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Paul Springer grew up in New Jersey during the 1920s and 1930s. A smart kid, he graduated high school at 16 in 1934 and worked at a bank. In 1937 he won a full scholarship at Ivy League Yale. Paul wanted adventure. He wanted to travel.
“Blackboards and Bomb Shelters: The Perilous Journey of Americans in China during World War II,” by James P. Bevill, tells what happened next. Yale sponsored the Yali Middle School in Yuanling, Hunan Province in China. It taught in English and Chinese. Every other year Yale sent three Yale graduates to teach there. During his senior year at Yale Paul was invited to apply for one of the positions.
He applied, and with two other Yale graduates sailed to China in July 1941. It was an opportunity to satisfy his dreams of travel during an age when this was rare. While The US was still at peace, China had been at war with Japan longer than Paul had been to Yale. He knew he was entering a war zone. His first-semester teaching at Yali Middle School was punctuated by Japanese air raids.