr. Philip L. Ralph, instructor in History.
    • "The clash with Japan was inevitable. It is very opportune to have it come this way as a direct attack. This attack leaves no doubts in the minds of thinking people that our President's policies were warranted." --Dr. Donald J. McGinn, assistant professor of English.
    • "I think students should sacrifice student activities and stress preparedness for actual fighting. There must be a common sacrifice; everyone is in the boat together. I think cadet officers over 21 will be commissioned and inducted by next semester. Victory should be gained within a year. I forecast an expeditionary force to the island empire." --Franklyn A. Johnson, Class of 1944.
    • "My sensation is one of numbness. I thought both the United States and Japan were bluffing and that a solution would be finally reached. The attack was untimely--I didn't expect it for at least another year. I thought we'd be fighting Germany before Japan. We shouldn't underestimate them--it won't be finished quickly." --Philip H. Brunstetter, Class of 1942.
    • "The war came an an inevitable conclusion to an endurable situation. We could no longer put up with Japan's 'face-saving' policy. The military has been in complete control of the Nipponese government; there is no representative government. We must not only defend ourselves, but bring the war to the Japanese mainland. Their sudden attack was a ruthless act of aggression. Measures must be taken to prevent such incidents in the future. I have absolute faith in the President and the administration. I feel our declaration of war is a declaration against all that military and fascists governments stand for. The United States will not stop until fascism is destroyed." --Martia J. Yawitz, Class of 1942.
    • "There is nothing to get excited about. Just keep your feet on the ground. Once America gets mad it won't take too long. Japan's chances? If they couldn't defeat China in all those years they haven't much chance against us." --Robert Haber, Class of 1942.
    • "I expected the war; it was no surprise, I suggest an immediate invasion of the Japanese isles." --Richard H. Kessler, Class of 1942.
    • (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
  • Considering censorship policies for the school radio station/Targum. (December 11, 1941)
  • The University Department of Civil Engineering was asked to investigate the possibility of adapting university buildings to serve as bomb shelters or constructing bomb shelters. (3 pages) (December 11, 1941)
    EDITOR'S NOTE; The reference in Paragraph 1 to 47' thick walls may be a typographical error as bomb shelter of that time had walls of only 4 ft or 48" thickness. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    Critical Thinking Questions:
    1. Would building bomb shelters be good use of materials (especially steel)?
    2. Is it reasonable to suggest that the university would be a target? Argue-yes. Argue-no.
    3. What buildings on a university campus would be the easiest to reinforce and convert into a shelter? Why? Which buildings would be the most difficult to adapt? Why?
    • Divide the class into 3 groups: Army, New Brunswick Civilian Defense Committee, Rutgers University officials.
    • Situation: The Army has decided that Rutgers University could be a target of an air raid and has agreed to the construction of shelters that could hold a maximum of 2000 people. That is all the materials that the Army can spare. The different groups have different priorities as to where the shelters are to be located and who should have access to them.
    • Each group should create a list of priorities, make a presentation to the others and then break down into informal caucusing and try to resolve a compromise
  • The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit at Rugters was given specific instructions on what to do in the event of an air raid or other "emergent" situation. (3 pages) (December 15, 1941)
    The Rutgers Department of Military Science (ROTC) prepares for duty in the event of an emergency situation on campus. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
  • Facilites to treat wounded in the event of an air raid or other disaster were appraised as requested by Dean Norman C. Miller. (2 pages) (December 15, 1941) and supplies were inventoried (Dec. 19, 1941)
    In Case of Emergency (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    Critical Thinking Questions:
    1. Evaluate which supplies would be in greater demand if Rutgers had been the victim of an air raid attack.
    2. Group the medical supplies in two groups--DRUGS/PAIN KILLERS and ANTI-SEPTIC/ANTI-GERM. Which is more important in an air raid? Which is Rutgers better supplied with?
    3. Suggest what additional supplies (available in 1941-42) that you would insist be purchased?
  • A letter from Rutgers University President Robert C. Clothier to the parents of the students (3 pages) (December 22, 1941).
    A letter, more or less in the form of a pamphlet, from Rutgers University President Robert Clothier to the parents of "Rutgers Men" December 22, 1941. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    Critical Questions:
    • 1) Why no mention of women?
    • 2) How did the university respond to meet the needs of students who want to graduate before being called up for service?
  • By December 18th, many of the people responsible for preparing the Rutgers Campus had met in committee and plans were being executed throughout the campus and the community of New Brunswick, NJ. Male students were signing up for military service. On the campus of Rutgers Preparatory School, a small prep school nearby, Headmaster Stanley Shepard, Jr. received these air raid instructions for his students from Dean Norman C. Miller. (January 5, 1942)
    Rutgers Preparatory School (a junior-senior prep high school) is bracing for the war as well. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    Critical Thinking Questions for Teachers:
    1. As the letter infers, the federal government has yet to issue civilian defense instructions. From your review of other documents on this site, is Rutgers Preparatory School prepared, overly prepared, or ill-prepared to deal with the war?
    2. Would it be expected that students at this prep school would have the same interest in civilian defense as their college counterparts?
  • Contrasting the serious tone of that list is a sarcastic view of air raid drills from the Rutgers Owl, an alternative student paper. (March 1942)
    From the Rutgers Owl, March 1942. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    Critical Thinking Questions for teachers to use this article:
    1. Would this same sense of humor been appreciated in March 1945 after 3+ years of war casualities?
    2. Did this article imply that the war should not be taken seriously?
    3. Evaluate the role of poltical humor/satire in other time periods.
    4. Would a legitimate college-run newspaper have run this story? Would a legitimate regular newspaper run this story?
    5. How effective is the article in pointing out the futility of going through air raid drills when Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was 10,000 miles away? Would this article have been printed in Boston or Philadelphia or New York had been bombed by Nazi German forces?
  • AIR RAID!!!! Instructions and responsibilities (Feb. 16, 1942)
    Blackout Rules (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
    Note: Rutgers University, as the "state" university of New Jersey operates branch campuses...the letter here instructs professors who teach in the northern New Jersey city of Newark to be mindful of the rules.
  • ...and a friendly reminder
    Just a Reminder (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)
  • The panic over the issuance of gas masks for civilians is dealt a stunningly acerbic blow. (April 9, 1942)
    The horrors of World War I poison gas attacks are causing a frenzy for civilian distribution of gas masks..which led to a stinging criticism--April 9, 1942. (Courtesy of Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives)