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College of Forestry

Departments    Forest Engineering, Resources & Management | Forest Ecosystems & Society | Wood Science & Engineering

1941-1945: World War II Years

by Louis Bateman, '47

I CAME to Oregon State University in 1940 as a sophomore from the rural setting of Gales Creek, Oregon. University and School of Forestry enrollment was high. Half of my class was from out of state, mostly California. Three major options were available: Forest Management, Wood Products or Forest Engineering. The McDonald Forest and Clarke-McNary Nursery provided field laboratories. Instruction, while technical, was oriented toward practical forestry. The combination of homework and stress on excellence weed out many students between the freshman and sophomore year, yet morale and school spirit remained high among the students of '40, '41 and '42. Cross campus courses were less demanding than forestry classes.

By 1942 World War II had begun to affect school enrollment and morale. By the spring term of '43, the school seemed deserted. But on my return in the fall of '46, the school had regrouped and was growing again, with a new staff, new objectives for research and more technical material.

What was school like in my "ear" (1941-45) and the war years?

Beginning in 1941, the school was a busy education factory. It was full of students from many places, all short of money. Most worked their way, partially or wholly. Many enrolled for lass than 3 full terms and thus took 5 or more years to complete a 4-year course. On campus and in the Corvallis area, wages were low (25¢ to 40¢ an hour), and jobs were not too plentiful.

THUS EMPLOYMENT away from Corvallis was desirable. Some students worked in the woods industry and for various government agencies. On at least two occasions, class was adjourned to the woods for a full week to burn slash, once for Edward Hines Lumber Co. at Oak Ridge, and the seconds for Consolidated Timber Co. at their Glenwood camp. While great for the pocketbook, this adjournment required make-up in other classes.

By 1942, the war and conscription for military duty had so reduced available woods laborers and had so increased demand for wood products that experienced persons could find woods work at any camp, and even inexperienced workers were given a try. I worked as woodbuck and wood splitter on steam pots at the Consolidated Camp between terms, overlapping school days as much as possible. We loaded directly onto railroad steel trucks -- 64' and 80' logs.

Class size began declining in the spring of 1942 as more and more students entered the armed services. By the spring of 1943, the decline had become a near route, decimating the enrollment and the staff. I do not recall the Forestry Club being active or having any Arboretum Day during 1943. the National Guard was active, and volunteers had been organized along the coast where defenses were prepared at favorable landing places. Some beaches were closed, and the tourist trade was all but dead.

GAS, SUGAR and tires were rationed. Reclaimed rubber tires lasted about 4,000 miles. As a forest guard, and with the help of the U.S. Forest Service, I was able to get two tires to keep my Model A Ford useable. some of us worked the summer of '42 by being in the reserves. We were required to register at the beginning of fall term or else be called up. To beat gas rationing, many of us shared rides. Money to buy gasoline was a bigger problem. Larry Fick was stopped by a patrolman for speeding. He became so interested in how Larry ran his car on stove oil that he forgot to five him a ticket. Don Malmberg and some others managed to get down on the Alsea to fish for steelhead; Harry Mertens was even seen courting the school's only female student.

By the spring of 1943, enrollment was small and shrinking fast. A number of reserves were called up and sent to fort Lewis for induction. After three weeks they were returned to OSU to complete the spring term. Professors and students alike shared hectic experiences. during 1943, my memory claims we received a new dean. Paul Dunn was there during the war years of 1944-1945, along with Professors Barnes, Patterson and McCullock. They presided over what few students and classes there were.

OSU STUDENT reserves returned to school in the spring of '43 and subsequently were sent to Camp Roberts in California for training. They returned to Corvallis after the fall term of '43 had begun. Attached to Camp Adair, they were given all kinds of menial tasks until the beginning of winter term, when they were enrolled in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) program for engineering students. The school's wood products lab was carrying on some research in energy loss of stored hog fuel and also kiln drying schedules for Oregon white oak. I do not recall ASTP students getting involved in or being in any forestry school classes other than a very few on an extra-curricular basis. The ASTP had a demanding schedule of 21 hours, plus physical education of two hours. My class schedule was 6 days a week and required 42 hours in the classroom. The lack of male students in regular programs was made up for by the ASTP program and by soldiers from nearby Camp Adair.

Winter term of 1944 lasted only 8 weeks for all of us who were ASTP from OSU students. The Army shipped us to Fort Sill at the end of the 8th week. Frustrated professors were directed to award us credit based on their judgment. Most of us received about 15 of the 21 credits we were carrying. War veterans originating from the school began trickling back in the spring of 1946; most who were coming back had returned by spring term of 1947. I returned in the fall of 1946.

Coming back was almost like going to a new school. Only a few old faces were around. Of the previous staff, Patterson, McCulloch, Barnes and Dean Dunn were present. Barnes and the dean were '43 additions. The familiar building was full of unfamiliar students and faculty. Many veterans were on campus, most of them under the G.I. Bill. These older students, mostly male, had different attitudes than the college students of previous years. Some were married, with family responsibilities and different priorities. The war experience also had its effect.

General indifference prevailed regarding old college traditions, such as initiation of freshmen. How would a 19-year-old sophomore approach a 25-year-old freshman with neither one interested in tradition? Co-eds on campus seemed more numerous and must younger.

NAMES OF building had been changed. Buildings for administration and registration, the library and living halls were in new places or had new names. Quonset huts had been introduced to provide much-needed classroom space. Independent student housing was inadequate and crowded. Rents were high. Cost of most items had increased considerably. You were lucky to buy back for $400 the second-hand car you had gotten rid of for $100 when inducted. Waiting lists were available for new cars, but few of us could buy one. It was cheaper and easier to buy a surplus service vehicle, even a 2 1/2-ton truck.

Some of the school's war veterans discussed their experiences at the town pub. Some returned to their original fraternities and coop houses or created new ones. Most got their final credits, and went out into the business world to enter forestry and associated fields.

The school, with a new staff and bigger than ever enrollment, seemed more research oriented, to have a larger choice of subjects and to be more technical in its teachings. Being mostly cross campus, I did not get good exposure to the 1946-47 classes.

Objective of most 1946-47 returnees from the '42-'43 classes was to complete their education and start a career.