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SDSU And USS Midway Foundation Partner, Creating Modern US Military History Program

Andy Wiese (far right), SDSU history professor and chair of the history depar...

Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler / KPBS

Above: Andy Wiese (far right), SDSU history professor and chair of the history department, presents members of the USS Midway Museum Board with a collage of letters written by SDSU students during World War II, June 11, 2019.

From Camp Pendleton to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) to Liberty Station, there are many places in San Diego that reflect the region’s connection to the military.

Recognizing that, in February, San Diego State University established the Center for Military History and on Tuesday, announced a partnership with the USS Midway Foundation to create an interdisciplinary program in modern U.S. military history.

SDSU will be the only public university on the West Coast with the program and the USS Midway Foundation pledged $3 million to fund and create an endowed chair for the program.

The search for the program’s chair will start immediately and the position will focus on military history from World War II to the present with emphasis on post-war reconciliation, the lives of combatants, veterans, survivors and public memory among others.

The program is ideally aligned with both institutions, said Derek Abbey, interim director of the SDSU Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center.

“San Diego State has had a connection to the military since its inception,” he said. “Our original president was a veteran himself and we have remained connected to the military throughout our existence.”

With the U.S. involved in so many conflicts around the world, it’s important that students learned about U.S. military history and its significance, said Andrew Wiese, SDSU history professor and chair of the history department.

“Our past informs us and, as a society, collectively, history is what informs us,” he said. “People need to understand what happened in the past and how it lays the table for where we are today and what we might do going forward.”

San Diego State approached the Midway with the idea of a partnership. As talks went on, the idea gained traction, USS Midway Museum Foundation president and CEO Mac McLaughlin said.

“It’s a great opportunity for Midway to step forward and frankly put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “Teaching our young people about military history is something we thought was very important.”

Both institutions have a shared mission and goals, Wiese said during a news conference announcing the partnership.

“We are bound by a shared commitment in service to our community and our region,” he said. “Each of our institutions has a special commitment to serving the next generation.”

The USS Midway Museum has had an education program since its opening in 2004 and hosts more than 50,000 students annually.

SDSU, with its connection to the military, has one the largest active-duty military and veteran centers in the world, Wiese said. And that has given the school an advantage to create informed dialogue that few campuses can match, he said.

As a nod to history, the USS Midway Foundation board approved the endowment on Thursday, June 6 — the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the ship’s namesake. Both battles were seen as turning the tides for the Allies in World War II.

The endowment is the largest gift received by the university’s College of Arts and Letters. The $3 million will be spread over five years with the program officially launching in 2021.

KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler contributed to this story.
KPBS is a service of San Diego State University.

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