Wednesday, November 20th, Professor Judy Barrett Litoff unveiled her newest book entitled Bryant College Goes to War. Professor Litoff enthusiastically recounts the inspiration for the book, founded in Bryant College’s Service Club during World War II. The club located approximately 500 Bryant alumni and current students whose education had been interrupted by the draft. They sent the active duty members, “hand-knitted sweaters, candy, candy and more candy,” Litoff exclaims. Soon, letters from the men and women involved in war came pouring back to the University. Letters were posted in the center of campus, and when the board became too cluttered, older letters were preserved in large, green scrapbooks. At the end of the war, four of these scrapbooks were filled with letters for safe keeping.
The scrapbooks were so safe, according to Litoff, that they were forgotten until 2008. Mary Moroney, Director of Library Services, along with a student discovered the scrapbooks while she was searching “underground library storage” for an unrelated purpose. Litoff recalls being contacted via email concerning the discovery and as a woman who had spent the majority of her professional career “reading other people’s mail” was immediately intrigued. After reading some of the letters and assisting students write historical papers on the topic of the Bryant College Service Club, Litoff decided she had to write a book for the school’s 150th anniversary about the courageous alumni of Bryant College and their contribution to World War Two.
Professor Litoff unearthed the story of Andrew Mamedoff, Bryant College Class of 1932. In the research process for the recently published book the story of Mamedoff was discovered, described by the July 1941 Bryant Alumni Bulletin as “a colorful character… a likeable fellow.” As found in the research, Mamedoff traveled to Europe with the purpose of getting “mixed up” in the war. Litoff explains he, “basically denied his United States citizenship” and “pledged his alliance to the King,” In August 1940, Mamedoff, originally from Connecticut, and three other Americans joined England’s Royal Air Force and became members of the 71st Eagle Squadron. A little over a year later, on October 8th, 1941, Mamedoff was killed in a weather related plane crash—it is rumored he was the first Jewish American to be killed in the war. On October 29th of this year, three members of British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee came to Bryant University to honor Pilot Officer Andrew Mamedoff with a plaque that credits his assistance with preventing “the spread of fascism throughout the world.”
On Wednesday Professor Litoff presented the book, Bryant College Goes to War, to Bryant staff, faculty, and students. The atmosphere brought the audience back to the World War II era as Bryant students read excerpts from the letters sent by those in the service. Authentic 1940’s food was laid out for guests including Spam sandwiches, wartime Coca Cola in bottles, Hershey’s chocolate, and Juicy Fruit gum. In a private interview Professor Litoff joked that despite the fact, “almost every person smoked” in the 1940’s, cigarettes would not be distributed. Litoff professes the book would not have been made possible if not for the contributions and hard work of Mary Moroney, Greg Carter, and the staff in the Alumni and Academic Affairs Offices.