Fallen Cougars

The WSU-WSC WWII Commemoration Project

About

The mission of the WSU World War II Commemoration Project is to revive and complete President Holland’s original vision of honoring WSC’s war dead, but this time in digital form accessible to a twenty-first century audience. By presenting the photos and life stories of the generation of Cougars who died in the fight against fascism and militarism, the project aims to restore the humanity and the spirit of these @190 WSC war dead, transforming them from names on a plaque to young men that contemporary Cougars and the public can readily relate to. It is thus intended to serve both as a scholarly resource and as a means to advance public understanding and appreciation for the service and legacy of these former Cougars in this defining moment of American and world history.

For more background on the project and project team members please view the WWII Community Service Project video available on Youtube and look below to the More information section of this site.

More information

This project has its roots in the Second Annual Teachers Conference of the Friends of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. in July 2017. Participants in this national conference of World War II educators were each tasked with creating a school service project centering on WW2 veterans in their home communities.

Fortunately, I knew from previous work that the WSU Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC) holds the records of WSU (or WSC, Washington State College in the 1940s) students-faculty-staff who served in World War II, including @190 who died or were killed during the war. Under the guidance of former WSC President Ernest O. Holland (served 1915-45), WSC had collected materials about the fallen Cougars to print a commemorative booklet in the late 1940s, but for unknown reasons the project was never completed.

In 2006 the former WSU Registrar C. James Quann published WSU Military Veterans: Heroes and Legends. Based on both oral interviews and research in the WSU archives, Quann’s book is the best published source to date about the WSC war dead, and an essential starting point for the current project.

The mission of the WSU World War II Commemoration Project is to revive and complete President Holland’s original vision of honoring WSC’s war dead, but this time in digital form accessible to a twenty-first century audience. By presenting the photos and life stories of the generation of Cougars who died in the fight against fascism and militarism, the project aims to restore the humanity and the spirit of these @190 WSC war dead, transforming them from names on a plaque to young men that contemporary Cougars and the public can readily relate to. It is thus intended to serve both as a scholarly resource and as a means to advance public understanding and appreciation for the service and legacy of these former Cougars in this defining moment of American and world history.

In the initial year of the project (Fall 2018 to Spring 2019) Dr. Sun supervised approximately one dozen student volunteers drawn from his two-semester class on the Second World War. Using the records in the MASC War Records collection, as well as additional sources such as the WSC student newspaper (The Daily Evergreen), yearbook (The Chinook), local and regional newspapers, and military records websites, each student compiled a short life history of a serviceman who died or was killed in either the European or Asia-Pacific Theaters. Each history included information about their life prior to attending WSC, their experience at WSC, and their military service, culminating in the circumstances of their death. When possible, the reports also discuss how they were remembered or memorialized by their family and community.

The records displayed in this exhibit are thus the products of this initial research cohort. The project is ongoing and will grow with the addition of reports by future classes and/or paid researchers. Ultimately, the goal is for the digital exhibit to encompass all of the nearly 200 WSC World War II war dead, and to be linked to the WSU Veterans Memorial, where visitors can find the names of the dead physically rendered on bronze tablets. I am indebted to Drs. Kimberly Christen, Director of the WSU Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) and Trevor Bond, Director of MASC, for their support, especially in providing me a 2018 CDSC Summer Fellowship to develop the digital exhibit; to Alex Merrill and Wiliam Clements at CDSC for their time and assistance in creating the exhibit; to Mark O’ English and Cheryl Gunselman, archivists in the MASC who patiently guided my students through their research; and to Rachel Sun for making the video record of this first year’s project. Most of all, thanks to my students for their interest, dedication, and hard work in creating these records and, in doing so, connecting the past and the present across a span of more than 70 years.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services, for the fantastic close-up of the WSU Veterans Memorial.

About Raymond Sun

Raymond Sun is an associate professor in the Department of History at Washington State University. He received his undergraduate degree in History at Swarthmore College, a small Quaker liberal arts school near Philadelphia, and his PhD from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1992. He has been teaching at Washington State since 1991 and specializes in courses on the world wars, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and how societies remember and commemorate war and genocide. He is the 2018 recipient of the WSU Sahlin Faculty Award for Excellence in Instruction.