To the Editor:
The Yale Daily News’ coverage of Gaddis Smith’s lecture reminds me of what I was doing at the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing (“Gaddis Smith reflects on Yale during wartime,” 11/29).
Dec. 7, 1941, I was a freshman at Yale University. That Sunday afternoon my two roommates and I were studying in our third-floor suite of Connecticut Hall on Old Campus where all freshmen lived. We were also listening to the professional football game on the radio. The game play-by-play was interrupted to announce that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
It wasn’t long before there was a commotion outside and a parade was forming on Old Campus. Someone had a horn, and this mob of students started informally marching around the campus and out the gate.
We ran out and joined in the fun. We paraded around the campus through the colleges, and the mob got bigger and bigger. Soon it was getting dark. We ended up on the city street that runs through the campus and where the streetcars ran.
Pretty soon there was this huge mob of students lining the street, and there was a streetcar that had stopped for the light. Someone shouted that we should all march out to the college president’s house. It was getting dark and somehow, somewhere in my mind, I remember torches lighting our way as the mob moved out Hillhouse Avenue to President Seymour’s house.
Someone, probably a senior class man went up to the door and knocked, as though Seymour was not aware that there was a mob of students in his front yard and up and down the street. Finally he came to the door, opened it and stepped out to great cheers. He said in a deep voice:
“Men of Yale! I am proud of you!”
There were cheers. Then he gave us a brief lecture and told us to stay in school, to finish our college education so that we would be better prepared to serve our country. He turned around and went into his house and closed the door. The mob disbanded, and we all went back to our rooms, but it was difficult to study for Monday morning classes. It would be difficult for quite a while.
W. Kirkland Symmes ’45
November 29, 2001