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.
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. Esslinger, who played a role in revising the physical-training book that served as the "army training Bible," headed a personnel office in Washington, D.C., and McCloy was a physical fitness and physical-training consultant for the armed forces. Daniels was in charge of the Physical Reconditioning Branch at the Army Air Forces (AAF) Personnel Distribution Command Headquarters (Lee, 1983; Van Oteghen, 1988, 1989). Reuben "Jack" Frost learned that he was on McCloy's list of individuals recommended to head physical-training departments and to be assigned to posts in need of their expertise, and H. Harrison Clarke was recruited by Daniels to do research and evaluation for the Physical Reconditioning Branch (Van Oteghen, 1988, 1989).
Upon receiving a telegram directly from Army personnel while teaching at Bemidji Teachers College, Frost, though a father of young children, accepted the call to serve in the Army Air Forces. Initially he taught soldiers at Orlando Army Air Base how to teach troops to perform various calisthenics. Not only was Frost responsible for assigning approximately 30 officers and enlisted men under his command to 32 fields in Florida, but he also directed the construction of obstacle courses, one of which was built by two Negro companies that had just entered the service. Additionally, he worked with athletics and recreation, lectured on fitness, assisted with national fitness testing, and supervised men who taught military swimming. Men were instructed to jump into the water and swim while carrying guns and other gear and to jump into burning water, created by pouring gasoline around a boat and lighting it (Van Oteghen, 1988).
Before his entry into the Army Air Forces, Clarke and other Syracuse University civilian faculty administered a one-hour-per-day physical training program for 4,000 troops. Four-hundred-twenty men were accommodated in the gymnasium per hour and engaged in 10 different activities. Every month one-fifth of them would leave and another fifth would come in. Each recruit was given a motor fitness test, and either an Air Force or an Army test. In 1944, Clarke entered the service with a direct commission as a major, at the request of Arthur Daniels, and reported to AAF Head-quarters in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to begin work in physical reconditioning. He developed cable tension tests that measured the degree of strength in arm, forearm, leg, trunk, and shoulder girdle muscles. Upon being appointed officer in charge of physical reconditioning, Clarke and those under his supervision helped orthopedic patients in convalescent centers to restore strength and range of movement (Van Oteghen, 1989).
Services Rendered at Armed Forces Headquarters and Bases
Physical educators and coaches versed in physical training, fitness testing, and athletics were frequently assigned to military posts within the United States. Following military training in the early '40s, Leonard Larson of Springfield College was sent to Washington, where he served as officer in charge of physical fitness research at the United States Air Force Headquarters. From 1942 to 1945, he prepared men to withstand the hard rigors that would likely come up during the war. Though the men were aviators rather than foot soldiers, Larson believed they would get into places where they had to have physical reserves. Therefore, he put them through a very demanding muscular and cardiovascular training program. In order to build a program that tested men's maximal performance, Larson traveled overseas to study youths in camps and air stations. He helped devise the three-item Air Force Test that tested the muscular and cardiovascular systems under stress. This test was administered to cadets throughout the United States and was later used in schools (Swanson, 1990).
After two years of teaching and coaching at Newport High School in Newport, Arkansas, Glenn Smith entered the Air Force as a private, went through officers' training, and came out a captain. Initially stationed at Smyrna Air Force Base, a B-24 liberator base, outside Nashville, Tennessee, Smith served from 1942 to 1946 as director of physical training at three different bases under the supervision of Clifford Brownell of Columbia University. He prepared members of the teaching corps to conduct physical-training classes and was responsible for calisthenics, close order drill, and various recreation activities. In addition, Smith instructed cadets in survival swimming to prepare them for possible water landings from bomber planes. The men had to jump from three-meter boards or higher platforms and inflate their uniform shirts or trousers so that they could be used as flotation gear in case the flotation equipment carried on the planes got lost when a plane went down. As part of their physical fitness training, cadets were frequently required to perform five- to ten-mile runs. Smith was of the opinion that the rigor of the cadets' program was second only to that of the marines (Van Oteghen, 1989).
When World War II broke out, John Cooper, then at the University of Missouri, entered the Army Air Forces. From Lincoln, Nebraska, he was sent to Western States Regional Air Forces Training Center Headquarters in Denver, where he helped develop a device that pilots used to train their landing skills after ejection from a plane. Cooper was later sent to the national Army Air Forces Training Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, where all decisions on training for Army Air Forces pilots and ground crews were made. While in Fort Worth, he wrote physical-training programs for various groups and visited camps and hospitals to determine whether regulations were being …
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Publication information: Article title: 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. Contributors: Van Oteghen, Sharon - Author. Journal title: JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. Volume: 80. Issue: 9 Publication date: November-December 2009. Page number: 54+. © 2009 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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