Alan DuVal, professor emeritus of German, was in his first year
of teaching at Cornell when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was 24,
single, living in Merner Residence Hall, and subject to the draft.
We all shared this common angst that we were going to spend
some time in the Army and nobody was very interested in that, of
course. It was looming in the thoughts of most of the young men
on campus, DuVal recalled.
Feelings intensified on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, and on the following
day at noon when President Roosevelt read his declaration of
war against Germany and Japan.
Pfeiffer dining room was full of students and someone had set
up a small radio on the mantel and turned it up. Dining halls normally
are the noisiest places on earth. When the president started speaking there wasnt a single sound. We listened to the speech quietly
and then afterward started eating. There was some murmuring but
not the usual chatter. We went to classes and there was more discussion of it. The boys generally knew that theyd be lucky if they could finish out the year. The girls were awfully serious about it, too,
because they were interested in the boys and the boys weren't going to be here the next year. There was a pall cast by it on the campus.
DuVal enlisted so he could choose his assignmentthe Coast
Guard, a life-saving group he considered less military-minded.We all said goodbye to each other at the end of school. Three-and-a-half years later I came back and started again, and here were
the same guys. Theyd matured a lot just like me. Some were married. They really hit the books. It was great to see them again. There were a few who didnt come back, he said.
German classes were fully enrolled despite negative associations with Germany. It didnt seem to matter. Classes were overflowing, in some cases overflowing with GIs who had served in Germany and thought they knew more German than they did, said DuVal.