Lest We Forget the Service They Rendered: An Oral History Project Conducted from 1987 to 1991 Reveals AAHPERD Professionals' Important Contributions to Allied Success in World War II

By Van Oteghen, Sharon | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, November-December 2009 | Go to article overview

Lest We Forget the Service They Rendered: An Oral History Project Conducted from 1987 to 1991 Reveals AAHPERD Professionals' Important Contributions to Allied Success in World War II


Van Oteghen, Sharon, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


In October 2000, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed legislation to create the Veterans History Project, an effort to preserve veterans' wartime experiences. As a result, individuals who rendered military service both abroad and on the home front in the various wars that involved the United States military (i.e., World War I, World War II, and wars or conflicts that took place in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq) are being interviewed. Volunteers who record their stories include historians, friends, family members, and university students enrolled in oral history classes. Scholars, researchers, and the public in general will have access to inspirational wartime accounts of those who have served the United States (Library of Congress, n.d.). Time is of the essence for interviewing World War II veterans, because those still living are in their 80s and 90s.

Over 50 retired health, physical education, and recreation (HPER) professionals, many of whom served in World War II, were interviewed in an extensive oral history research project that was carried out between 1987 and 1991. Nearly all were recipients of Gulick, Hetherington, R. Tait McKenzie, and/or AAHPERD Honor Awards, and many served as Alliance presidents from 1962 through 1982, although some held that office at an earlier date (table 1 on pages 62-65). The AAHPERD project interviewees who rendered wartime service are today intertwined in a legacy of leaders that continues as each generation influences the next. They pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees throughout the United States under professors who were renowned to them. Early in their careers they taught physical activity classes, worked with intramurals, and coached various sports. Upon their return from wartime responsibilities, with increased maturity that had broadened their perspectives on life, the United States educational system once again benefited from their strong work ethic and remarkable leadership. All either became or remained active, involved members of AAHPERD and filled leadership roles. They restructured the Alliance and its associations; initiated and carried out fundraising projects that kept the organization financially sound; planned and carried to completion the headquarters' move from Washington, D.C., to Reston, Virginia; designed and improved physical education curricula and facilities; dealt with department mergers; addressed diversity issues; and created divisions and associations that provided structure for girls' and women's sports. Ultimately, the support of AAHPERD leaders helped to ensure the passage of Title IX. Before reaching their final positions as administrators, supervisors, directors, and coordinators at a variety of levels, many made several career moves that allowed them to enhance their philosophies, engage in a variety of experiences, and meet new challenges. All the while, they displayed excellence in teaching and engaged in applied research--but above all, they served: students, institutions, the profession, and their country!

The following account, based on interviewees' stories, highlights the military service that male and female HPER professionals rendered both at home and abroad during World War II. Some enlisted in various branches of the service, because they believed it was their duty to serve. Others were recruited based on recommendations of professionals who had been placed in military positions of leadership and knew of their colleagues' expertise in physical conditioning, sport instruction, and fitness testing (Van Oteghen & Swanson, 1994). Regardless of their reasons for serving, these professionals were willing to become a part of "America at war" and serve until they were no longer needed.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

HPER Recruits Recommended by Colleagues

C. H. McCloy of the University of Iowa, Arthur Esslinger of the University of Oregon, and Arthur S. Daniels of the University of Illinois were influential in recommending and recruiting professional colleagues to head physical-training departments at various posts during World War II. …

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