Samuel Madden was born in 1912; he was one of ten children. His father was a minister and teacher at his childhood school. After graduating high school, Madden went on to work for a government program that existed during this time called the Works Progress Administration, or the WPA. This was one of the vastest New Deal agencies set up by President Roosevelt to train and employ unskilled workers. Madden was an instructor for one of the literacy programs developed by this agency in Virginia. It offered a free service to adults, teaching them basic skills such as reading and writing. Madden was working at this program on December 7, 1941, the fatal day of the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. After the bombing on that day, Madden remembered the atmosphere in Richmond, Virginia, being both exciting and disturbing. People were astounded at the news and were in a state of disbelief. Madden approached his supervisors after the bombing to ask what action could be taken, and he was advised to continue teaching in the program. It was during this time in history that the draft was reinstated, and approximately three years after the events at Pearl Harbor, Madden was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Madden was stationed at a base close to Baltimore, Maryland, named Fort Holabird. He spent his entire service stationed and serving at this base. Fort Holabird was an Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station during this time period. Madden continued his role as an educator while in the army and worked as a teacher and supervisor to newly-drafted soldiers who did not have basic literacy and arithmetic skills. Approximately 500 soldiers at a time would work through the 6- to 12-week program. Once the soldiers reached the end of the program, they were required to take an exit exam to see if they could continue on with their training and enter into active duty. If they failed this exam, they were required to reenter the course. Madden explained how he worked with very qualified individuals and educators to teach these soldiers how to read and write. Many of the soldiers were not given the opportunity to obtain an education like this prior to being enlisted in the Army. Many of these individuals, especially those in the rural areas, had to stay at home to help support their families instead of going to school. Madden described that the program had a very high success rate and that most of the soldiers were very grateful and appreciative toward the opportunity to obtain this type of education. Although many soldiers were not thrilled to have been drafted into the war, their attitude toward this program was often very positive.
Madden served in the army for 3 years before the governor of Virginia and the president of Virginia State College sent letters to the army asking that Madden be released from his term of service to work as an educator and Dean for the college. He spent the rest of his professional life continuing in his career in education and at Virginia State University.
Madden made a point of raving about the ROTC military programs now available to students studying at many universities. He expressed how the program is a great opportunity for students to mesh their education and military training. It has been a huge asset to those who have gone through the program, and those who complete it are generally very successful in the army as well.
We hope you enjoy this interview with WWII veteran, Samuel Madden.
Interviewed by Angela Broyles on Jan.11, 2011.