Ye Olde Student Life: TSL Seethes at British Wartime Plea for Help

It’s an eerie feeling to look at the TSL issue immediately before 9/11, or before the assassination of JFK, or before Pearl Harbor. These issues are utterly, utterly normal, a fact which makes complete sense, but which also serves to highlight just how blindsided we were by those events. However, history—no matter how surprising—never happens in complete isolation. This week’s article is an editorial from October 12, 1940, a little over a year before Pearl Harbor, when America was only just starting to recover from the Great Depression. Its attitude toward a plea for $1350 ($23,000 in today’s dollars) from the British may surprise many readers.


On the editorial desk before us sits a mimeographed publicity release. We get a dozen of these a day, and most of them are quickly filed in the wastebasket. This one, however, deserves special attention.

It is a plea from the British-American Ambulance corps. This seems to be a well-meaning and humanitarian organization devoted to the cause of transporting wounded Tommies in American ambulances.

The corps has figured out a clever little scheme. There are many colleges in the United States, all full to the brim with British sympathy and US cash. “Each institution will carry on an individual campaign to raise from its own student body the $1350 needed to purchase an ambulance, which will bear the school name.”

Isn’t that swell, chums? For only $1350, we can get a nice, shiny new death-wagon with “Pomona College” painted on its doors. And they only want 1,000 ambulances. It is extremely dangerous to take any positive stand, but at the risk of being labelled an isolationist, we are seething at the impudence of this appeal.

When America is a country that is faced with such shameful problems as the Dust Bowl, 9,600,000 unemployed (according to the Republican figures), and a national debt too big to comprehend, it seems rather stupid for us to throw $1,350,000 right across the Atlantic Ocean, no matter how humanitarian the motives.

And another thought: Aren’t we technically neutral? If Britain is entitled to ambulances, why doesn’t somebody do something for Germany? A wounded man is a wounded man, no matter what language he speaks. And how is the American Red Cross treating Germany?

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