Why would hundreds of young men fighting in World War II maintain correspondence with their college president and dean? Based on letters between former Bowdoin students, President Kenneth C. M. Sills, and Dean Paul Nixon, this article argues that Bowdoin College, and institutions like it, helped strengthen and maintain soldiers’ resolve in wartime as a nostalgia-based intermediate motivator. Instead of professing strong ideological beliefs or noting their attachment to their closest comrades, these former students openly discussed their longing for their alma mater and all the peace-time comforts it represented. For many of them Bowdoin, the “home” they had left to go to war, was a way of life worth defending and dying for. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai graduated from Bowdoin College in 2003 and is currently a history Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia. While his primary field of interest is nineteenth century U.S. history, he became intrigued by these World War II letters and their meaning after he discovered them in spring 2001. An earlier version of this essay was presented as his undergraduate honors thesis.
Wongsrichanalai, Kanisorn. "“Home and All It Meant”: Bowdoin College, Nostalgia, and Morale in World War II." Maine History 43, 3 (2008): 166-187. https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mainehistoryjournal/vol43/iss3/4