The Atlantic

How Serving in World War II Spurred My Academic Ambition

A veteran who shunned college as a young man reflects on the path that led him to a distinguished career in sociology.
Source: Jacob Myrick

I graduated from high school six weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My parents—with whom my older brother and I had emigrated from Berlin five and a half years earlier—wanted me to enroll in Queens College, one of New York City’s tuition-free schools. But high school had been too much of a bore for me. Although I earned good grades, easily making the honor roll every term, I had no taste for more of the same. Being certain that sooner or later I would be subject to the military draft, I found work in a mechanical laboratory as a toolmaker’s apprentice.

Then, in April 1943, the army sent me its greetings—even before I became an American citizen and even though I was, technically, still an enemy alien. The army expedited my naturalization two months after

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