Professor honors WWII

December 15, 2011

Saul Zalesch shows his ephemera collection at the Enterprise Center on Tuesday night. Zalesch's work will be displayed until January 5, 2011. – Photo by Jessica Van Alstyne

Staff Reporter

Dec. 7, 1941, a day that lived in infamy.


Dec. 7, 2011, 70 years after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Saul Zalesch gave a detailed analysis of the Pearl Harbor attacks and the U.S. entry into World War ll at the Robert H. Rawle Enterprise Center.


The event was sponsored by Dewey Thurmond, a member of General MacArthur’s staff during the war, who passed away last month.


Zalesch, an associate professor of art, said he has been gathering ephemera, collectibles usually not found in museums or art galleries, on World War II for approximately five years.


“I realized the big anniversary was coming up and most of the veterans were dying off,” Zalesch said. “It would be the last round number anniversary where any of them could benefit by attending the exhibit.”


He also said there were several reasons for students and the public to stop by and view the World War II ephemera.


“History is critical for having some idea that circumstances you encounter have happened before,” Zalesch said. “The best way to prepare yourself for the future is to see how things happened in the past.”


However, he said most students know very little history today.


In addition to history, attendees can see artwork of the American people during the World War II time period.


Diane Douglas, a retired Tech professor who taught for 27 years, attended the show and said Zalesch did a great job collecting World War II ephemera.


“I think his interest and enthusiasm for collecting has really lead to some very fine exhibits during his tenure at Tech,” Douglas said.


Her father served as a Seabee, a member of the United States Navy construction battalion, during World War II in the South Pacific. In addition to Zalesch’s ephemera, Douglas contributed letters her father sent her mother during his time in the Navy.


“In every letter he sent my mother, he would paint a scene of the war through his eyes on the envelope,” Douglas said.


Bill Willoughby, associate dean of Liberal Arts, said he thought the collectibles were a mild and cultural approach to explaining the war because people mostly think of battles when they think of war.


“I think that Saul has put together a unique perspective on World War II through ephemera,” Willoughby said.


Willoughby also said Zalesch showed different shades of the war by displaying collectibles directed toward women and children.


“All of these aspects of World War II really come to life through this ephemera,” Willoughby said. “You are able to see things that were in people’s houses and held in their hands.” Attendees had many questions about what took place during World War II and what we have learned 70 years later.


J. T. Shim, a visiting assistant professor of information systems, asked questions relating to the financial aspects of the war as the South was thriving financially due to the production of war material.


“We’re willing to do rationing, bonds, stamps and inter the Japanese, but we are not willing to raise wages?” Shim asked.


He also had other concerns about what this generation should learn from the World War II ephemera for the future.


Shim said, for example, the manner in which Americans tried the Germans for war crimes, how then would Americans explain the genocide and criminal actions done in Vietnam?


“Is Kissinger really liable if he were to be tried?” he asked.


Some students questioned certain facts that were revealed at the exhibit. Alice Aber, a senior studio art major, said she was not really sure if Americans would want their children to be involved in wars as they were in World War ll.


”It was kind of strange how they tried to get the children involved in it,” Aber said. “They were making them want to help, save up money or even buy costumes to be the junior air raid officers,” Aber said.


Zalesch experienced these odd traits, and said there was a fine line between right and wrong, but that line was seen differently among generations.


“I grew up in the ‘60s, ‘‘70s and ‘80s, so I can remember how we looked in the war,” Zalesch said. “Now we can be proud of our involvement.”


Email comments to ahg007@latech.edu.


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