War and Remembrance: War Memorials at Worcester Academy

A Public History Project

This public history project in 11th grade American Studies was designed with the mission of the History and Social Science department at Worcester Academy very much in mind, particularly the goals of sharpening communication skills and helping students to see the relevance of History for understanding and solving today’s problems. The idea for this project also came out of a proposal for transforming the Quad (the Academy’s green space) into a learning laboratory as part of a “place-based” approach to education (see QuadLearningLab).

As an institution founded in 1834, the Academy’s history is uniquely suited to serve as a springboard for learning about our nation’s past and connecting it to the present–the possibilities are endless. The war memorials located in the Megaron (a multi-purpose building on campus) provide a case in point. Many members of the community walk by the two plaques in the Megaron everyday. But there is a history to be explored here. The realization that we are all part of something larger than ourselves can also be discovered through a careful examination and analysis of these memorials to faculty and former WA students who served in the catastrophic world wars that dominated much of the 20th Century.

(Click here for an overview of the foundational work and planning that the A, B and D period American Studies in History classes put into this project)

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Overview of the Wars Memorialized at the Academy

The War Memorials at WA

The Men Memorialized

The Enola Gay and Debates in the Field of Public History

A Brief History of Worcester Academy

WWI and II on our campus versus famous memorials in …

Japan and China

Washington D.C.

Germany and France

Popular Perceptions and the World Wars

The videos (above) are a great resource for Part I of the final exam in Dr. Murnane’s American Studies class on June 21, 2015.

Here are the questions:

Part I (Short Essays)

Be specific. Use examples from this year’s course of study. You are allowed to use a note-card with quotes, statistics, or other information on it as a reference. Be sure to include a thesis, road map, and ample evidence. Write at least one paragraph for each of the questions in Part I please.

Take your time. Relax and do quality work.

  1. Explain the major causes of ONE of the wars listed here: WWI, WWII, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (10%)
  2. Explain changes in the way you think about the two war memorials in the Megaron–before we did the memorial project versus after. (10%)
  3. Why do people create memorials? (10%)
  4. What is their meaning or social purpose? (10%)
  5. Does that meaning change overtime? Why? (10%)

Students should consult the Topics page for class entitled “Review for Final Exam” in MyHillTop (the Academy’s intranet system for course materials etc) for Part II of the exam and other information. Thanks for a great year. I enjoyed working with all of the students in my American Studies in History classes this year.

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Final Projects, Introduction to Ethics

At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. The study of ethics has evolved to encompass a variety of areas and sub-fields–bioethics, business ethics, moral philosophy, etc. This course focused on military and political ethics, on concepts such as “just war” theory and “situational” ethics versus “moral absolutism.” We looked at philosophies regarding war and violence with a particular focus on Mohandas K. Gandhi’s ideas in these areas. We explored Gandhi’s views about the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bomb, World War II and the Holocaust. We looked at contemporary issues as well–such as the U.S. use of torture, drones and economic sanctions during the “War on Terror.”

The final project focused on these contemporary concerns. Three of the groups made websites:





One group created a video on the ethical dilemmas of drone use:

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War and Remembrance: War Memorials at Worcester Academy

A Public History Project

War Memorials at Worcester Academy in Context: Creating a Website on the Memorials in the Megaron

FullSizeRender(3)Small groups will conduct research and explain the two memorials on campus—remembering the First and Second World Wars. The teams will create a companion website meant to contextualize and connect the memorials to larger issues and the history behind them. (A plaque explaining basic information about each memorial with QR codes directing viewers to the companion website will be mounted on the wall in the Megaron or in another appropriate area.)

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  1. For a similar website-project in American Studies, see https://roleofwomenflapper.wordpress.com/
  2. Another possibility is creating an ebook. See 9th grade project from 2013-14 https://murnane.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/the-river-civilizations-ebook-project.pdf
  3. Or, a set of videos organized like this could work: http://www.choices.edu/resources/scholars_vietnam.php


Part I.

A Historical Overview: Foundation for the Project

Students will look at the history of WWI, WWII, the Korean, Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq wars in teams/small groups and give presentations designed to provide an overview of each war in class. Documentaries on each war for context appear below, each team will watch the film associated with their war–three class days on the videos/ 3 classes spent on research and preparing the power point presentation. Presenting the week of April 13th.

(Students recommended that this project start one week earlier next year; I hope to follow this in 2015-2016, when the American Studies groups build on this year’s work as we expand in three areas–more analysis of the information the first groups uncovered; a focus on the WA veterans of other wars without memorials on campus; a look at Warner as another type of memorial, compare it to the war memorials and explore other connections such as classical architecture, wealth and class in American life, labor unions, the role of Hollywood in U.S. culture, and anything else our research uncovers.)

  1. WWI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pxb3j6Ps44c
  2. WWII https://youtu.be/jfRq-JeUCSM
  3. Korea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzMGZX9eJ1U
  4. Vietnam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzVWfZpQ4TI
  5. Iraq http://youtu.be/sZzSL09hsF0
  6. Afghanistan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mHQkVHZjfc
 warning: some of the images in these documentaries are disturbing (actual battle footage etc)

You will present in teams (or as an individual in A period). I will grade these just like the three presentations you’ve done this year. But they will be longer–15 mins on each war. See rubric: gradingrubricREVISED Be sure to explain:

A. The when-where-and-who–major figures, leaders (presidents, generals, secretaries of defense, etc.)

B. The origins of the war (what were the major causes?)

C. Major events during the war (i.e. the use of the A-bomb towards the end of WWII).

D. The impact of the war on U.S. history, society, etc. (for example, the Vietnam War triggered an anti-war movement that added to the turmoil of the 1960s).

A slideshow of about 8 slides makes sense, a title slide, an introduction and conclusion slide, a work cited slide and one slide on each of the four questions above. Remember, less is more. You are giving the presentation, not reading off of slides. A film clip–1-3 mins.– would help too. Make sure it really captures a key aspect of what you are trying to convey to your audience. Make sure it works well or functions–test it before you present (nothing worse than “technical difficulties” in the middle of a presentation).

Remember our example of an effective power point from earlier this year? https://murnane.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/power-pointprezi-etc-collection-from-american-studies-class-2014/

Part II

Groups and Goals

D Period:  Groups will (1) provide a brief overview of the wars memorialized in the Megaron, (2) explain quotes on memorials and other information about each memorial (Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.30.53 PM3) provide biographies of men memorialized on each, (4) explain the context of WA—brief history of, particularly during the war years (1914-1919 and 1941-1945), and (5) recap some of the debates in the field of Public History.


A Period: Another section of the website will compare and contrast the two memorials in the Megaron—do they speak to a change in perceptions about war in American society? If so, how? What changed? Why? (A period class will do this part/ 3 on WWI and 3 students on WWII.)

B period: Finally, a third section of the website will compare interpretations of WWI and II on our campus versus famous memorials in Washington D.C., France, etc and/or popular perceptions of these wars. Do the monuments at WA reflect common ideals and ideas about each war? Or do they differ? Or both? This will include readings by the “LosScreen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.31.03 PMt Generation” and the debate over the “Good War”.



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* * *Part III

Reading and Discussion (time permitting)

American Studies classes will read and discuss theories and controversies in Public History. We will read excerpts from the works below—there will be reading quizzes and discussions of assigned reading.

Michael Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (1996)

Edward Linenthal, History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (1996)

Also by Linenthal


John Bodnar, The “Good War” in American Memory (2011). Video, Bodnar on his book: http://www.c-span.org/video/?307703-6/book-discussion-good-war-american-memory

Shal Lopes, The Wall: Images and Offerings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1987).

Carol Highsmith, Forgotten No More: The Korean War Veterans Memorial Story (2007).

Part IV

Culminating Essay (time permitting)

Finally, All students will then write an essay responding to the Essential Questions below (these essay will be available as downloads on the site mentioned above):

  • How are these wars (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) remembered in American society?
  • How are they remembered on the Worcester Academy campus?
  • What do you think of the memorial on campus or the lack thereof?
  • Why do people create memorials?
  • What is their meaning or social purpose?
  • Does that meaning change overtime? Why?


Full text of quote on the WWI plaque: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1865/09/ode-recited-at-the-harvard-commemoration-july-21-1865/303955/

http://www.pbs.org/theydrewfire/index.html (Artists during WWII)

http://massvvm.org/ http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/?p=5373


“Japan’s Monroe Doctrine? Re-Framing the Story of Pearl Harbor,” The History Teacher (August, 2007). Japan’s Monroe Doctrine PDF


The Megaron at 100 years old

A History of Worcester Academy by Frank Callahan ’71

Program from 1947, Worcester Academy Dedication of the World War II Memorial:

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-01 FullSizeRender-02FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-01FullSizeRender-02-1

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Henry Kissinger’s book On China

Kissinger’s book On China is well worth reading.

See review from the New York Times below:

The New York Times

May 13, 2011

Henry Kissinger on China


By Henry Kissinger

Illustrated. 586 pp. The Penguin Press. $36.

Henry Kissinger was not only the first official American emissary to Communist China, he persisted in his brokerage with more than 50 trips over four decades, spanning the careers of seven leaders on each side. Diplomatically speaking, he owns the franchise; and with “On China,” as he approaches 88, he reflects on his remarkable run.

To the degree that Washington and Beijing now understand each other, it is in good measure because Kissinger has been assiduously translating for both sides, discerning meaning in everything from elliptical jokes to temper tantrums. At every juncture, he has been striving to find “strategic concepts” that could be made to prevail over a history of conflict, mutual grievance and fear. As President Nixon’s national security adviser, then secretary of state for Nixon and Gerald Ford, and since 1977 as a private interlocutor extraordinaire, Kissinger has been unwaveringly committed to surmounting what he considers the legitimate Chinese resentment of American interference in their internal affairs and Americans’ distaste for China’s brutal suppression of ethnic, religious and political dissent.

The surprise buried in his lumbering review of Sino-American relations is that the much ballyhooed Nixon-Kissinger journeys to China in 1971-72 turned out to have been the easy part. “That China and the United States would find a way to come together was inevitable given the necessities of the time,” he writes. “It would have happened sooner or later whatever the leadership in either country.” Both nations were exhausted from war (Vietnam, clashes on the Soviet border) and domestic strife (antiwar protests in Nixon’s case, the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s). Both were determined to resist Soviet advances and so could quickly agree to make common cause. The menace of Moscow took the leaders’ minds off confrontations in Vietnam and Taiwan and quelled their ritual denunciations, whether of international imperialism or Communism. They decided that the adversary of my adversary was my pal, and for more than a decade that was fruitfully that.

But that was a different time. China finally escaped from Mao Zedong’s mad doctrine of perpetual revolution and from the enfeebling nostrums of central planning; it became an industrial powerhouse. The Soviet Union and its empire collapsed. And the United States, feeling supreme, began promoting democracy with missionary zeal even as it grew dangerously addicted to foreign oil, goods and credit. The radical shift in the balance of power turned China and the United States into mutually dependent economic giants, but it left them without an overarching strategic design of partnership.

It is to demonstrate the need for such a design that Kissinger reviews the ups and downs of Sino-American relations, reaching even into ancient Chinese history to define national characteristics. (He finds it apt that the Chinese like to play “wei qi,” or “go,” a protracted game of encirclement while we play chess, looking for control of the center and total victory.) Kissinger draws heavily on much recent scholarship and on notes of his trips to Beijing to celebrate the pragmatism of Mao’s successors. He says they are content to remain within their restored historic frontiers, willing to await a peaceful reunion with Taiwan, and most determined to continue their remarkable economic growth and to eradicate China’s still widespread poverty. He is less confident about America’s capacity to sustain a steady foreign policy, noting that “the perpetual psychodrama of democratic transitions” is a constant invitation to other nations to “hedge their bets” on us.

As students of Kissinger well know, he has long considered democracy to be a burden on statecraft — both the clamor of democracy within the United States and our agitations for democracy in other lands.

He recalls yet again his agonies in office in the 1970s, when he thought that American demonstrations during the Vietnam War could have misled Mao into believing that a “genuine world revolution” was at hand. He argues that the “destruction” of Nixon in the Watergate crisis, the withdrawal of Congressional support for Vietnam, new curbs on presidential war powers and the “hemorrhaging” of intelligence secrets all combined to undermine the quasi alliance with China, making America appear ineffectual against the Soviets. He is glad that Jimmy Carter did not let his human rights concerns upset relations with China and that Ronald Reagan’s cheerful personality overcame the “almost incomprehensible contradictions” of his dealings with Beijing even as he promoted the idea of an independent Taiwan.

The severest test of the quasi alliance, of course, was the brutal suppression of democratic strivings in Tiananmen Square in 1989. That violent crackdown also tested Kissinger’s tolerance for the assertion of American values in foreign relations.

Looking back, he believes everything depends on circumstances: “There are instances of violations of human rights so egregious,” he writes, “that it is impossible to conceive of benefit in a continuing relationship; for example, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the genocide in Rwanda. Since public pressure shades either into regime change or a kind of abdication, it is difficult to apply to countries with which a continuous relationship is important for American security. This is especially the case with China, so imbued with the memory of humiliating intervention by Western societies.”

And so Kissinger admires the way President George H. W. Bush, “with skill and elegance,” walked the “tightrope” of punishing China with sanctions after Tiananmen while simultaneously apologizing with private letters and special emissaries. President Bill Clinton tried applying pressure for a time, Kissinger notes, but was shown no gratitude when he wisely relented; the Chinese “did not view the removal of a unilateral threat as a concession, and they were extraordinarily touchy regarding any hint of intervention in their domestic affairs.” And President George W. Bush, despite his “freedom agenda,” earns Kissinger’s praise for overcoming “the historic ambivalence between America’s missionary and pragmatic approaches,” by means of “a sensible balance of strategic priorities.”

If America’s preference for democratic governance is made the main condition for progress on other issues with China, Kissinger concludes, “deadlock is inevitable.” Those who battle to spread American values deserve respect. “But foreign policy must define means as well as objectives, and if the means employed grow beyond the tolerance of the international framework or of a relationship considered essential for national security, a choice must be made.” That choice “cannot be fudged,” he insists, even as he attempts to protect his flanks with a fudge of his own: “The best outcome in the American debate would be to combine the two approaches: for the idealists to recognize that principles need to be implemented over time and hence must be occasionally adjusted to circumstance; and for the ‘realists’ to accept that values have their own reality and must be built into operational policies.”

Still, in the end, Kissinger votes for national security über alles. Scattered through his history are tributes to American values and commitments to human dignity, which may indeed sometimes drive our policies beyond calculations of the national interest. Exactly that happened, in fact, after “On China” went to press, when President Obama ventured into Libya. Kissinger was perhaps surprised when that humanitarian intervention and bid for regime change failed to evoke a Chinese veto at the United Nations. But in Asia now more than Europe, he argues, “sovereignty is considered paramount,” and any attempt “from the outside” to alter China’s domestic structure “is likely to involve vast unintended consequences.” Besides, as he used to insist while practicing realpolitik in Washington, the cause of peace is also a moral pursuit.

This central theme of Kissinger’s experience and counsel must be distilled from the sometimes ­meandering and largely familiar history he tells in “On China.” Only in its last pages does he discuss the essential question of future Sino-American relations: With no common enemy to bind them, what will keep the peace and promote collaboration and trust between the world’s major ­powers?

Kissinger addresses this question by looking to the past, a memorandum written by a senior official of the British Foreign Office, Eyre Crowe, in 1907. Crowe argued that it was in Germany’s interest to “build as powerful a navy as she can afford” and that this would itself lead to “objective” conflict with the British Empire, no matter what German diplomats said or did. There is today a “Crowe school of thought” in the United States, Kissinger observes, which sees China’s rise “as incompatible with America’s position in the Pacific” and therefore best met with pre-emptively hostile policies. He perceives growing anxieties in both societies and fears they are exacerbated by Americans who claim that democracy in China is a prerequisite for a trusting relationship. He warns that the implied next cold war would arrest progress in both nations and cause them to “analyze themselves into self-fulfilling prophecies” when in reality their main competition is more likely to be economic than military.

Indulging his habitual preference for diplomatic architecture, Kissinger insists that the common interests the two powers share should make possible a “co-evolution” to “a more comprehensive ­framework.” He envisions wise leaders creating a “Pacific community” comparable to the Atlantic community that America has achieved with Europe. All Asian nations would then participate in a system perceived as a joint endeavor rather than a contest of rival Chinese and American blocs. And leaders on both Pacific coasts would be obliged to “establish a tradition of consultation and mutual respect,” making a shared world order “an expression of parallel national aspirations.”

That was indeed the mission of the very first Kissinger journey to Beijing. And while he does not quite say so, he invests his hopes in a concert of nations represented, of course, by multiple Kissingers.

Max Frankel, a former executive editor of The Times, covered the Nixon-Kissinger journey to China in 1972.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 29, 2011

A picture caption on May 15 with a review of Henry Kissinger’s “On China” misidentified an American official shown at a meeting with Kissinger, President Richard M. Nixon and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai during Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. He was John H. Holdridge, a senior staff member of the National Security Council, not Secretary of State William P. Rogers, who also went on the trip.

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CNN’s Ones to Watch

Thought-provoking episode on architecture


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Real-World Graduation Project Videos: Select Samples




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The Power of the President

 American Government, E period class video


President George W. Bush and the Abuse of Power

President Obama and the Abuse of Presidential Power

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