Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: A Tribute to Hampden-Sydney Alumni of World War II

Bob Eason
Captain W. Robert Eason, HSC Class of 1940
Robert Eason was assigned to the 1st Fighter Squadron of the 2nd Air Commando Group in 1944 and was best known for his memorable career as a World War II fighter pilot. Eason stands beside his P-51D Mustang, "Anna Belle", named after his wife.
ca 1945 
(March 29 - July 5, 2002) The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney College is proud to present a special exhibition, "Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: A Tribute to Hampden-Sydney Alumni of World War II," a commemorative exhibition co-organized by the Atkinson Museum and guest curator, Benjamin Trask, historian of Williamsburg, Virginia. The exhibition will open Friday, March 29, 2002, in the East Gallery and will run in conjunction with the Hampden-Sydney veterans' reunion, May 30 - 31, and the Alumni College, "The Changing Face of War," May 31 - June 2. The keynote address will be given by General Peter J. Schoomaker on May 31 at 8:00 p.m. in Johns Auditorium. 

The alumni of Hampden-Sydney College contributed to every major American undertaking of the Second World War. As admirals, privates, chaplains, fighter pilots, doctors, or scientists, the men associated with the College served with distinction from Pearl Harbor to the making of the atomic bomb. After the hard fought victory, former students returned to the Hill to complete their education, while other warriors came to Hampden-Sydney for the first time through the help of the GI Bill. In all campaigns, over 1,000 Hampden-Sydney men were in uniform, fighting under the ocean, on the high seas, in the air, and on land; and became leaders, helping to shape the world as we know it. 

"Who could have thought then that the nightmare of the ages would come upon this generation; that when the time came for you to graduate arrived, many of the class of 1944 would be scattered all over the world engaged in the grimmest war in history." - President Edgar G. Gammon, 1943. 

Navy on campus
The Navy V-12 Battalion Marches to Commencement at College Church
The V-12 Unit was the accelerated college program for officer candidates during World War II. Photograph
February 24, 1944
While Hampden-Sydney alumni served with distinction, Hampden-Sydney College also played a major role in Second World War. At the height of the war, the Navy and Marine Corps needed officers to man ships, fly the planes, and command the troops. One hundred thirty-one American Colleges were selected by the Navy and Marine Corps to train and educate apprentice seamen with leadership potential in an officer's training program called the V-12 Unit. In Virginia, Hampden-Sydney provided the perfect setting for the training of promising seamen under the V-12 program. Opening July 1, 1943, about 675 sailors tackled a special curriculum at Hampden-Sydney College and graduated within four months with a certificate. 

"Keep in mind that fact that you are a selected trainee attending a selected college. Your training here is the first step in acquiring the academic background, developing the qualities of leadership, which will enable you later to assume the responsibilities of a Naval Officer" - Lt. George Howe, USN, Commander of the V-12 Unit, Hampden-Sydney College. 

The Navy's presence dominated the campus as the civilian student body dwindled. Cushing Hall became the USS Cushing and the sound of the bugle and marching feet became the order of the day. During this time of radical decline in college enrollment, due to military enlistment and the draft, the V-12 program kept small colleges afloat and provided a college education for many young men, who otherwise could not afford it. 

The exhibition will feature uniforms, weapons, military decorations, posters, newspapers, documents, photographs, and personal keepsakes that reflect this global struggle. Special collections will be featured from the Virginia War Museum, Newport News, Virginia; Ohef Sholom Temple Archives, Norfolk, Virginia; the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia; Nauticus National Maritime Center, Norfolk, Virginia; the MacArthur Memorial Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; Hampden-Sydney College Eggleston Library and Atkinson Museum; and private individuals. Several of these artifacts will be on display for the first time for public viewing. 

The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum is located on College Road, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, and is accessible to the disabled. Museum hours: Monday - Friday, 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., and other times by appointment. For more information on the exhibit, contact Lorie Mastemaker at 434-223-6134.