Harvard University and the US Military: Shaping An Effective Future Relationship


2014-06-01By Paul E. Mawn

Since the middle of the 20th century, Harvard has unjustifiably been labeled as a bastion of left wing, anti-military elitists in the forefront of the myopic “Blame America first” radicals.

However, the predominate opinion of faculties  & undergraduates at most universities have tended to skew to the left since the Baby Boomers revolted in the late 1960’s against the values and traditions of their “greatest generation” parents who won World War II.

For several recent decades, the decline in patriotism and service to country among many young Americans has been compounded by narcissistic lack of responsibility, the pleasure principle driving promiscuous sex and the growing use of illegal drugs, revisionist history, the breakdown of the traditional family and biased multi-media communications.

In reality, Harvard alumni reflect a bell curve of opinions and many have demonstrated courage, integrity and commitment by serving in the US military from the American War for Independence to the current World War against Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism.

In the past 2 years, Harvard has officially recognized the Army and Navy ROTC based at MIT units serving Harvard cadets and midshipmen which had been tied up in the politics since the Vietnam War and was further compounded by President Clinton’s “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy.

However relative to Harvard and the military, “Beachhead secured but mission not yet accomplished.”

The Air Force ROTC unit is still not officially recognized by Harvard which hopefully will be rectified in the near future.

However most importantly, only 0.5% of Harvard undergraduates are currently involved in ROTC programs which is paltry ratio compared to the high levels of ROTC participation in the early and mid-20th century.

Harvard should reinvigorate its noble tradition of educating patriots who serve our country in the armed forces with great distinction by initiating the following actions:

Lt. Col. Ted Roosevelt Jr. in France -1918
Lt. Col. Ted Roosevelt Jr. in France -1918 

Strive for the official recognition of Air Force ROTC

Initiate a pro-active outreach at Harvard College to admit both military veterans as does Columbia as well as freshmen demonstrating willingness to serve in the military as officers via ROTC

Teach military history and pride in the exceptionalism of the United States

Promulgate the long tradition of military service among Harvard alumni

Recognize military service as the highest form of public service

Acknowledge and promote the value & many benefits of military service to students, the country and Harvard College.

Provide a prominent place of honor for the forgotten Harvard alumni who died serving their country which happened to be the Confederate States of America   

The Hall of Heroes hopefully will reinforce a general awareness that freedom is not free and a recognition appreciation by Harvard undergraduates in particular of the sacrifices of many Harvard alumni before them who paid a price in time, blood and restricted earnings to preserve our liberty with their military service from the American Revolution to the present World Wide War on Islamic Terrorism.

All military veterans from Harvard and elsewhere have taken up a challenge beyond their own self-interest and in effect signed a blank check payable to the USA for an amount up to and sometimes including their own lives.

Brigadier General James Roosevelt USMC
Brigadier General James Roosevelt USMC

All gave some and some gave all!

While not a contest in a race to “win” the Medal of Honor, all Harvard alumni should be very proud of Harvard’s premier position of Medal of Honor alumni among all civilian universities in the world.

Furthermore, the Advocates for Harvard ROTC fervently hope that alumni of all universities create their own Hall of Heroes website as permanent virtual memorial of their alumni military veterans.

All Harvard alumni but particularly those who are military veterans should strongly encourage Harvard to continue its recently reinvigorated traditional role of educating and training future military leaders.

We hope & trust that the Long Crimson Line of military service continues to preserve our freedom and continue to protect our national security as in the past. With a greater awareness of tradition, more Harvard students will hopefully the follow the advice above the Dexter Gate entrance to the Harvard Yard, “Enter to grow in wisdom!

Depart to better serve thy country and thy kind! 

About the Author:

Captain Paul E. Mawn US Navy (Ret.) grew up in Lynn (MA) as the oldest of 7 children of a truck driver father who was a 2nd class Navy petty officer in the Pacific during World War II.

At Harvard, he was a member of the House hockey team, Harvard Band, House Committee, Pi Eta Club, Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770 as well as serving for 4 years as a midshipman in the NROTC unit.

As a Winthrop House resident at Harvard, Paul graduated cum laude in Geology and was commissioned the same week as a US Navy line office.

After communications and intelligence training, he qualified as a surface warfare officer initially on the USS Spiegel Grove (LSD 32) later on the USS Thaddeus Parker (DE 369) and the USS Albert T. Harris (DE 447).

Upon release from active duty, Paul was in the active Navy Reserve for 2 decades in a variety of surface warfare assignments as well as industrial security and a petroleum logistics billets.

During his last 5 years in the active Navy Reserve, he served on the staff directly reporting to the Chief of Naval Operations on Navy Petroleum issues and other assigned tasks from the CNO.

The author has written a comprehensive look at the relationship between Harvard and the US military which can be downloaded here:

Harvard and the US MIlitary

According to the author:

The prime purpose of this introspection is to proudly promulgate the untold story the long Crimson line of Harvard warriors as a role model for current and future undergraduates at Harvard and elsewhere.

A secondary objective of this paper is to review the positive Harvard policies of the past that have helped to nurture and develop many Harvard heroic veterans and identify what needs to be done for Harvard to again have a preeminent patriotic role in educating and developing future military leaders.