On Remembrance Day, I Remember Gordon Prange

Some days are memorable. September 11, 2001 is one of them.  Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing during the hours the planes hit the World Trade Center. But before what is now known as Patriot Day, there was December 7, 1941 –Remembrance Day.

Frankin Roosevelt called it a “date that will live in infamy”.  The aerial sneak attack one early Sunday morning on a sleepy Hawaii  launched the participation of the United States in World War II.

What comes to my mind when I think of that day, however, is not the events but a professor I had at the University of Maryland who taught about it.  Gordon Prange was the best teacher  I ever had. I took at least two of his courses and could have lapped up more.  He was what a teacher should be, fun and inspiring.  As a teacher I wish I was like him.

Students obviously felt comfortable in his class. During one course on the origins of World War II a couple fellows came dressed in German war gear. He made a point of acknowledging them in a fun way.

He unfortunately died in 1980, a few years after I left College Park.  He left reams of research which a couple of his colleagues turned into best-selling books. One of them, “At Dawn We Slept”, a documentation of Pearl Harbor, I bought new for my brother.  He received a history degree from Maryland.  On Christmas morning I was finishing it up before I drove to his place to present it. It wasn’t “new” anymore as I had wolfed down its pages.

I am not his only fan. Years ago I heard a call-in radio program discussing his work. I made a point of calling in and mentioning how much I admired him.   

Any student of history will enjoy reading his books. A well-known movie was also produced as a result of it (“Tora, Tora, Tora.”) Happy Remembrance Day Professor Prange.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “On Remembrance Day, I Remember Gordon Prange

  1. One addition from a good friend who also took Dr. Prange’s classes. He took four of them as a history major(the most he could take). Dr. Prange was also his favorite teacher. My friend said that Dr. Prange used to say he had a different vest for each day and dared his students to catch him wearing the same vest twice. Also, he was prone to humorous outbursts. One in German my friend recalls: “Zen minutins fer dir zeit ist die Prussish puntlichkeit!” (“Ten minutes before the hour is Prussian punctuality”).

  2. jeff allman

    Neat that you got to have him as a prof.
    You referenced the movie”Tora!Tora!Tora!”—
    it was a WW II-based movie with little acclaim.
    However, I’ve watched it on video and DVD several
    times, while I found once was all I needed to see
    the overdone “Pearl Harbor” from several years ago.

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