Phi Beta Cons

Harvard’s Seagoing Warriors

In a sidebar feature in Vanity Fair on World War II and the HBO miniseries The Pacific, Ben Bradlee exclaims, “I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore — the war was a fabulous experience for my crowd.” He continues, “When I was 19, at Harvard, the head of the R.O.T.C. [those were the days] said it was an impossible job to take a bunch of privileged kids into war. But he went down to Washington and told them that, if they would promise destroyers and cruisers only, he could promise them the best we had.”
That is privilege, isn’t it? Ordering your own version of the war. Bradlee “was in and around Guadalcanal for two years, and on 19 different destroyers in the last year of the war, but this was a time when desk jobs were anathema.”
I had not realized that the Navy could be so much fun. But while Harvard may not have been primed for a land war, evidently they did do their bit at sea. This shows the attitude young men, even from Harvard, had toward the military in the old days, before Democratic president Lyndon Johnson destroyed the comity and unity of our country with a war that he used a trumped up incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to get us into (“For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there,” he said later.), and admitted privately that we could not win. (And this is apart from how his Great Society programs and affirmative-action ideas destroyed much of the fiber of our domestic life.) ROTC was banned from Harvard in 1969 amidst protests against the Vietnam War. Harvard students who wish to participate in R.O.T.C. today, and there are some, must train at MIT.

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