World War II Memorial Book

War book in  Memorial HallThis memorial to Princeton alumni who gave their lives in World War II was displayed for the first time at Washingtonís Birthday exercises at Princeton University on February 22, 1946. The memorial was placed on display in Memorial Hall in Nassau Hall, where it sat on a red, white and blue silk draped table.

Each page of the memorial contains the name, branch of service, and place and date of death of each Princeton man to die in World War II, as well as the Princeton shield and the same Latin inscription used in the World War I memorial panels in Nassau Hall. When translated, it reads, "Alma Mater keeps in eternal memory her sons who laid down their lives for their country." A page was added each time a death was announced, and a duplicate of the page was given to the family of the fallen man. Within each war year, names are listed in chronological order by date of death, and each year of the war is designated by a bookmark of orange silk attached to an orange and black sheet.

Jean Labutut, a Princeton architecture professor, conceived and designed the memorial as a "sacred archive" to express the deep sympathy and high regard of Princeton for her sons. At the time it was displayed, 329 Princeton men were known dead, a ratio of one death to every thirty Princetonians in service. Later, the number increased to 355. In its exhibit in Memorial Hall, the combination of Princetonís colors in the book, the colors of the American flag, and the surrounding memorial panels recognizing all of Princetonís war dead pointedly characterized the motto "Princeton in the Nationís Service."

 

Warbook close-upEach part of the memorial, from its bronze cover to the bookmarks separating pages by year of the war, is symbolic of some aspect of World War II and Princetonís relationship to the war. The bronze cover reflects the long, hard struggle of war. The simplicity of the design as well as the weight of the cover suggests modern warfare and the important parts armor played in the war. The effort required to lift the cover is a reminder of the warís difficult battles. The hinge and three bolts are three crosses, rising from the dark and irregular texture and color of the cover. They intentionally resemble landmarks hurriedly erected on the battlefield. These temporary crosses reflect the temporary nature of the memorial and symbolize the ultimate sacrifice made by the Princetonians whose names are listed within the memorial. During 2002, the 60th anniversary of Americaís first full year of involvement in the Second World War, this book will be displayed at the Frist Campus Center and one page will be turned each day to honor and commemorate all who served in the conflict.

This exhibit is sponsored by the Princeton University Development Office and the University Archives. Ultimately, the memorial book will return to its home in the Princeton University Archives at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.