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Juniata Creates Events Based on Alumnus' 'The Warriors' Book

(Posted August 26, 2013)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College assigns a summer reading book every year for incoming freshmen, and this year's selection, "The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle," is connected to the college through the late author and alumnus J. Glenn Gray. To honor Gray's 100th anniversary birth year, the history department has created several public programs around the book.

Gray, who was born in Mifflintown, Pa. in 1913, graduated from Juniata College in 1936, earning a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate from Columbia University. Shortly thereafter, Gray joined the U.S. Army in 1942, serving as an officer in a counterespionage unit fighting through the North Africa, Italy and D-Day campaigns.

"The book will get students to think about the soldiers' experiences in battle in new ways. They may think they know what soldiers experience -- from the media, from talking with veterans, from reading -- and this provocative book will help them reevaluate what they know and enable them to ask new questions. We live in a world of constant warfare, so knowing more about how soldiers are affected will help them better understand and act in that world."
David Hsiung, professor of history

After the war, Gray became a philosophy professor at Colorado College and became somewhat well-known during his lifetime as a translator of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. About 15 years after his World War II service, Gray began rereading his war journals and decided to write a philosophical interpretation of how war affects human beings and why soldiers act as they do.

Although Gray's academic books on Heiddeger, educational philosophy and other topics are not familiar to general audiences today, "The Warriors" has continued to be relevant reading for soldiers, civilians and for many college students.

"I first read the book for a course at the University of Michigan for which I was a teaching assistant. It gave me a way to think about soldiers' experiences in any war. "The Warriors" resonates with me as a historian, as someone who has had an interest in war since childhood, and as a citizen who has seen wars come and go my entire life," says David Hsiung, professor of history at Juniata. "The book will get students to think about the soldiers' experiences in battle in new ways. They may think they know what soldiers experience -- from the media, from talking with veterans, from reading -- and this provocative book will help them reevaluate what they know and enable them to ask new questions. We live in a world of constant warfare, so knowing more about how soldiers are affected will help them better understand and act in that world."

Events based around "The Warriors" began Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Rosenberger Auditorium as John Nagl, headmaster of The Haverford School and former Minerva Research Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, spoke on "The Warriors: Reflections on Reflections on Men in Battle." Nagl was on the writing team that compiled the "U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual" and wrote "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam."

The freshman class will have a chance to give their opinion on the book in a panel discussion, "Reflections on 'The Warriors,' at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 5, as six former U.S. Navy officers who refused to serve in the Vietnam War while on active duty will discuss the book through their own experiences. The panel is sponsored by the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.

On Monday, Sept. 9, at 7:30 p.m., Michael Neiberg, professor of history at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., will speak on "Personal Perspectives on the Age of Total War." Neiberg has written or edited almost a dozen book on World War I and World War II, His most recent book is "Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I."

Juniata will wind up the events focused on Gray's classic study of men in war with a discussion event led by David Hsiung, professor of history. The date and time of the event has yet to be determined. Hsiung will use the letters, journals and memoirs of soldiers who fought in World War II to try to answer the question "Did World War II soldiers really experience 'the enduring appeal of battle' as J. Glenn Gray has described?"

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.