Can You Help? A Community Invitation

If you’re coming here via the Bethel News channel, I’d like to encourage you to read about how you can contribute to this project by filling out a survey

Until now, I’ve spent most of my time researching on the Vietnam War. As we move into July, I’ll be focusing increasingly on the War on Terror. Doing so will be something of a change of pace. While Vietnam has a literature covering protest and support movements, the role clergy played in justifying and condemning the war, and many other aspects of the war, the War on Terror has a comparatively limited literature.

I suspect this is partly due to the proximity of the war – 9/11 was only thirteen years ago, barely a historical blink – but my initial research suggests that this is not the only reason sources are so scarce.

World trade center burns on September 11th

September 11, 2001 – Wikimedia Commons

While Vietnam saw a draft, the War on Terror has been, and continues to be, fought with an all-volunteer armed forces. There has been no national mobilization for the war effort, and the American citizenry has been relatively uninvolved in the waging of this war. And if the war has had little effect on broader American life, it has had still less of a systemic impact on colleges and universities. Aside from the administrative adjustments needed to comply with federal legislation such as the 2001 USA PATRIOT act and increased federal funding of certain scientific research areas with weaponization potential, my initial impressions are that the war produced very limited institutional changes.

Of course, war does not have to drive significant institutional change for it to have an impact at a school like Bethel. Equally important are the social and cultural changes and debates the war provoked. And I suspect that unlike Vietnam – which happened long enough ago to make connecting with former employees and alumni difficult – it’s realistic to attempt a social and cultural history of the War on Terror at Bethel.

But to do that, I need your help. Publications like the Clarion can only go so far in illustrating the climate on campus during those years. Far better are eyewitnesses to the events – alumni and Bethel employees; that includes faculty and staff, current and retired.

As Chris and I noted in the project proposal, we’re most interested in three questions:

1) How did people from Bethel participate in the war? 2) How did the war shape life at Bethel itself? 3) During each conflict, how did people at Bethel understand and respond to the sometimes competing demands of national solidarity and Christian commitment?

Click to contact us

Click to contact us

The War on Terror should have plenty to plumb for each question. From those who served in ROTC programs to those who protested the wars; from those who saw the War on Terror as an issue of American security to those who questioned the justification or civil liberties implications of the war – I want to hear from you.

I’m especially interested in learning more about how the campus reacted to the news that Muslim terrorists were behind the events of 9/11. Did the campus see anti-Muslim activity or sentiment? How did students and faculty wrestle with the relation between their faith and their citizenship as the country entered two wars?

As the man to the left says, I want you to help us with this project.

If you would like to share your story, there are several ways for you to do this. Most immediately, leave a comment below or email us at I’m also interested in conducting some low-key oral histories. We would meet, you would talk, and I would ask a few questions to clarify or expand points of interest. Meetings could be as short or as long as you wish. To set up a meeting, send us an email!

If you’re new to Bethel at War, stop by our About page to learn more about the project, then browse the blog to see what Chris and I have been up to.

And if you were around Bethel during the Vietnam years, prove my earlier assumption wrong! I’d love to hear stories and recollections from that war too.


  1. Mike Surface · · Reply

    This is a great idea. Talk to Cynthia Kallberg. She is a recent Bethel alumni and the current State Command Sergeant Major for the MN National Guard. She served in Bosnia and Iraq.

  2. I helped pick up the pieces of young Marines medically evacuated from Viet Nam, as I served at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital as a young Navy Chaplain.

  3. I was in my sophomore year at Bethel Junior College when Pearl Harbor Sunday (Dec. 7, 1941) occurred. Then at commencement in 1942 I gave a brief speech as representative of our graduating class. If my memory is correct, it reflected the mental turmoil I’d faced in that interim. All males were registered for military service to be called by random numbers to join the armed forces, but I struggled with the issue of thus violating God’s Commandment not to kill.

    My resolution of the dilemma was wrapped in with my recognition that the entire society was involved, at least indirectly, so nobody (even those who were Conscientious Objectors) could escape participation in the killing or warfare. Taxes, the non-military production of food, clothing, and other manufactured goods, healthcare and other helping professions, and much more made every American complicit. (Some elements of Sociology were already impacting me!)

    I also was slightly tempted to register as a theological student in order to become exempt from military service under a 4-D classification. However, I could not do that with a good conscience, although it was an easier solution for students at Bethel than those of most other schools. About 3 years later, while in the Army after being drafted in Oct. 1942, I did feel that call.

    I recall no direct help from the Bethel staff and administration for resolving these problems. Apparently good citizenship outweighed any direct efforts toward informing us about Conscientious Objection or other alternatives to praying for victory by the Allies.

    If ever I find my 1942 speech, would you like a copy? I’m too busy with other projects to clean up most of my extensive personal files, but it’s among the tasks for which I need only about 10 more years of life and capability. (These memories may need corrections and modification.)

    David O. Moberg, July 31, 2014

    1. David – Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story! I’ve come across mentions of you in Bethel publications from the time and I knew you well enough by reputation to perk up. Your comments about conscientious objection resonate with what I’ve observed — again, the contrast between Bethel and Anabaptist schools like Goshen, Bluffton, etc. is instructive.

  4. Ron McNeill · · Reply

    Originally a member of the Class of ’69 at Bethel Colege, and after completing my freshman year, I enlisted in the US Navy as my classmates were beginning their sophomore year. Having stayed out of school for one year between HS and college (and a family move from Boston to Wheaton, IL), I was unable to secure a normal college deferment, so I received a draft notice to serve. I enlisted in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman and was trained as an Operating Room Technician.

    After serving at Great Lakes Naval Hospital (Great Lakes, IL) for nearly three years, I was transferred to the US Marine Corps, trained for a number of weeks at Camp Pendleton, CA (combat/field medical training) and shipped to So. Vietnam for my 4th year of service. As an OR Tech, I did not expect to serve in the field as a combat corpsman, but as it turned out, I did serve as a platoon corpsman with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, India Co. (1st Mar. Div.) in the mountainous region of Vietnam, southwest of Danang. I arrived in Vietnam, Sept., 1969. After being wounded, early December, I spent seven weeks in the US Naval Hospital in Guam. Upon return to Vietnam, I rejoined my platoon in the field, but was transferred three weeks later to the 1st Marine Div. Hospital (“Delta Med”) outside of Danang, where I finished my year-tour as an OR Tech.

    While at Delta Med, and with two months before returning home, I received a personal letter from Dr. Carl Lundquist, then President of Bethel, inviting me back to resume my studies at Bethel. Until receiving that letter, I was undecided as to where I would go to school. That very personal letter and warm invitation sealed my decision, and after discharge, I returned to Bethel.

    The war in Vietnam was extremely unpopular during that time, and many students (and professors) were relatively unsympathetic regarding my military experience. There were occasional comments made during classtime that were hurtful, so as a veteran, I tended to keep my wartime comments to myself. We did not recieve the (deserved) respect and admiration that is heaped upon the veterans and active servicemen of today. Although I did not disagree with many of the objections to the war, I felt there was some lack of understanding on the part of many. Some students would stand by the street (Snelling Ave – old campus) with signs and horns, picketing the war effort. In deference to many whom I saw give the ultimate sacrifice to their country, I did not participate. Times have changed.

    Ron McNeill – July 31, 2014

  5. […] and suggestions. (I was particularly tickled to find a comment from the great Christian sociologist David Moberg, who graduated from Bethel Junior College early in the […]

  6. Arne Bergstrom · · Reply

    I was at Bethel as a transfer student from 1967 until 1970. I was one of the organizers of the Student Moratorium to end the War in October, 1969 at Bethel. It was an outstanding success with support from students and some faculty for teach-ins and demonstrations. Would love to share more of those days and help the project.

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