Last spring, a few of my friends approached me about creating an independent study for the fall semester. They explained that they wanted to study World War Two in the Pacific and that there were a few classes offered that focused on the war in Europe, but not in the Pacific. I was totally on board. The other three students that were going to participate in the class were all History majors, so you can understand my nervousness when I said yes, seeing that I am a Sociology/Anthropology major. But World War Two has always been an interest of mine and I never really studied the Pacific theatre.
When last fall rolled around, the four of us met with Tom Williams who was our advisor for the IS. I had never met him, but according to the other three, he was a wonderful teacher. I soon realized that myself. At the first meeting, we decided that we were going to meet on Mondays at 11am until 12:15. We decided to read different personal accounts of people in Asia during World War Two. I read “China to Me” by Emily Hahn. We spent a few weeks on those books and each class, the four of us in that class were responsible for giving a summary of what had happened in that book for the others in the class. After finishing our personal accoun books, we moved onto study the Rape of Nanking. Iris Chang writes a stunningly descriptive account of what exactly happens in Nanking in Decemeber of 1937. I read the book cover to cover and found myself cringing at parts. All the years I have been in school, I only briefly touched upon the Rape of Nanking and what exactly happened. A lot of people in today’s world still have no idea what went on. If you want to know more, I HIGHLY reccommend reading it.
We then moved onto read “We Band of Angels” by Elizabeth M. Norman. This is one of my new favorite books. It recounts how American nurses in the Philippines lived before and after Pearl Harbor. It was fascinating and it was the type of book that I refused to put down and carried to all my classes and meals, trying to sneak in as much reading as I could.
The next book, “Stilwell and the American Experience in China” tells the story of General Stilwell’s life and WW2. Even though it was a biut difficult to read and comprehend, I still enjoyed it. The last book, we had decided as a group, was to be a personal account about anything pertaining to WW2. I found “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. Yes, the same woman who wrote “Seabisuit”. Even though it was not a firsthand account, it was still acceptable and I am so happy I chose it. It followed the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympican runner and how he ends up at a bomber on an airplane in WW2. It was the sort of book I just wanted to sit down and read from front to back.
All these books were so interesting and I learned so much. Throughout the course, I learned so much. I never knew so much about that side of World War Two. Tom Williams is one of my favorite professors now and I have so much respect for him. He is so knowledgeable and lended his expertise throughout the course. He allowed us to structure the course which really let us learn what we wanted to learn. Independent studies are wonderful because you can create the course exactly how you want it to be and design your own syllabus. If you want to create your own IS, all you have to do is get a form from the Registrar’s office, find an advisor that is interested and make your own syllabus.