Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with James Moceri
During the course of graduate work at Columbia, I worked for the Federal Writers Project as a writer, and produced a series of pamphlets on subjects as varied as “Soil Conservation” for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the lives and works of New Jersey painters of the 19th century, Washington in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. Transferring later to the New Jersey Historical Records Survey (also part of the WPA program) first as an editor and subsequently as a supervisor, I worked on volumes of local history, including manuscript collections and inventories of county and municipal archives. In 1940, I was asked to take charge of the largest and most important research project in American history then being carried out under the umbrella of the New Jersey Historical Records Survey. The project also had the sponsorship of the history department of Columbia University, a factor which had played some part in my selection as the new director. The objective was to produce a massive and indeed exhaustive history of the nearly 34,000 roll-call votes taken in the U.S. Congress from 1789 to 1932. I was responsible for the work of a staff of more than 100 people engaged in this and a series of related projects. It was my first experience in what could accurately be described as large scale substantive and managerial program direction.
I must digress at this point to take note of my intellectual and political concerns from the mid-thirties to the outbreak of World War II. Although my general field of study was modern European history, my more specific interests centered on nationalism as a political force, the intellectual history of 19th century Europe (and on this subject Jacques Barzun created for my benefit a graduate seminar at Columbia), and the nature and theory of history itself. Politically I had come to the conclusion by the mid-thirties that fascism and communism posed in differing guises and for differing reason a mortal threat to the continuation of the liberal and humanistic achievements of western civilization. In reaching this conclusion I had been much influenced by the writings of the great Italian historian-philosopher Benedetto Croce. The failure of the League of Nations to check the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia convinced me that a general war had become inevitable, at least on a Europe-wide scale.
Pearl Harbor—The War Years
Pearl Harbor marked the end of the entire Historical Records Research Program on which I had been employed. I later applied for a commission in the Navy as a junior officer, and served in the Pacific Theater. As a communications officer on the staff of the commander of the amphibious forces of the Pacific fleet, I participated in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa operations.
At the end of the war, I applied for and received a post-war fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation for research on Italian political developments in the 20th century, particularly the liberal opposition to fascism in Italy.
1947-49: Assistant Professor At College Of Northern Idaho; Leads To Fulbright Scholarship