War Historian Offers Reflection While Urging Continued Education

Few events have shaped history and had as large an impact as World War II. Building on his personal experiences during the war author and professor of Political Science Frederick M. Wirt addressed this topic on September 26, 2000, in a lecture presented at Denison University.

The event, co-sponsored by the History and Political Science departments as well as the Denison Lecture Series, was entitled “World War II and the Uses of History” and focused on the understanding of the events of the Second World War.

“Ignorance is a terrible thing,” said Wirt. “Can history teach us anything?”

Wirt who earned his bachelors degree from DePauw University in 1948 and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the Ohio State University is a veteran of World War II.

In addition to authoring over a dozen books on a variety of topics mostly surrounding political topics Wirt taught Political Science at Denison from 1952 to 1969. While in Granville, Wirt was an active member of the community, including managing the Granville Opera House and improving the Granville Public Library.

After Denison he served as a research political scientist and lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.

Wirt also directed the Policy Sciences Graduate Program at the University of Maryland until joining the Political Science department at the University of Illinois in 1975. He retired this past year and was named a professor emeritus.

Throughout his career, Wirt has enjoyed the luxury of several traveling and visiting professor positions worldwide, including the London School of Economics and Melbourne University in Australia. In 1998, his book entitled “We Ain’t What We Was” received the prized VO Key Award from the Southern Political Science Association.

Though a professor of Political Science, Wirt enjoys examining history especially that of World War II As he discussed during his lecture it was not until afterwards did the soldiersinvolved in combat truly understand their impact on history.

“Reading history helps me understand what I am,” said Wirt during his lecture. “What happens in the past parallels what is in the current.”

Wirt used a myriad of examples to illustrate his point but relied on the use of atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

“To learn about history one must read history,” said Wirt. “Not only in college but for the rest of your life.”

Currently, Wirt is working on a project studying the GI bill education and generational results as measured by census data He continues to publish articles in journals such as the Journal of Politics Publius The Journal of Federalism and Comparative Education Review

About the author

Todd DeFeo

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.