113. Western Union Telegram to Franklin Roosevelt


In June 1940, with conflict intensifying around the globe, University President Harold Dodds *14 pledged that Princeton would fully cooperate with the U.S. government in war preparations.  He created the University Committee on National Defense and charged them with determining how academic departments, faculty members, and other University resources could contribute to a war effort.  Two days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Dodds sent President Roosevelt the telegram pictured here, placing all of Princeton’s resources at the government’s disposal.  The University mobilized for the conflict more rapidly and thoroughly than any other college in the country, utterly transforming the structure and character of its traditional college life.  By the fall of 1943, there were barely 600 civilian undergraduates, of whom more than half were freshmen under age 18, and they were outnumbered by student soldiers-in-training by a ratio of at least five to one.  Many Princeton students interrupted their college careers for military service, including 82 percent of the class of 1944.  The University was committed to allowing these men to receive their diplomas, instituting a variety of special accelerated programs and, after the war was over, welcoming back 2,000 veterans to complete their studies, though this severely strained campus resources.  To accommodate the influx of people, Baker Rink was covered with a sea of cots, Brown Hall housed married veterans, and commencements were held as many as four times a year.

  • To learn more about Princeton during World War II, see quotation #7 and 37, and Café Vivian picture #65, 82, 88, and 120.

  • To learn more about Princeton in the nation’s history, see quotation #11 and Café Vivian picture #20, 33, 83, 92, and 95.

  • To learn more about student life at Princeton, see icon #1, quotation #7, 9, 18, and 22, and Café Vivian picture #9, 12, 16, 18, 23, 24, 45, 53, 79, 82, 84, 89, 92, 96, 97, 106, 109, 115, 116, 117, 129, and 132.

  • To learn more about Princeton University presidents, see quotation #9, 11, 33, and 41, and Café Vivian picture #33, 40, 95, 98, 105, 122, and 125.