Through the Decades: 1940s

The US exploded into World War II on December 7, 1941, but the drums of war had been echoing in the halls of Boalt for many months. As early as November of the previous year a student returned his alumni scholarship, explaining that he had just been called up for active duty in the Army. As an institution composed overwhelmingly of young men, the law school was hit particularly hard by the declaration of war. Six months after Pearl Harbor enrollment had already dropped by fifty percent, and by the spring of 1944 the student body had dwindled to only thirty-seven law students. 

For Christmas 1943 the School of Jurisprudence sent out a card proudly listing the names of 600 Law Building students, faculty, staff and alumni serving in the armed forces, prompting Provost Monroe Deutsch to comment that “Boalt Hall certainly is playing its part manfully—and womanfully—in this great war.” The law school was proud to do its part. Exam schedules were adjusted to allow students to meet requirements before their induction, and full credit was given for classes only partially completed. One student was excused from final exams “to rest his eyes so that he can pass the requirements for the Navy.” The school adopted a trimester system, which allowed students to complete three years of study in only two. 

The war was referred to as “the emergency”—and it was certainly experienced as one at Boalt Hall. Proud to serve we may have been, but operational expenses continued and somehow tuition needed to be collected. The faculty voted to revamp admissions requirements for the duration. The law school would accept students with less than a B average (providing the student performed well on the required admissions examinations). An old policy was dusted off and reintroduced: college juniors could take their first year of law school concurrent with their senior year as undergraduates. Anything to fill the classroom chairs.

Like many Boalt Hall students, Shozo Fred Tsuchida, a member of the Class of 1943, received full credit for a partially-completed school year, but in his case for a very different reason. The faculty minutes explain: “Mr. Tsuchida had to withdraw because of being evacuated as a Japanese.” Tsuchida’s classmates Kenichi Nishimoto and Mamoru Sakuma transferred to Hastings after their 1L year, but they too were later interned in relocation camps. Boalt Hall student Yozzo George Kurokawa, a member of the Class of 1942, was “evacuated” to Manzanar. His classmate Masatatsu Yonemura left during his last semester at Boalt because he was drafted into the Army. He served during the war as a translator for the Military Intelligence Service—while his parents and siblings were interned at Poston, Arizona. After the war Yonemura returned to Boalt Hall, and completed his J.D. in 1947.

At the close of the war the young men came flooding back, many of them now on the G.I. Bill. When the first completely post-war class was graduated in 1948, there were only eight women in a class of eighty-eight. Perhaps because of the crucial role that women had played in the war effort, the attitude of the male students was largely one of respect and acceptance. Ann Wansley, ‘48, remembers: “It’s strange, but personally I didn’t feel any of the discrimination or prejudice. I felt we were treated pretty much like everybody else…. [T]he only other woman who I knew ever experienced any discriminatory attitude on the part of the professors was a good buddy of mine who went off to become an appellate court judge in the end. She had trouble with a Constitutional Law professor who, when she went to ask him a question about why she got such a bad grade on her exam, told her that he didn’t think women should be studying Constitutional Law in the first place. That they should be off doing cooking and things like that—making lemon meringue pies. I always thought that making pies was probably more difficult than Constitutional Law.”