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Those Who Served, Those Who Fell: War and the Yearbook

Fare Fac Sampler, 1943, Fairfax High School, Fairfax, VA. https://archive.org/details/farefacsampler1943fair_0 As the holiday season comes and goes, our thoughts turn to those who are away from home and those who will never see home again. Through my work with the Virginia Yearbooks Digitization Project, I found that many students during times of war, both in the armed services and support services, were recognized and remembered in their local school yearbooks. So far, I have only uncovered yearbooks referring to WWII, despite browsing through others looking for similar tributes during WWI and the Korean or Vietnam wars. Due to copyright law, this project only includes yearbooks up until 1977.  If our readers have examples from other wars, we would love to see them!

It has been heartwarming and heartbreaking to read the homages of students to their fellow classmates and friends on the covers, dedication pages, or other yearbook sections. Those young students obviously thought it was important to pay their respects to their peers. For example, one digitized yearbook from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company Apprentice Program depicts an era in Virginia when many young men from the Tidewater region either served in the military or worked at the shipyard. The yearbook dedication reads, “To the all important role played by the shipbuilder in the fight for our American way of life, we humbly dedicate the 1942 Binnacle.” An opening page reads “Millions for Defense But Not One Cent for Tribute.” The Colonnade in Culpeper and The Axtonian in Henry County listed fallen classmates in dedications. Fairfax High School participated in the Victory Corps, which they described as a “national voluntary organization for secondary schools for the purpose of mobilizing high school youth for more effective preparation for and participation in wartime services in both school and community.” The group is featured in the Fare Fac Sampler issues 1942-1944.

In addition to preparedness and dedication to duty, these yearbooks also expressed hope for the future beyond the war in “the world of tomorrow.” The 1944 students of Newport News High School, Newport News, Virginia wrote of a wish for peace in their 1944 edition of The Anchor:

A world that’s in peace, a world of progress, a world that has the four freedoms—freedom from want, freedom from fear,
freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. A world that has better means of communication, a world that’s free from the
evils of dictatorship, a world that lives as one nation.

This wish is as fitting now as it was then. Happy Holidays from the Virginia Yearbooks Digitization Project!


–Rose Schooff, Technology consultant


  1. Bruce Harper said:
    19 December 2018 at 10:53 am

    The Bugle, yearbook of then V.P.I. covered WWI in the 1917, 1918, and especially 1919 (“The War Bugle”), paying respects to those students and alumni who served in the various branches of service. See http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/Bugle for a view of all the Bugles in Special Collections in the Virginia Tech library.

    • Vince said:
      19 December 2018 at 10:56 am

      Thank you for the suggestion, Mr. Harper!