It was Pearl Harbor Day plus four. In that four years Dickinson College had lost most of its students to war service. It had lost one president, and its current one had been ailing since a March heart attack. It had lost much faculty and engaged the rest along with its facilities and energy in a training program for the air corps.
ln 1943 February 17 dawn found a hundred or more students shivering in overcoat and muffler weather as they stood about at the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot in Carlisle. About two score were going to war. Half a century later those who survived could recall only Whit Bell from the faculty, but Ralph Schecter must have been there as well, for the single cheerful element that morning was his Dickinson College band. All musicians mustered for the occasion, except the woodwinds, exempted because their instruments might freeze.
A gracious touch for the departing students came from Charles Kallas, proprietor of the Hamilton Restaurant at High and Pitt Streets. All forty-four students on Special Orders #30 from the United States Army Third Service Command, Baltimore, had been invited as his guests at breakfast. Their stomachs full, the guests then marched behind the band three blocks north to the station at Penn Street near Pitt to await the 7:10 Harrisburg train, say good-bye to friends, and read copies of the Drinkinsonian which Bill Gillan1 remembers were distributed that morning. An account had it that "familiar college songs were sung and cheers given to climax a stirring wartime scene."2 Last to board the train was the acting corporal, Daniel Fenton Adams3 whose job it was to count heads. A few were missing.
At the Harrisburg stop several boarded who had chosen to eat breakfast at home. These included Stan Adler,4 whose parents came to wave goodbye, go home and file away a letter from President Fred Corson. Peg Martin, '35, Dr. Corson's secretary, typed this letter to all the inductees:
It will be necessary for me to be away from Carlisle on Wednesday when you leave for Camp Lee. Both Mrs. Corson and I regret exceedingly that we cannot be at the station to give you our best wishes, but we shall follow your career in the Army and look forward to your return to the College when the war is over. Don't lose sight of the fact that you will have an important part in the reconstruction days of peace as well as in the immediate days of war.
The train, behind its steam engine, re-crossed the Susquehanna and proceeded south to Washington on the National Central tracks on the west shore of the river. The route itself was a bit of deja vu. In 1861 Secretary of War Simon Cameron, a principal owner of the NCRR, saw to it that Washington-bound troop trains, even those originating in New York and Philadelphia, were dispatched, circuitously for them but profitably for himself, via Harrisburg.
Two of the group listed on the orders, Bob Aronson and Lou Glover,5 did not go to Camp Lee. Between the writing of the 4 February orders and 17 February departure they were directed to go directly to Haverford College to begin training in meteorology..