Jesuit Mission USF history

History of the Sciences: The War Ends

The Jesuit priest heard the warning sirens as a single bomber flew over the city, followed by an enormous explosion that shook the earth under him. He felt the concussion that blew in the doors, windows, and walls of his house. Staggering outside, he saw the city erupting in a ball of fire. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., originally from the Basque region of Spain, was living and doing missionary work on the outskirts of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, when in a blinding flash of death, destruction, and horror, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city by a United States B-29 bomber. The bomb initially killed 100,000 people and reduced the city to smoldering rubble. Almost 100,000 more later died from burns and radiation. A medical doctor by training, Fr. Arrupe helped as many of the victims of the atomic bomb as he could in the aftermath of the August 6 horror, saving approximately 150 lives. Three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, with equally destructive results, and the loss of an additional 75,000 lives outright. Burns and radiation later caused 75,000 more deaths among the people of Nagasaki. On August 16, the Japanese surrendered, and World War II was over.

Fr. Arrupe was working as a missionary in Japan when World War II broke out. At the outset of the war he was arrested and briefly imprisoned. After his release, he moved to Hiroshima to continue his missionary work. Once the war ended, Fr. Arrupe served as Superior of the Jesuits’ Japanese Province, and in 1965, he was elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus. In 1966, he became the first Jesuit Superior General to visit the United States. In April of that year, Fr. Arrupe came to San Francisco and the University of San Francisco. He was hosted at a USF alumni banquet at the Hilton Hotel, where he was welcomed by Edmund G. Brown, governor of California, and John Shelley, mayor of San Francisco and a 1932 graduate of the USF School of Law. At the banquet, Brown, Shelley, and the other dinner guests heard Fr. Arrupe say, “Your Jesuit system of education has always defended the rights of intelligence and of reason…. You must make a part of your life a deep and abiding love of the world.” Today a statue of Fr. Arrupe stands on the USF campus, in front of the University Ministry and about 100 yards from the new John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation.

Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus was honored at a USF in 1966

Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, visited San Francisco in April 1966, where he was honored at a USF alumni banquet hosted by Edmund G. Brown, governor of California, and John Shelley, mayor of San Francisco and a graduate of the USF School of Law. USF JESUIT COMMUNITY ARCHIVES

By September 1945, thousands of men were processed out of the armed services in San Francisco and throughout the United States. In many cases, they returned to cities and towns that had changed dramatically as a result of the war. San Francisco and the Bay Area witnessed a dramatic population increase during World War II along with a major expansion of industry, shipping, and housing. Most of the returning veterans had also undergone profound transformations as a result of their war experiences. The men who returned to USF were older, more serious, and usually eager to complete their education and get on with their lives and careers. Some were already married and had families to support.

Market St in San Francisco after President Truman announced the end of WWII

Market Street in San Francisco filled with an excited crowd on August 16, 1945, shortly after President Harry Truman announced the surrender of Japan, bringing World War II to an end. SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY

To help servicemen return to civilian life, Congress passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. Once it was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, it became arguably one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the nation. It entitled former military personnel to guaranteed loans for buying homes and setting up businesses, provided unemployment insurance, and most importantly for the nation’s colleges and universities, allocated funds to cover educational expenses. Thousands of individuals who had previously been deterred from attending college because of cost now had a major portion of their education subsidized by the federal government. This single law had a monumental educational and social effect on the nation and on its institutions of higher education, including the University of San Francisco and its science programs.

Celebrating the end of World War II 1945

Celebrating the end of World War II, these U.S. Army troops marched toward City Hall on September 10, 1945. Within the next year, thousands of former soldiers would be attending colleges and universities across the nation under the provisions of the G.I. Bill of Rights. SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBARY

USF pamphlet in 1945 ighlighting the peaceful goals of education

With World War II coming to an end, USF published a pamphlet in 1945 aimed at returning veterans and other students highlighting the peaceful goals of education, especially in the sciences. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

Veterans of World War II began to return in large numbers to the nation’s colleges and universities during the fall of 1945. The University of San Francisco began to witness significant changes on campus as a result of the veterans’ return. In the spring semester of 1945, student enrollment in all divisions at USF stood at a mere 321. By the spring semester of 1946, as a result of the first wave of returning veterans, student enrollment had jumped to 761, a 138 percent increase. Ninety-seven of those students were enrolled in the College of Science. One hundred thirty-eight of the new students attended USF under the G.I. Bill of Rights. In November of 1945, USF held a special fall registration session, which according to the November 14 issue of the Foghorn was “open in particular to veterans who have recently been discharged.” The special academic term to follow “is slated to begin on November 19 and the semester will end February 1, the same as the present one. The new term was inaugurated primarily for veterans who have been released from the service between the closing date for the fall semester and the opening date of the spring semester.” By the fall semester of 1947, there were 2,602 students enrolled in all divisions at USF, and 249 of those were in the College of Science, studying biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

For veterans studying science and other subjects at USF, the G.I. Bill of Rights was of enormous financial benefit. The October 1944 issue of the Don Patrol, an alumni publication that had chronicled the lives of many former USF students who fought in World War II, sought to ease the transition from soldier to student and to underscore the benefits of the G.I. Bill of Rights:

Are you one of the students whose course was interrupted? It makes no difference whether the interruption came near the beginning or the end of the course. We are going to take care of you. If you were stopped before you really started, you may startall over or go on from the point of interruption. The choice will be of your own making.

In February 1946, the Don Patrol published its last issue. The president of USF, William Dunne, S.J., addressed a lengthy letter to the returning veterans in that issue, concluding:

Now you are to resume your normal lives. Some of you will return to the University to complete your undergraduate education, others will proceed to graduate studies. All of you will return to find a common task. You must complete the job you began in the Southwest Pacific, in Asia, in Europe, for the calm which came over the battlefield will prove but a lull unless it is made permanent by the individual lives of each of you. The ideals which led you in battle must now find the Peace. As in War, so in Peace—we will be with you. God bless you.

The veterans returned to a USF College of Science that had remained academically viable during the war. The precipitous drop in enrollment in wartime was partially offset by the ROTC program and a short-lived Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) program that brought 300 new students to USF to study the sciences as part of their training to become military engineers. The 1946 USF catalog underscored the strength of the science programs at USF for the returning veterans, including its pre-medical training opportunities:

The College of Science has modern, well-equipped laboratories of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Small classes and a trained faculty make possible thorough instruction and the attainment of a high standard of scholarship…. The Department of Biology presents standard Pre-Medical training thoroughly equipping a student for entrance to any approved school of medicine, dentistry or pharmacy. The University is approved by the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association.
Liberal Arts Building in 1946

The Liberal Arts Building, as seen in this 1946 photo, housed the science labs in the basement and on the “D” level. As enrollment rapidly expanded following the end of World War II, buttressed by the G.I. Bill of Rights, science labs and classrooms became extremely overcrowded, and alternative classroom space was desperately needed. Welch Hall (the faculty residence), to the left of the Liberal Arts Building, was demolished in 1969. The Liberal Arts Building was renamed Campion Hall in 1959, and it became Kalmanovitz Hall in 2005. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

Students meet in one of the World War II barracks on campus 1947

In this 1947 photo, students meet in front of one of the World War II barracks on the campus, along Golden Gate Avenue. The barracks were converted to classroom use following the rapid influx of students to the USF campus after the war. Quonset huts, government-surplus prefabricated units, were also secured from the Veterans Educational Facilities Program to provide additional classroom space. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

As the veterans from World War II began to return to the USF campus, Foghorn editor Rinaldo Carmazzi emphasized the importance of restoring the campus to its prewar activity and of “giving the vets a deserved salute.” By late November 1945, Carmazzi already began to notice progress in reestablishing the institution and preparing for the future:

There’s a trace of more sobriety, a deeper appreciation of the opportunities afforded by the school, and a stronger determination to make the most of these advantages. The value of this new perspective lies not only in knuckling down to scholastic pursuits, but also a desire to make all university organizations perform up to their highest ideal of purpose. We believe herein lies the key to our school’s future success as a top-flight institution. With student groups embracing every field of endeavor, the interest and enthusiasm for expansion should be limitless.
Service flag of USF honoring those who fought and died during the two world wars

The service flag of the University of San Francisco, honoring those former students, alumni, and faculty members, including ones from its law school, who fought and died during the two world wars, was displayed during special memorial ceremonies held in Saint Ignatius Church during the years immediately following World War II. UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO ARCHIVES

Despite the return to a semblance of normalcy at the University of San Francisco during the years immediately following the end of hostilities, memories of World War II were never far away. On November 14, 1947, at the annual Memorial Mass held in St. Ignatius Church, the entire student body, faculty, and administration gathered to honor those members of the university community who had died during the war. The Mass was celebrated by James Lyons, S.J., student chaplain, and the sermon was delivered by William Dunne, S.J., president of USF. The faculty, in academic regalia, led the procession into the church. As the procession entered, the church was filled beyond capacity with students from all of the university’s divisions. Displayed in the sanctuary during the Mass was a bronze plaque on which were listed the names of 106 USF faculty, students, and alumni who had been killed during World War II. The plaque was given a solemn blessing during the Mass and was later installed over the fireplace in the student lounge of the Liberal Arts Building, a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who never came home from the war.


The Hiroshima experiences of Pedro Arrupe, S.J., at the time of the dropping of the atomic bomb are recounted by Andrew Hamilton, S.J., in “Remembering Hiroshima: Pedro Arrupe’s Story,” which appeared in the Catholic electronic newspaper Wel-com on August 8, 2007 ( Fr. Arrupe’s visit to USF in April of 1966 is detailed by John McGloin, S.J., in his book Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1849–1969, pages 269–270. A good summary of the reactions of San Franciscans to the end of the war appears in Fire and Gold: The San Francisco Story by Charles Fracchia, page 159. The Alumni Bulletin of November 1947 carries an evocative account of the Memorial Mass of November 14, 1947. Enrollment statistics from the 1940s were furnished by Fred Baldwin, associate director, USF Center for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness. Stories about USF’s returning veterans appeared in many issues of the postwar Foghorn, including the issues of 10/09/46, 10/22/46, 10/29/46, 03/18/47, 05/13/47, and 11/19/48, all furnished by Michael Kotlanger, S.J., USF’s archivist, who also supplied the Don Patrol of February 1946, which carried the letter to the returning veterans by USF President William Dunne, S.J.

Alan Ziajka, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and University Historian