Student Research Paper
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Of the many artifacts found in Gettysburg College’s Musselman library, perhaps the most unusual and seemingly out of place may be the centuries-old replica of a samurai suit and katana standing guard over visitors and students from an oversized glass case on the first floor. Though hard to miss, their connection with Gettysburg College is not so obvious. A plaque located below the suit reads, “Samurai Armor and Warrior Katana; Late 19th Century; Gift of Major General Charles A. Willoughby; Class of 1914.” These artifacts represent hundreds of years of the ancient Samurai tradition in Japan, a crucial element of traditional Japanese culture and history that experienced a resurgence even within the twentieth century. They also symbolize relations between the United States and Japan during and after World War II as narrated by Major General Charles A. Willoughby, Chief of Intelligence under Douglas MacArthur. How and why Major General Willoughby acquired such artifacts is unclear; however, a character study set against the backdrop of this period in history allows us to extrapolate potential theories. Documents within the Gettysburg Special Collections & College Archives offer insights into the man Willoughby was and posit deeper questions about the suit and katana’s journey to the college. This essay illuminates the connection between the college and an ancient culture half way around the globe as well as one of the murkiest mysteries at Gettysburg College.
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Hauk, Carolyn, "A Monument to Culture and Achievement: The Samurai Suit of Armor and Katana at Gettysburg College" (2018). Student Publications. 724.