Texas Students Remember Campus in the Wake of Pearl Harbor


Nearly 75 years ago, Ida Sample, BBA ’44, sat attentively in her morning math class. It was the second semester of her sophomore year of college, and 1942 had just begun. She was taking notes as her professor sounded off about equations and numbers when the Tower bells unexpectedly began to ring. Every note the bells sang out was a signal that time was up—the U.S. was going to war and the reserves were being called in. And as the patriotic jig of “You’re in the Army Now” faded out, Sample looked around to see that, though pens and textbooks still sat on their desks, the men were gone.

Just a month before, on December 7, devastation struck the country when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise military attack against the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Just the day before the strike, UT students celebrated the Longhorn football team’s 71-7 victory over the University of Oregon. Two days later, they were gathering in the Texas Student Union to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address about the bombing.

As the nation geared up for war, campus changed with it. Curriculum was restructured in order to prepare students for battle; for example, a war conditioning class that also included women. The UT Navy ROTC became a center for recruitment in the Littlefield House (complete with a practice firing range in the attic); the Union sponsored numerous war efforts, including the University Date Bureau, which set up dates for troops stationed in Austin; and many would-be Texas Exes never finished their degrees, while others never made it home.

In a 1994 issue of the Alcalde about the football game against Oregon, writer Dottie Hobbs, BJ ’45, remembers sitting on the front steps of her boarding house, huddled with other students as they listened to radio reports of the attack that occured 75 years ago this week.

“There was a bigger contest ahead,” she writes, referring to the day of the game. “[The war] would be won at a high cost. Almost 700 students were killed in action, making the supreme sacrifice for their country and for those of us who stayed on campus to finish college.”

Photo courtesy of FDR Presidential Library & Museum.


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