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“Your Job Now” – High School During WWII

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Between 1941 and 1945, WWII touched and shaped every aspect of American life. For the average high school student, there were more questions about their future than answers. Many joined the service before they even graduated; others were drafted or joined upon completing their education. Those who remained on the home front often put aside college and other career plans to work in war production. High school yearbooks provide an inside look into how students dealt with these uncertainties. Today, we’re focusing on the Isidore Newman School here in New Orleans, LA.

“It didn’t occur to us that we’d end up in the service,” yearbook donor and WWII veteran Tommy Godchaux stated during his interview. Despite his feelings at the time, the pages of the 1942 Pioneer yearbook from the exclusive Isidore Newman School are chock full of wartime imagery, from the title illustration featuring an armed Uncle Sam carrying a tank and a Higgins Boat landing craft to its advice column for boys and girls. Everything from popular trends to contemporary music is interpreted through the war, including the role students must play in supporting the Allies. The Pioneer also reveals student attitudes toward gender roles in features like “For Girls Only” as well as the school-wide Pioneer Poll, in which 80% of boys and 56% of girls voted against women wearing slacks. In February 1942, with America’s involvement in WWII just three months old, one student ponders “Should we hate our enemies?”

 Hear Tommy Godchaux talk about high school during WWII:

Read more about the Isidore Newman School, as well as 39 other schools, at See You Next Year: High School Yearbooks from WWII.

Posted by Gemma Birnbaum, Digital Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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