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   World War II Collection, 1933-1956.

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Columbia University in World War II Collection; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


Records documenting Columbia University’s activities prior to, during and immediately following World War II represent the focus of the collection. The collection contains material generated by a variety of groups and offices on campus evidencing the varied activities undertaken by the Columbia community during this time of world crisis.

At a Glance

Call No.:UA#0015
Bib ID:4202606 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Columbia University.
Title:World War II Collection, 1933-1956.
Physical description:26.02 linear feet (59 document boxes, 3 index card boxes)
Language(s):In English
Access: All records are open to researchers except the personnel files in the Division of Government Aided Research and Government Contracts series.  More information »



Arranged in eight series

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Scope and Content

This collection contains records documenting Columbia University’s activities prior to, during and immediately following World War II. Generated by a variety of groups and offices on campus, this artificial collection has been pulled together to represent the varied activities undertaken by the Columbia community during this time of world crisis. Although there are relevant documents dated prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 and after the cessation of war in 1945, most material in the collection falls within the wartime period of 1939-1945.

The collection consists of a wide variety of materials including: correspondence, meeting minutes, memoranda, telegrams, printed matter, publications, newsletters, newspaper and magazine clippings, press releases, lectures, speeches, applications, signed forms, programs, bulletins, course descriptions, survey forms, ephemera, financial ledgers, reports and lists. Original folder titles were retained when deemed appropriate and accurate. Much material was found loose and new folder titles were created as needed. Newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid free paper and the originals were discarded, with the exception of articles about the 1935 peace strike and anti-war movement which might have exhibition potential. Correspondence, memos, newsletters and notes on extremely brittle copy paper from the time period were also photocopied and the originals discarded. Folders within each series are arranged in alphabetical order unless otherwise noted in the series description. The material within all folders is arranged in chronological order unless otherwise noted in the series description. Original photographs, with the exception of some small photos attached to personnel files, were removed and are housed in the Historical Photograph Collection under the series World War II. Photocopies of the images were placed in the original location of the photographs and marked with the new location of the original.

Series I: Division of Government Aided Research

This series consists of correspondence, signed forms, applications, memos, financial statements, lists, and assorted printed matter regarding the government sponsored research programs undertaken by Columbia University and the personnel involved in these research efforts. The majority of the files date from the World War II era but the collection extends into the post-war period, to the mid 1950s. Although the war may have been over, the work begun during the wartime period quickly adapted itself to the post-war needs of the country, hence its inclusion in this collection. Originally called the Office of War Research, the name changed after World War II to Division of Government Aided Research. This later designation is the one used to describe this series.

The bulk of the materials in this series deal with personnel issues (e.g., salary, clearance, termination) but also addresses financial matters, requisitions and the occasional report on the projects themselves.

Folders not associated with a sub-series are found at the beginning of this series. These include material from subject files related to scientific research at Columbia as well as at some other institutions, relevant newspaper clippings, reports, and correspondence. Division of Government Aided Research – Correspondence consists of four files containing correspondence related to the activities of the Division of Government Aided Research. Includes correspondence from George B. Pegram (from 1949 and 1950s) regarding amendments to existing contracts and new contracts. Among the contracts discussed are some which deal with the issue of urban land use. Correspondence from 1951-1952 is from one assistant to another who was associated with the Committee on Government Aided Research and deals primarily with personnel issues such as appointments, terminations, and salary reviews. Atomic Energy Research – Letters of Appreciation contains copies of letters sent by Frank Diehl Fackenthal, acting president of the University, on Feb 18, 1946 to the other universities and colleges who provided personnel to work on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University. The letters thank them for their cooperation and present them with a facsimile of a scroll presented to Columbia University by the government for its work on this project. Also includes replies to this letter from some of the institutions. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of institution within the file. Patent Agreements – Faculty (1951-1952) is composed of signed patent agreements by faculty members participating in government aided research in the post-war period, arranged alphabetically by last name of signee in one file folder.

Three folders of materials were added to this series in August 2006. “National Defense Research Committee – Deferment Letters” contains copies of form letters to Dr. George B. Pegram from Frank D. Fackenthal regarding “Form 42A” and letters of recommendation for individuals employed on various research contracts who were attempting to defer military service between July 1943 and July 1944. The form and the letters are not included in this file, only the cover letter to Pegram. “Reserve List Questionnaires” are questionnaires that were provided by the Office of Scientific Research and Development to all the scientific and technical research workers in the 1940s. All the respondents appear to be employees of Columbia University and some of these individuals can also be found among those noted in sub-series I.2, Personnel Clearance. The questionnaire was comprised of 14 questions including full name, age, address, selective service information, present work, academic training, experience, professional expertise, employer’s rating as to replacement, civil service status, marital status and dependents, and amount of time spent on OSRD work at that time. The questionnaires are arranged alphabetically by last name of respondent. “Transportation Committee” is a file containing materials related to a small part of the Administrative Board of the Columbia University Special Service Corps dedicated to investigating solutions to the problem of transporting oil and water supplies in a desert campaign. The committee was comprised of Joseph Warren Barker (Dean of the Engineering School), President Nicholas Murray Butler, Frederick Coykendall, Gano Dunn, Frank D. Fackenthal, Charles Spencer, and Professor James T. Shotwell. Oaths of Secrecy and Espionage Act Agreement forms for Barker, Butler, Coykendall and Dunn are in the file along with correspondence concerning the composition and objectives of the committee. There are also two copies of reports. One was a report on meetings with British, Australian and Canadian Legations in Washington, DC from 13 January 1942 and the other is a report entitled “Water and Gasoline Supplies in a Desert Campaign; Plan to economize in the use of Truck Transport.”

Sub-Series 2: War Filing

This sub-series is composed of correspondence files originating from various offices and personnel within the Division of Government Aided Research. The sub-series is arranged alphabetically by folder title and then chronologically where applicable. An index to the correspondence for 1944-1945 alphabetical correspondence files is also included. War Filing – Alpha 1944-1945 consists of alphabetically and chronologically arranged correspondence regarding contracts (funding, termination of, extension of, amendments to), personnel issues (salaries, appointments and terminations), compensation, activities on campus (military training), space issues (including restoration of space to the University from military), new selective service issues and deferment of Columbia employees. Reports found in these files include two from James Kip Finch, one regarding Engineering, Science, and Management War Training activities from July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1944 and a final report of the War Training Program at C.U. dated 24 March 1945. Information regarding classification of documents and research and Trustee minutes reporting on completed contracts and lists of people involved (Oct. 2, 1944, Dec 4, 1944, May 7, 1945) are also included. Correspondence of note includes: letters with General Electric regarding contract work, correspondence concerning the New London Labs, Professor Edwin Matzke correspondence of 27-29 September 1944 concerning the return of valuables in storage to campus, and correspondence with the War Manpower Commission. Also addressed is the restoration of SAM Labs space (found in “M-S” file) and the restoration of Chandler Museum to the University.

War Filing – Alpha 1945-1946 consists of alphabetically and chronologically arranged correspondence regarding contracts, compensation, reimbursements, activities on campus (military training), space issues (restoration of space to the University from military), declassification of research reports, extension of contracts, termination of appointments, and salary revisions. These post-war files show the shift from wartime research to peace-time research and more details about the research work are revealed in letters and reports. Among the more notable items found in these files is the May 23, 1946 application from Robert C. Elderfield concerning the possible continuation of his malaria research under Public Health auspices after the termination of the government contract (the extension was approved by the National Institute of Health on June 20, 1946). Summaries of war research work can be found in these files, particularly within a report compiled primarily by Frank D. Fackenthal indicating how many people participated, number of contracts, and other relevant figures. October 1945 and May 1946 Trustee minutes report on contracts completed and list people involved, and a summary of the research work at the New London Laboratory is found in a December, 1945 report by Harry Gross. Post-war issues such as the role of the C.U. Radiation Lab in a post-war world (filed under “Kellogg” dated Dec 10, 1945), the discontinuation of the Navy V-12 program, and the necessity of continuing secrecy about the atomic bomb project, despite the cessation of hostilities with Japan, are also discussed with these files. The atomic bomb topic is discussed within the “US Army” file.

Joseph Campbell (Assistant Treasurer – Office of Treasurer, Government Contracts Division) war filing is comprised mostly of copies of correspondence to Campbell from Fackenthal advising him of appointments, terminations, salary issues, supply orders, patent issues, and basic information on contracts and amendments to contracts. None of the actual contracts referred to in the letters are in these files, though the numbers of the contracts are noted. Organizational chart for OSRD is in the September-October 1944 file. Some of the correspondence is original when it is from Campbell himself. These original letters mostly deal with amendments to contracts and/or agreements with other institutions.

W. Emerson Gentzler (Bursar, Office of the Bursar) war filing correspondence concerns contracts, salaries, funding, approval of funding, reimbursement to the University, etc. Correspondence is entirely with Frank D. Fackenthal. Frederick A. Goetze (Treasurer, Office of Treasurer, Government Contracts Division) war filing correspondence and memos regarding contracts (e.g., giving them to Goetze for filing), letters of intent regarding contracts, contract extensions, financial matters, letters requesting contacts to be signed by Fackenthal, budgets, summaries of financial statements, changes made to contracts, and information regarding supplements to contracts. Correspondence refers to contract numbers, but actual contracts not in files. Includes copies of correspondence from W.H. Lane to Fackenthal. W.H. Lane (Business Manager, Government Contract Division) war filing consists of correspondence regarding contracts and contract extensions - but all from the financial perspective. This correspondence often gives more specifics regarding certain contracts – usually about modifications to be made to the contracts. Includes information concerning contracts dealing with Midshipmen’s School as well as with the General Electric Company. This correspondence is a little less “routine” than that found in the Pegram and Goetze files. As with the other files, most of the attachments noted in this correspondence (e.g, contracts, other letters) are not in this file.

George B. Pegram (Head of Division of War Research) war filing consists of correspondence and memos regarding government contracts, staffing lists, staffing salaries, appointments, termination of employment, and other similar personnel matters. All correspondence is rather routine in nature. None of the actual contracts referred to in the letters are in these files, though the numbers of the contracts are noted. Also includes procurement applications (requests for proposal and contractor’s proposal), lists of eligible people for work. Nearly all correspondence is with Frank D. Fackenthal. Some letters from the later period in 1946-1947 is with Albert C. Jacobs.

Willard C. Rappleye (Dean of College of Physicians & Surgeons) war filing consists of correspondence concerning contracts, modifications to contracts, termination, personnel issues, medical research, and the extension of proposals. These extension proposals actually describe findings to date of the experiments in question. An example of such a proposal is Heidelberger “Antigens of the Parasites of Human Malaria” extension application dated August 9, 1944. These files provide far more specific information regarding research projects than many of the other war filing files. Much correspondence is with Fackenthal, but also with other War Division personalities, such as W.H. Lane. Later correspondence is with J. Enrique Zanetti,, Associate Provost, and Albert Jacobs.

Sub-Series 3: Division of Government Aided Research, Personnel Clearance, 1941-1952

This sub-series contains documents and correspondence related to the personnel clearance of individuals (both men and women) involved in government aided/sponsored research conducted under the auspices of Columbia University. The materials are very much of a routine nature, consisting primarily of form letters and completed applications. Among the types of documents found in these files are: oaths of secrecy, patent agreements, signed copies of The Espionage Act, personal information/qualification records, letters/memos regarding salary and appointments (some note the number of the government contract), cross reference memos and termination certificates. There is sometimes other kinds of correspondence, such as letters advocating deferment from selective service, accounts and analysis of expenses/salary, reimbursement, and library privileges.

The original folders noted the name of the individual and also contained a designation on the right-hand part of the folder tag. There is no clear indication of what was meant by this designation, though it appears to indicate which program or person’s research the individual in question was associated. Some examples of these markings are: “NL” (New London, CT - US Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory, Fort Trumball, New London, CT), “Urey-Dunning”, “Benedict” (Ruth Benedict?), “Hopkins”, “Attwood”, “La Mer”. All of these markings have been transferred as best as possible onto the new folders, though, due to difficulties deciphering handwriting, some information may have been transcribed inaccurately. Some files did not have such designations and most of the files with the “NL” designation were stamped “May 4, 1942.” Again, the significance of this is not known. Contents of individual folders were kept as originally found, unless there were two or less pieces of paper in a file. Those smaller amounts of paper were consolidated in general alphabetical files with individual names noted on the front of the folder. Please note, Q through U names are missing from this sub-series with the exception of one “S” file for Freda Skobel.

Four folders of materials were added to this series in August 2006. One personnel clearance record for Ralph Grant Flowers was integrated into the existing alphabetical order. “Pending Appointments – Oaths” contains signed Patent Agreements, Espionage Act forms, and Oath of Secrecy forms for individuals who were apparently (at the time) not yet assigned to a particular project. These individuals all hailed from The California Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute or Columbia’s Division of National Defense Research located at Fort Trumball in New London, CT. Individuals include: Maurice A. Boit, Charles W. Cornforth, James W. Daily, Frank S. Flinlayson, Kenneth Gerald Merriman, Glen W. Miller, John G. Roberts, Bruce Hornbrook Sage, Garrett Van Pelt, and Vito Vanoni. “Treasurer’s Office – Oaths” contains signed copies of the Oath of Secrecy and Espionage Act Agreements by members of that administrative office. The paperwork is all dated 18 February 1942. Individuals include: Charles H. Alderton, Joseph Campbell, Louise K. Faig, E. Dee George, Frederick A. Goetze, Dixon B. Griswold, Elsie L.S. Hayes, Frank W. Higbie, Ralph B. Menke, Irene A. Murray, Hildegard M. Rosen, Myrtle E. Sedgeman, Ferrell Taylor, Thomas James Wake, and William Whitehead. “Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Oaths” contains signed Patent Agreements, Oaths of Secrecy and Espionage Act Agreements for individuals who were employed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts but were working on war research projects at the lab at Fort Trumball, New London, CT. Individuals include: Chales M. Allen, Lawrence C. Neale, Hobart A. Newell, Edwin A. Taylor, and William Blanchard Wadsworth.

Sub-Series 4: P&S Personnel Clearance

These files are similar in nature to the individual personnel clearance files described previously with some significant differences. The files are arranged in general alphabetical files (“A” names all in one file instead of a file for each individual), are exclusively associated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and consist solely of the signed documents required of people involved in government aided research. The forms included are the Oath of Secrecy, Espionage Act, and Patent Agreement. There are usually notations on the top right corner of the form(s) indicating which government contract the person was working on and/or the name of the person/group for whom the signee was working. The documents are arranged alphabetically within each file.

Sub-Series 5: Office of Scientific Research & Development (OSRD)

This sub-series is divided into two groupings, war filing and personnel clearance. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) war filing is comprised of chronological correspondence with Frank D. Fackenthal regarding contracts for war research, occasionally discussing research topics, the status of contracts and reports about research findings. Files also consist of telegrams and letters, “administrative circulars” from the OSRD (e.g., concerning the employment of aliens on classified contracts or subcontracts). Of particular interest is a January, 1946 list of report titles providing a good list of the kinds of projects sponsored by OSRD and a February 14, 1946 letter to Dr. Stewart from Fackenthal thanking him for the attached statement to the Special Senate Committee on Atomic Energy which includes positive references to Columbia University (statement is dated Feb 11, 1946). The Personnel Clearance Files consist of routine correspondence regarding approval of individuals for OSRD work. Correspondence is directed to Frank D. Fackenthal. Names of individuals are listed in the letters, but not what they were working on.

Sub-Series 6: Airborne Instruments Laboratory—Personnel Files

These files are similar to the personnel clearance files found in sub-series I.2, I.3 and I.4 but are all files for individuals who worked in non-scientific capacities at the Airborne Instruments Laboratory in Mineola, NY (Long Island). The files only cover personnel with last names that fall between the letter “O” and the letter “Z”. There are four files at the end of box 10 which are alphabetically out of order as they are for four individuals who were considered “non-employees” or “consultants”. Files contain all or some of the following items: ID cards, photographs and photonegatives, security questionnaires, applications, letters of reference, termination letters, employment certificates, selective service information, birth certificates, fingerprints, personal information, correspondence concerning the individual, and summaries of the file contents. Some of the documents look to be slightly damaged by water or bugs. There is a one page index found at the beginning of box 9 which describes this series of files.

Series II: Government Contracts

This series is similar to the personnel clearance files found in Series I, but these files are different and have consequently been kept as an independent series. The contract work these files deal with spans both the wartime and post-war periods. The folders have been kept in the order they were originally found (which at times seems to be loosely based on the contract numbers involved) as have the contents of the files. In addition to the usual preservation measures, most of the original file folders were photocopied to retain information about the contract number, found on the folder tab, or handwritten notes on the folder itself. Original file names were kept; new ones were created only if the original was non-existent or inappropriate to the contents. The majority of the files are personnel files. Contents include signed forms, letters of reference, fingerprints, tax information, salary information, grade lists, family and other personal information and termination notices. Interestingly, there are even personnel clearance records for construction workers and maintenance workers who had jobs in Pupin and other buildings where much of this top secret war work was taking place. In addition to personnel files, there are also files containing general lists for the various research groups, requisition forms (for both employees and materials), salary recommendation forms, blank forms used by the people involved in this work, salary lists, and a book listing badge numbers. Much of the materials appear to be associated with atomic research or the Atomic Energy Commission. Contract numbers referred to within these files are: AT-30-2-GEN-16 (subcontracts S-165 and S-162); EIDM MI-4 MS; EIDM I-1 CU; W7405-eng-50 (referred to very heavily); W-31-109 eng17; EIDM D-22; EIDM-AA-1 CU; AT-30-1 GEN-72; AT-30-1 GEN-70; W-31-109 eng15; AT-30-1-GEN-257; W-31-109 eng14.

File Dividers between sections of files now in box 11 were removed, but existed as follows: (1)“Contract AT-30-1 GEN-71” and includes files “Blau, Marietta” to “Hebbe, Gloria J.” (2)“Restricted – By U.S. Engineer Office” includes “Jacobs, Abraham H.” to “Extra Copies Signed Forms” (3) “Contract W-31-109-ENG-17” no files (4) “Contract AT-30-1-GEN-257” includes “Cerussi, Marie I.” to end of box.

The personnel files found in this sub-series are arranged alphabetically by name of individual and material has been kept in the order it was originally found in the files; consequently, the contents of the files may not be strictly chronological. Some are very full of correspondence and forms while others consist of only one or two pieces of paper. The material within these files is extensive and contains much personal information (usually in the form of an application or questionnaire, but also fingerprints and school transcripts ) as well as information about salary, letters of reference, signed forms (secrecy, patent, citizenship), travel vouchers, salary appeal applications and correspondence about the person’s involvement (or termination) from particular research projects. Most of this correspondence is routine in nature, though there are instances of more unique correspondence in regards to a particular situation involving the individual. ID Photos have been kept in the files when they appear. There is a lot of correspondence signed by Lester R. Watson, Personnel Director of the Government Contracts Division. Contracts referred to in these files include: W-31-109-eng-15 and W7405-eng-50. Some of these files are water damaged

Series III: Committee for War Relief

This series is comprised of alphabetical subject files kept by the Committee and Committee materials found originally in other boxes of WWII materials. The two sets of files were combined into one alphabetically arranged series. The contents of the files have been arranged as chronologically as possible with undated items at the backs of folders. Files contain correspondence, minutes, financial information, bank statements (1943-1946, their account was closed on October, 1946), financial ledgers, publications from related organizations, newsletters, memos, receipts and invoices (sometimes attached to relevant correspondence), photographs, reports, lists, sign-in sheets, statistics, donation record books, and other printed matter (flyers, postcard announcements, etc.). These files document the varied activities of this group during the war years, though some materials are duplicated elsewhere in the collection (e.g. course flyers can also be found in the Civilian Defense files). The “Seeds for Britain Project” folder contains communication with Professor Hugh Findlay, who gave lectures on gardening in 1943 and 1944.

Sub-Series 2: Volunteer Records Card File

This series is an alphabetical card file listing names and contact information for CU Committee for War Relief Volunteers. Each card includes name, address, connection with University, list of activities (the person checks off those activities he/she is interested in or willing to work), time available, remarks, notations about contributions and the date. The cards date from 1942-1945. There are also colored sticky tabs at the tops of the cards. Their meaning is not known and many are falling off due to disintegration of the glue.

Series IV: Civilian Defense

This series contains correspondence, memos, lists, minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, and ephemera (actual ID cards and armbands) concerning the activities of the civilian defense program at Columbia University. Issues include civilian defense courses, air raid drills, and building control activities. The original order of this series was lost prior to processing so a new order was imposed based on the subject matter of the materials.

Correspondence in this series is primarily from Nicholas McKnight, Director of the Civilian Defense Program, but a significant amount of communication also comes from Fon W. Boardman, Jr. who was Assistant to the Director of the Civilian Defense Program. Boardman was in charge of ID card and armband distribution, a well documented aspect of the program in these files. In addition to correspondence and materials concerning the activities of the various committees and the Student Auxiliary Corps within the university community, McKnight’s dealings with suburban defense organizations (particularly in New Jersey), the NYC Police Department, and the local New York civilian defense councils is also documented.

Three incidents are of particular note. These include December, 1941 correspondence between McKnight and representatives of Harvard, McGill University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford and Yale regarding the civilian defense activities at those institutions; December, 1941 and early January, 1942 correspondence from students and staff concerning how they could help the war effort on campus in the wake of Pearl Harbor; and correspondence within the Barnard file concerning civilian defense activities on that campus and how it would work within the larger program forming at Columbia.

Series V: Educational and Military Training Programs

This series contains bulletins, graduation programs, publications, newspaper articles, speeches, conference proceedings and other printed matter relating to military training programs at Columbia. The programs included the United States Naval Reserve (U.S.N.R.) Midshipmen’s School, the Navy V-12 program and the U.S. Navy School of Military Government and Administration. Educational programs are represented by course descriptions, announcements, newspaper clippings and information about various educational opportunities related to the war effort. Usually the material is about intensive courses and programs in language or engineering and related sciences. Newspaper clipping file includes articles about courses designed specifically for women dated from 1942 and one from June, 1943.

Series VI: Selective Service

This series is comprised of an alphabetical file of correspondence, affidavits, forms and applications and memos regarding individuals (ca.1943-1945) who were considered vital to the university and were requesting deferment from military service (“occupational deferment”). Most correspondence is with Frank D. Fackenthal, Provost of the University, and local draft boards, though there are often letters from deans of schools (e.g., James Kip Finch of the School of Engineering, N.M. McKnight of Columbia College) advocating on behalf of a specific staff or faculty member. Correspondence pleads the cases of these individuals, arguing the importance of their work to the university and that their skills would be irreplaceable if drafted. Within the correspondence, there are often references to standard forms which are not necessarily attached to the cover letters (most of which are carbon copies of the original correspondence). Materials are arranged alphabetically within each folder.

Amongst the people applying for deferments were notable Columbia personalities such as Jacques Barzun, Karl Menges and Mario Salvadori. But not only professors and researchers were asking for deferments. Mr. Peter Mouzakis, First Cook who worked in John Jay Hall Dining Room was recommended for deferment by Thomas A. McGoey, director of University Residence Halls due to his “experience in handling the food preparation problem of 2,000 Midshipmen and trainees who are stationed at Columbia University.” (letter, March 24, 1945). He was still classified as 1A (available immediately for military service) by his local Selective Service board.

A second set of alphabetical files contains correspondence, applications, forms, and memos for specific individuals seeking educational deferments in the immediate post-war period (1946-1947). Most of this correspondence is with Albert Jacobs, Assistant to Acting President Frank D. Fackenthal. Also included in this series are files with information and forms distributed to Columbia College students regarding selective service as well as files containing general policies and regulations of the Faculty Deferment Section of the U.S. Office of Education regarding such deferments from Selective Service (see article from New York Sun 6 August 1946). For instance, people involved in physics and engineering were considered important enough to avoid the draft; there were apparent successful attempts to broaden the definition of “important and indispensable” to educators in other fields, since there were so many GI’s going back to school.

Selective Service Classifications encountered in this series: 1A: Available immediately for military service 2A: Deferred in support of national health, safety or interest 2B: Deferred in support of war production 4F: Registrants not acceptable for military service. Rejected for physical, mental or moral reasons

Series VII: Service Records

This series consists of surveys, questionnaires, forms and lists from a successful attempt by the university to document the war activities (both military and civilian) of its faculty, staff and alumni. Includes original forms filled out by individuals as well as compilation lists from these surveys. There were three main attempts at gathering this information: the Alumni War Record, the Armed Services Status Surveys, and the War Activities Questionnaire.

The Alumni War Record includes correspondence from 1942-1943 regarding how colleges and universities were to keep up with their alumni who were entering the armed forces and how to create a war record. This part of the series includes lists of CU alumni in the armed forces (ca. 1942-1943) as well as examples of the printed matter sent out to collect alumni war record info. The Armed Services Status Surveys were sent to all departments of the University in 1950 to find out who had served in WWII as well as current military involvement (e.g., reserve unit, drafted, etc.). The files are arranged alphabetically, university offices first and then academic departments. Individual surveys are arranged alphabetically within a folder.

The War Activities Questionnaire comprises the bulk of this series. This was an attempt by the Office of the Secretary to survey all the faculty and staff at the University as to their participation in the war effort. Organized by Philip M. Hayden, Secretary of the University in 1946-1947, the Secretary was insistent that he obtain responses from everyone. Materials include departmental rosters/lists, completed survey forms, correspondence and memos regarding gathering of information, questionnaires filled out by faculty, instructors, research assistants, associates, assistant professors, and the occasional other (e.g., Trustees, chaplains, registrars, deans). Folders are arranged alphabetically by name of department, school or office and surveys are arranged alphabetically within each folder.

Series VIII: Subject Files

This series consists of newspaper clippings, speeches, publications, printed matter and press releases from the time period. The clippings files found in this series are arranged alphabetically by subject and are either of very general nature or not associated directly with topics addressed in other series which will contain their own appropriate clippings files. Topics include: anti-war protests (mainly the April, 1935 peace strike), Columbia’s war service, Barnard College’s contributions to the war effort, students and alumni in the armed services, war activities of professors and administrators, the activities of Russian students studying at Columbia during these years. Other subjects of note addressed by this series include 1940 Academic Freedom issues and the controversy surrounding the dismissal of six medical students from The College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1935 (found in the Newspaper Clippings – Anti-War Protest file). Information about a few wartime related conferences and transcripts of a number of speeches by university and non-university personalities can be found here, as well as some publications by the university (e.g., “Memorandum from Morningside”) and from outside the university (e.g, “War Records Collector” newsletter). Also of interest are wartime newsletters published by St. Paul's Chapel Choir and a collection of letters that contain updates about members of the St. Paul's Chapel Choir who were involved in the war.

The post-war period is also significantly represented in this series, mostly in relation to the influx of veterans enrolling as students, but also addressing such matters as the formation of the United Nations (Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College, was a representative to the San Francisco conference) and book republication projects for Germany. The files addressing the topic of veterans include newspaper clippings and other printed matter about these students, their needs and concerns (e.g. tuition increase controversy in 1946) as well as two bound volumes documenting Shanks Village, a housing project near Nyack, NY for students and veterans after the war.

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Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

All records are open to researchers except the personnel files in the Division of Government Aided Research and Government Contracts series.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Columbia University in World War II Collection; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

Central Files, 1890-2006

See, in particular, the Franz Boas, George B. Pegram, James Finch Kip, Herbert Hawkes, William F. Russell, Joseph W. Barker, Horatio Smith, Harry Morgan Ayres, Paul Felix Lazarsfeld, Edward B. Fox, Albert C. Jacobs, Philip C. Jessup, Henry McAlpin Schley, Schuyler C. Wallace, Oscar James Campbell, James W. Angell, Ferderick A. Goetze, Frank Diehl Fackenthal, Thomas A. McGoey. John K. Richards, Nicholas Murray Butler, U.S. Army, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Navy, U.S. War Department, and U.S. War Man Power Commission files.

Additionally, the publications Side Boy and Pass In Review (call# CT9 P2), and the University's Annual Reports, 1940-1946 will prove useful in understanding the University during the war.

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

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Additional Creators

HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Boardman, Fon Wyman, 1911-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Campbell, JosephPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Fackenthal, Frank Diehl, 1883-1968PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Finch, James Kip, 1883-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Gentzler, W. Emerson, (Waldo Emerson)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Gildersleeve, Virginia Crocheron, 1877-1965.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Goetze, Frederick A.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hawkes, Mrs. Herbert E. (Anne)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lane, W.H. (William H.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Matzke, Edwin Bernard, 1902-1962PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McKnight, N. M. (Nicholas McDowell)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Miner, Dwight Carroll, 1904-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Pegram, George Braxton, 1876-1958PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Rappleye, Willard C. (Willard Cole), 1892-1976.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


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History / Biographical Note

Histoical Note

As an institution and a community, Columbia University completely mobilized its people and resources in order to help the United States and its allies, as well as protect itself from possible enemy attack, during World War II. The war affected the University most directly once the U.S. was involved, but the topic had entered the campus consciousness as early as 1933, when the merits of entering into war were debated on campus by faculty and students alike. By the fall of 1941, with war raging in Europe, it was becoming more and more likely the U.S. would eventually be drawn into the conflict. In response, the University began preparing itself for the contingencies of war, well before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of that year.

The University participated in the war effort in several major ways: government-aided research, civilian defense, war relief, and military and educational training programs. Scientific research was conducted both on campus and in laboratories on Long Island and in Connecticut. Columbia engaged in research in the fields of engineering, physics, and medicine, ranging from high profile programs like the Manhattan Project to lesser known projects such as one developing underwater sonar systems. Research conducted during WWII sometimes continued into the post-war period, and new research projects were given to the university as the connections between government agencies and the University begun during the war period continued and grew.

Two major programs instituted on campus, in addition to the ongoing research in the many labs in and around campus, were Civilian Defense and the Committee for War Relief. Civilian Defense, a domain mainly controlled by men on campus, was comprised of six different committees: Committee on Campus Protection (including the Building Control Division), Committee on Community Education, Committee on Courses of Training, Committee on Protection of Valuable Possessions, Committee on Technical Advice, and Committee on Volunteer Participation. Another important sub-division of the Civilian Defense program was the Student Auxiliary Corps (SAC) comprising five different squads – fire, first aid, campus patrol, information desk and communications. All of these committees used the talents and manpower of those in the campus community to institute defensive measures such as blackout regulations, air raid drills, evacuation procedures, and training in first-aid. The committee also acted as a liaison between Columbia and the larger New York City and metropolitan area communities and their civilian defense programs.

Committee for War Relief was mainly the domain of women within the Columbia community and acted primarily as a fundraising organization. It raised money through the organization of fairs, concerts and lectures in order to aid people suffering in war torn countries, such as Britain and France. In addition to fundraising, this group also organized volunteers to make surgical dressings, knit socks, organize blood drives and hold lectures on home front activities, such as growing victory gardens.

Columbia also made its facilities available to the military as a place where thousands of new recruits could be housed and instructed in the United States Naval Reserve (U.S.N.R.) Midshipmen’s School, the Navy V-12 program and the U.S. Navy School of Military Government and Administration. Additionally, the university adjusted its coursework within the college and other areas of the school to meet the new needs of wartime. Thus, map-making classes, more engineering courses, speeded up degree programs, and intensive language courses in Japanese and German were instituted.

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