IU Historian: Pearl Harbor Bombing Changed School

An Indiana University historian says an act which took place thousands of miles and 70 years ago today had a profound impact on the school.

An IU historian says the bombing of Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today did more than mobilize Indiana University for the war effort – it helped to expand and bolster the school’s reputation. Jim Madison has written extensively on the University’s history and says following the attack, the look of the students and the rigors of classes quickly shifted.

“The campus changed dramatically,” Madison says. “Lots and lots of people in uniform studying for the necessities of war. Studying mathematics that related to using artillery. Women, in uniform, on the campus during World War II.”

Madison says IU leaders reacted with anger and then sought revenge. Those feelings were blended with worry about foreign influence – to the point of excluding Japanese students from enrollment.

“They decided this university was closed – even if they were citizens of the United States,” he says. “That was wrong, and the university soon recognized that. But it’s an indication of the anxiety and the concern that these Japanese Americans would be treasonous traitors engaged in sabotage.”

But Madison says in some ways the bombing touched off a couple decades of reinvention for Indiana University which transformed outside perception of IU as well as how it saw itself.

“It became a world university, it became an international university. Would that have happened without World War II? I’m not sure,” Madison says.

A total of 388 people who left IU for the war died in the fighting.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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