#ThrowbackThursday: Princeton’s Class of 1944

PAW Archives, July 2, 1954

PAW Archives, July 2, 1954

During May, our Throwback Thursday posts will be highlighting some of this year’s major-reunion classes. Our series begins with the Class of 1944.

When the Class of 1944 last celebrated a major reunion, its P-rade march honored the 22 class members who died in World War II, with classmates and active-duty military members carrying placards that displayed the name, photo, and branch of service for each fallen soldier, airman, seaman, or marine — a poignant and memorable sight for all who witnessed it.

Military service was a common bond for most of the class, which arrived at Princeton before America entered the war. As William Zinsser ’44, who later earned acclaim for his book On Writing Well, explained in an introductory essay for the class’s 10th-reunion book:

“To a freshman entering college in 1940, the world was a relatively simple place. Quite a few things could still be bought for a nickel, including a cup of coffee and a telephone call. The United States was not at war, and many people felt that she would stay out. Nobody worried much about the Russians, and ‘atom’ was only a word in the crossword puzzles.”

The attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. Eighty-nine percent of the class would serve in the military during the war, and many had their time at Princeton interrupted or abbreviated. Still, the class maintained remarkable bonds. When ’44 reached its 10th reunion in 1954 (above), the lederhosen-clad contingent included more than 300 classmates — the first of several record-setting reunion turnouts for the class. Those shorts had staying power, too. At least one classmate was spotted wearing the costume in 2009.

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