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University Relations

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April 5, 2005
Contact: Jonathan Earle, Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, (785) 864-4900.

KU symposium to examine experiences of WWII soldiers April 7-9

LAWRENCE -- A three-day symposium on the experiences of those who served in the American armed forces during World War II will be held April 7 in the Kansas Union and April 8 and 9 at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. The symposium will feature historians from universities across the country and such organizations as Fort Leavenworth's U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Center for Military History in Washington, D.C.

Fifteen million men and women served in the U.S. Armed Services during the war, including 3 million in combat, with infantry soldiers suffering three-quarters of all American casualties, said Jonathan Earle, associate director for programming at the institute and an associate professor of history. "Dropped into the hedgerows of Normandy and the jungles of New Guinea, the GI generation -- Kansas farm boys, second-generation immigrant city kids, Depression dropouts and the children of middle-class professionals -- performed at a level far beyond the predictions of America's adversaries and the expectations of their own commanders," Earle said.

The symposium, "Democracy in Arms: The American Soldier in World War II," begins April 7 with a University Humanities Lecture by KU history professor Ted Wilson on "The GI Generation: Sending American Soldiers into Battle in World War II." The lecture, sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities, will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Kansas Union ballroom; a reception will follow.

The symposium events begin at the Dole Institute at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 8, and continue through Saturday, April 9, with five panel discussions on "Who Fought?" "Citizens Become Soldiers," "The Schoolhouse of War," "Officers and Gentlemen" and "Why They Fought." The panels, intended to generate questions and comments from the audience and lively discussion, will feature informal presentations by panel members.

Washburn University history professor Rachel Goossen will speak at a box lunch Friday on "Those Who Chose Not to Serve," focusing on her research on Kansas Mennonites and other peace churches. The box lunch is available for purchase by reservation only; contact the Dole Institute at (785) 864-4900 to reserve a lunch. Several related activities, including a display of University Press of Kansas books on World War II and a Saturday-morning assembly of 35th Infantry Division re-enactors, are scheduled.

All symposium sessions are free and open to the public and will be in the Dole Institute's Hansen Hall. A complete schedule of symposium events is available online at The symposium is sponsored by the Dole Institute, KU's Department of History, the international studies program, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Society for Military History.

U.S. Sen. Robert Dole, who as a young infantry officer served with the 10th Infantry Division and was seriously wounded in Italy, will visit KU in late April to launch a new memoir of his wartime service, "One Soldier's Story." The book is scheduled for publication on April 12.


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