This year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the “day of infamy” that drew the United States into World War II. And tomorrow (Nov. 11) is Veterans Day, the first at Harvard since the University reinstated a campus office for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. So what better time to recount Harvard’s role in World War II: On May 29, 1940, Harvard President James Bryant Conant, speaking as a private citizen, delivered a national radio broadcast urging aid to the Allies in preparation for war. “We must rearm at once,” he said, sentiments that earned him jeers from the isolationist community. That same year, Harvard faculty members formed the American Defense-Harvard Group in support of aiding the Allies. Early in 1941, Conant — an increasingly influential voice for the military draft, lend-lease programs, and other preparedness stances — led a mission to England on...
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