Tag Archives: Today in Princeton history

Today in Princeton history, 1936: Students create Veterans of Future Wars


Veterans of Future Wars founder Lewis Gorin Jr. ’36. (Photo: Courtesy University Archives)

“The Manifesto of the Veterans of Future Wars” did not look like much — about 250 words of text, tucked in a corner of the March 14, 1936, Daily Princetonian, it could have easily been dismissed as a clever bit of humor and nothing more. Instead, it became a polarizing prank that rallied students, infuriated congressmen, and earned a lasting place in campus lore.

The basic premise was hatched by seniors in Terrace Club who, after reading that Congress had granted an early bonus payment to veterans of World War I, decided that they too deserved a $1,000 bonus, as an advance for future service in the “inevitable” war to stop the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. “It is but common right that this bonus be paid now,” the students reasoned, “for many will be killed or wounded in the next war, and hence they, the most deserving, will not get the full benefit of their country’s gratitude.”

When The Philadelphia Inquirer picked up the story, by way of the University Press Club, the news began to spread nationwide. Campus chapters of the Veterans of Future Wars sprouted like mushrooms — more than 500, reportedly, with a combined membership of 50,000 students — and the group adopted an official salute: the outstretched, itching palm. PAW reported that “the great majority of alumni are proud of the imagination, initiative, and sense of humor displayed by the undergraduate organizers.”

Prominent veterans, politicians, and some alumni, however, were not amused. Notable critics included James Van Zandt, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ohio Gov. Martin Davey. In this remarkable April 1936 newsreel footage, Rep. Claude Fuller of Arkansas said, “There is no danger of any of these so-called veterans ever volunteering to defend America. Their actions clearly show that they are yellow.” Fuller went on to blame communism and foreign influence in interviews with other news outlets.

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Today in Princeton history, 1947: Alumni Day speaker Marshall cites need for U.S. aid, foreshadowing the Marshall Plan

In 1947, Princeton was full of vim and vigor. The nation was at peace, the University was completing the celebration of its 200th birthday, and a record turnout of nearly 4,000 alumni, family members, and students came to the Feb. 22 Alumni Day festivities at Baker Rink.

But the day’s keynote speaker, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, warned that the rest of the world had not bounced back from the war as quickly as the United States:

George C. Marshall at Alumni Day, 1947. (Photo: PAW Archives)

“… In Europe and Asia fear and famine still prevail. Power relationships are in a state of flux. Order has yet to be brought out of confusion. Peace has yet to be secured. And how this is accomplished will depend very much on the American people.

“Most of the other countries of the world find themselves exhausted economically, financially, and physically. If the world is to get on its feet, if the productive facilities of the world are to be restored, if the democratic processes in many countries are to resume their functioning, a strong lead and definite assistance from the United States will be necessary.”

It was Marshall’s first speech as secretary of state and provided a preview of what would later be known as the Marshall Plan (officially, the European Recovery Program). Most historical timelines trace the plan back to Marshall’s June 1947 commencement speech at Harvard, made in the wake of unrest in Greece and Turkey and growing concerns about the spread of communism. But according to Harold James, Princeton’s Claude and Lore Kelly Professor in European Studies, the transcript from Alumni Day shows that the key ideas were in place months earlier.
Under the Marshall Plan, the United States sent nearly $13 billion in aid to European nations from 1948 through 1952, spurring economic growth and shoring up the postwar transition. The program continues to be viewed as one of the great success stories in economic policy — and “deservedly so,” according to James, the author of Europe Reborn: A History, 1914-2000.
While on campus, Marshall received an honorary doctor of laws degree, conferred by trustee Chauncey Belknap 1912, a prominent New York lawyer. The two men had served together in France during World War I, when Marshall was a lieutenant colonel and Belknap a second lieutenant. “We shared the same hut,” Marshall was quoted as saying in PAW, “but I must confess that I had the better bunk.”

Read more: Our preview of Alumni Day 2013, along with an archival photo of the 1947 festivities.

Today in Princeton history, 1974: Curbing grade inflation, 30 years early

The Feb. 6, 1974, Prince joke issue — click to enlarge. (Courtesy The Daily Princetonian Larry DuPraz Digital Archive)

The Daily Princetonian’s tradition of publishing a midyear joke issue has produced some memorable stories that fit somewhere in the span between satire and silliness. But the humorous lead item on Feb. 6, 1974, also turned out to be prophetic. The story, “Reform spells the end of ‘grade inflation,’” fancifully quoted Dean of the College Neil L. Rudenstine ’56, who noted that rising grades at Princeton had forced graduate schools to deduct a full point from applicants’ GPAs, just to level the playing field. R.W. van de Velde ’33, a Woodrow Wilson School administrator, sorrowfully wondered, “What will become of our pipeline into law schools?”

Thirty years later, students weren’t laughing when the Prince led with the headline “Grade inflation plan passes.” This time, Nancy Weiss Malkiel was dean of the college, and both the policy and the quotations were real. Guidelines set a 35 percent target for A-grades in regular courses. “We are asking faculty to enter into a social contract to bring grade inflation back under control, back to the way we graded at Princeton in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Malkiel said.

No one mentioned 1974.

Today in Princeton history, 1996: Barry *80, shuttle launch into space

Daniel T. Barry *80 leaves the shuttle Endeavor for a spacewalk in January 1996. (Photo: NASA)
Early on the morning of Jan. 11, 1996, the space shuttle Endeavor launched from Kennedy Space Center, carrying six astronauts, including first-time mission specialist Daniel T. Barry *80. The crew’s first goal was to capture and return a Japanese research spacecraft. The crew also tested equipment for the construction of the International Space Station – an exercise that included a six-hour spacewalk for Barry. He later found time to play Go, an ancient Asian board game, with Japanese colleague Koichi Wakata. Barry said at a post-flight press conference that the game “symbolized connections between past and present, and between Japan and the United States.”
Barry, who earned a Princeton Ph.D. in electrical engineering, joined the space program in 1992 and made three flights, the last coming in 2001. He later competed on TV’s Survivor and currently serves as the chairman of robotics and head of faculty at Singularity University in Mountain View, Calif.
Barry is one of four Princeton engineers who flew NASA missions. The list also includes the late Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53, who walked on the moon in 1969; Gerald Carr *62, the commander of Skylab 4; and Gregory Linteris ’79 *90, who flew two shuttle missions in 1997.

Today in Princeton history, 1912: Wilson wins!

One hundred years ago today, Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, won the U.S. presidential election, becoming the second Princeton alumnus to earn the nation’s highest office. The next issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, dated Nov. 6, 1912, described the scene on election day:
“The election of Ex-President Woodrow Wilson ’79 to the Presidency of the United States was jubilantly celebrated in Princeton. President Hibben ordered the bell rung and the national flag raised on Nassau Hall, suspended the exercises of the University and made Wednesday a holiday, and sent the following message to the President-elect: ‘In the name of Princeton University I extend to you the congratulations and best wishes of your Alma Mater upon your election to the Presidency of the United States.’ ”
The Nov. 6, 1912, issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Faculty, students, and local alumni awaited election updates in Alexander Hall, and when the telegraphs began to indicate that Wilson’s victory was secure, the undergraduates embarked on a campus parade, first calling on Hibben at Prospect and then marching on to Cleveland Lane, where Wilson and his family were receiving the returns. Wilson greeted his supporters from the front porch, speaking with the professorial eloquence that had served him well on the campaign trail.
“The lesson of this election is a lesson of responsibility,” Wilson said, according to PAW. “I believe that a great cause has triumphed, but a cause can not go forward by the activities of a single man or a single Congress; it must be done by prolonged efforts. I summon you for the rest of your lives to work to set this government forward by the processes of justice, equality, and fairness.”
Wilson’s election earned top billing but shared PAW’s cover with another important event: the Princeton-Harvard football game.

Today in Princeton history, 1962: Stevenson ’22’s ‘until hell freezes over’ speech at the United Nations

As a statesman and politician, the late Adlai Stevenson ’22 may be remembered more for his losses (in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956) than his victories. But 50 years ago today, speaking as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Stevenson presented remarks and photographic evidence that arguably spurred the negotiations that ended the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the very least, Stevenson’s confrontation with Soviet representative Valerian Zorin — in which he asked his counterpart whether the Soviet Union denied placing missiles in Cuba and said he was prepared to wait “until hell freezes over” for an answer — survives as one of the most memorable exchanges in the U.N.’s history.
Video: An excerpt from Stevenson’s Oct. 25, 1962, U.N. speech.
Read more: PAW’s 2008 story about Stevenson’s legacy and video of a panel on the same topic.