AUB and World War Two (1939-45) > 1939-1940 > Situation in the Middle East worsens: Emergency Measures
War comes to the Region
The year 1940 between March and June saw the surrender of Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway to Germany. France signed an armistice with Germany in June, and the Axis of Powers began bombing Palestine, while the Italian troops invaded British occupied Somalia, and Italy invaded, in September, British controlled Egypt, from Italian controlled Libya. "The emergency measures, which accompany the outbreak of war, were immediately put into operation [at the University]. Sixteen French teachers and one Englishman were called from the campus to war duties. People remembered the misery of 1914 and a heavy cloud of sorrow settled over the land."
The Situation in the Mediterranean
The whole Near East is now involved inevitably in the war even though no fighting should actually occur. The stoppage of Mediterranean shipping following Italy’s declaration will affect all those countries dependent upon sea-borne trade.
The American Colleges in the Near East will of course remain open as long as there are students to be taught. Enrollments will, however, be affected adversely, particularly in those institutions like the American University of Beirut where students come from numerous countries. New teachers cannot be sent out from America, but those now on the field will largely remain at their posts unless circumstances require their return home. Some staff members whose contracts expired have already returned. All were early given the option of leaving.
It is too early to make predictions about what will happen in the Near East and information is scanty at present. The Near East Service will seek to keep its members informed of developments."
“To Interpret the Near East to the West” An Activity of the Near East College Association, Inc., 50 West 50th Street, New York, New York Bulletin #11 page: 3 June 1940
Emergency measures put in place at the University included the following:
"...that in view of the state of war and the strict accountability of the University for the activities of the students, that all regional, national and language societies be suspended for the duration of the war."
"...that a notice be sent to parents of all students notifying them that under the present state of war the University will be forced to deal very seriously with any organized political activity or agitation on the part of students...that the students be required to sign a statement testifying to their recognition of the above responsibility of the University."
Minutes of University Faculty and Executive Committee 1936-1940: September 14, 1939
Medical Preventive Measures and Financial Difficulties
The Medical team at the University also dispensed vaccines and took many other preventive measures: "a dozen doctors, nurses and medical students went out from the University medical school and vaccinated 5,800 refugees for typhoid, the vaccine being manufactured at the University pharmacy."
That They may Have Life; The Story of the American University of Beirut 1866-1941. Published by the Trustees of the American University of Beirut: P 276
AUB campus as a war shelter
During the first year of the war, trenches and shelters were installed all over campus, a first aid post was equipped in the basement of Van Dyck Hall, 500 soldiers of the French Army were cared for in the Hospital. Families would come and sleep on campus, for fear of bombing.