The summer of 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II. Muhlenberg College: Voices of World War II represents and honors the many voices of Muhlenberg men–students, faculty and staff–who contributed to that great effort.
In this chapter, we hear from Muhlenberg men as they reflect on their experiences on campus and abroad while on active duty. Through oral histories, correspondence, photographs, and archival film footage, we celebrate and value these mediated representations of voices from past and present.
In all their candor and curiosity, they express, in richly-textured details, their evolution from young, provincial college men to worldly military men, and their love for Muhlenberg and country: accounts that few history books capture with such intimacy and passion.
On July 30, 1945, the U.S.S. Indianapolis was torpedoed in the Pacific as she returned from her top-secret mission to deliver components of the atomic bomb. She sank in twelve minutes.
Aboard was Lt (jg) Paul L. Candalino ‘43, life president of his class. The son of Italian immigrants from Hawthorne, NJ, Paul won a scholarship to Muhlenberg and was a leader from the moment he stepped on campus. A member of the Mask & Dagger theatre club and the wrestling team, this chemistry major led scrap metal drives, served as an air raid warden, was part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s escort on campus in 1942, and married his Cedar Crest sweetheart, fellow class president and chemistry major, Eleanor Goeringer.
His loss was a blow to Muhlenberg and its servicemen. Upon hearing the news, his friend Robert Hale ‘44 wrote to Gordon Fister:
“If ever anyone deserved more to live and influence the lives of others – it was Paul. The only consolation we have in his loss and other Muhlenberg men is that from their example we who have, may be spurred to greater achievement than their example then we would have. We can be ever thankful for their supreme sacrifice. I can hardly believe that Paul is gone. He was so real and steady – so much to be admired.” (November 11, 1945)
We dedicate this celebration to the memory of all the Muhlenberg men who gave their lives in service to their country.
The Oral Histories
In 2015 and 2016, the Muhlenberg Memories Project team interviewed Muhlenberg alumni from the World War II era, including men who were part of the Muhlenberg’s Navy V-12 program. From a retired physician’s memories of being both a V-12 and pre-med student on guard duty to a gunner’s anecdotes about fighting the Germans in mid-air, these intimate interviews illustrate the idiosyncrasies of young men coming of age in the turbulent 1940s. These oral histories give us a window into the lives of active duty men as they served across the globe.
Muhlenberg College: Voices of World War II represents and honors the many voices of Muhlenberg men–students, faculty, and staff–from 75 years ago. This chapter of the Muhlenberg Memories Project reflects only a portion of the material held by Trexler Library’s Special Collections and Archives. The Special Collections and Archives Librarian welcomes researchers and family and friends connected to the men represented here (and to those men whose letters we’ve yet to digitize and publish) to view additional materials.
As Project collaborators, we are humbled by the men who gave their lives for America’s freedom. We are indebted to the active duty men who shared their World War II military and personal experiences with the Alumni Secretaries. To those Alumni Secretaries–Charles Garretson, John Wagner, and Gordon Fister– your correspondence was an act of compassion, generosity, and collegiality. For many men, it was surely a sign of optimism and belief in the men. And, finally, it is with deep gratitude to each other’s interest in digital scholarship that we continue to find joy in bringing innovative ways to share Muhlenberg College’s history.