Army Programs at UNC
Though naval training programs dominated the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill during World War II, there were also several Army programs being conducted here. Foremost among them was the Army Air Corps Pre-Meteorology B program for weather forecasters, which opened at the university 1 March 1943. Guy B. Phillips held several conferences with the Special Meteorological Committee to investigate the B program and concluded in this letter to Professor of English George Coffman that it would be an excellent opportunity to use the university staff "and facilities to an advantage when there is apparently to be a reduction in regular student enrollment."
The ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) was an Army college training program that emphasized engineering; medical, dental and veterinary training; and foreign area and language studies. Teaching outlines were provided by the Army but instruction was provided by the university faculty. Several hundred institutions were selected by the War Manpower Commission to participate. This letter from Commandant Matthews to consolidated university President Frank Porter Graham expresses appreciation for Graham's presence at the first graduation of Foreign Area and Language trainees. Matthews says: "Due to the comparatively small size of the Army Unit as compared to those of the Navy, many of the students had an inferiority complex. Your address made a remarkable change, they now hold their heads up and have an esprit de corps second to none."
The NROTC (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps) was established after World War I for the purpose of providing training in the arts and sciences of naval warfare. The program provided opportunities for young men to undertake careers in the naval profession. The Marine Corps entered the NROTC program in 1932, offering qualified NROTC graduates commissions in the United States Marine Corps. The V-12 Navy College Training Program was initiated in 1943 to meet the need for commissioned officers to man ships, fly planes and command troops called to duty during World War II. The V-12 accepted students already enrolled in the Navy and Marine Corps college reserve programs, enlisted men recommended by their commanding officers and high school seniors who passed a qualifying examination.
The V-12 program was established at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill 1 July 1943. Contracted through and coordinated by the College for War Training, the V-12 curricula was prescribed by the Navy and taught by university faculty. The addition of the V-12 program strained the university's resources to provide adequate housing, laundry services, meals and adequate space in the physical education facilities for its 1,330 students. Housed in five dormitories and twelve fraternity houses, V-12 students took their meals in Swain Dining Hall. V-12 students participated in normal college activities, such as athletics, music and debating, and were members of student organizations and the Campus Y.
The NROTC unit was established at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in the fall of 1940 with Captain Robert S. Haggart as commanding officer. Operating out of Woollen Gymnasium, with training quarters in the basement of Lenoir Hall, midshipmen operated a four-inch fifty caliber breech loader, practiced signal drills on dummy decks, and held rifle practice on a lighted range. All cadets carried new Springfield rifles; officers carried sabers and regulation forty-five caliber service revolvers. Drill took place on Emerson Field (now the site of the student union and Davis Library). During 1942, NROTC expanded on campus along with other military programs; a new armory built by the Navy opened on 25 April 1943 and is still in use by the program today.
In response to the needs of the V-12 students university Librarian Charles E. Rush agreed to keep the Library open forty-five minutes later than previously scheduled. Rush makes the point that "the Library will attempt to provide this additional service on its own budget resources, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. If the University Administration receives complaints from Peter, it should neither blame Paul nor us."
Though Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed a holiday by the State of North Carolina, the commanding officer of the V-12 unit at Chapel Hill reminded his students in 1944 that "Thanksgiving Day is not a holiday. The usual classes will be held." However, all trainees were invited to a special Thanksgiving service in Memorial Hall.
The Navy Pre-Flight School did not have a monopoly on food service problems during World War II, as this memorandum illustrates. Dean of Men Roland B. Parker advises Dean Francis Bradshaw of the College for War Training that he has heard "a flood of protest" over the eating situation in Swain Hall "from NROTC, Marine Reserves and regular V-12s," including: dirty silver, sour milk, too many starches, poorly prepared food, discourteous service, and (ironically) insufficient amounts at times.
Photos and captions from NROTC scrapbooks, 1942
The subject of commanding officer's memorandum no. 5-45 was Hinton James Day. As the university celebrated its sesquicentennial, the Navy V-12 unit was encouraged to attend a Hinton James Day dance to celebrate the event and to help raise funds for completing work on Graham Memorial.
This telegram from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal informed the Navy V-12 unit in Chapel Hill of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "The world has lost a champion of democracy who can ill be spared by our country and the allied cause. The Navy which he so dearly loved can pay no better tribute to his memory than to carry on in the tradition of which he was so proud." A memorial service was held in Kenan Stadium the following day.
After the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy realized the need to revitalize its training programs. It was decided that the Pre-Flight portion of the program could be taught on college campuses, and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill was chosen as one of four locations in January 1942. This decision was probably influenced by the state's multiple associations with the Navy. After all, the U. S. Naval Academy had been founded by a UNC alumnus, President James K. Polk, and Josephus Daniels, the editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, was a former Secretary of the Navy.
The Navy's goal was the training of thirty thousand pilots a year until the end of the war, and the Pre-Flight portion of the program was intense, rigorous and comprehensive, designed to develop the stamina and strength required in combat. If downed in enemy territory, the Navy pilot should "possess the ability to kill a man twelve different ways with his bare hands."
The Pre-Flight program's academics were divided into naval lore and ground school subjects, including mathematics, navigation, meteorology, seamanship, physics, and gunnery. Cadets needed five thousand calories a day to sustain their physical training schedule, and meals were provided in Lenoir Hall. Cadets had practically no liberty; mainly confined to their "Navy area" on the university campus, they were permitted to visit other parts of the campus or go downtown only three times a week: on Wednesday afternoons, Saturday afternoons and nights and Sunday afternoons.
Though there was some opposition to the Navy's presence on the campus and in the community, Chapel Hill generally responded to the influx of military men into the community with graciousness and generosity. Civilians and servicemen worked well together to overcome the problems of "close quarters" and war rationing. Townspeople often invited Pre-Flight cadets and officers to speak at community events, and families often invited Navy men into their homes for meals. The Pre-Flight School reciprocated by inviting the Chapel Hill community to athletic events, military reviews, concerts, dances and church services.
Before the Pre-Flight School was formally decommissioned 15 October 1945, the station had trained 18,700 Pre-Flight cadets, 360 Free French cadets, seventy-eight French officers, and 1,220 Navy V-5 officers. Two men who would later become United States presidents were in residence at the Pre-Flight School as well: George H. W. Bush as a cadet, and Gerald R. Ford as an instructor. The Navy's improvements to the campus had a lasting impact. UNC graduate Orville Campbell, public relations officer for the Pre-Flight School, proclaimed that it was the "greatest thing that happened to Chapel Hill since Davie founded it."
(Much of the information for this introduction came from Mary Layne Baker's 1980 History Department master's thesis, The Sky's the Limit: the University of North Carolina and the Chapel Hill Communities' Response to the Establishment of the U. S. Naval Pre-Flight School During World War II.)
Physical training in the Pre-Flight School was rigorous and demanding, designed to "toughen up" the men for war. The successful applicant had to be between eighteen and twenty-seven years of age, unmarried, a high school or prep school graduate, and an American citizen. In addition, he had to be at least five feet, four inches tall with a maximum height of six feet, four inches, and weigh at least 124 pounds. His vision had to be perfect, and he had to have at least eighteen good teeth in his mouth "with at least two molars and four front teeth opposite each other in upper and lower jaws." He had to have good feet, a chest expansion of two inches, and the ability to hear a whisper at a fifteen foot distance.
Three commanding officers served at the helm of the Chapel Hill Pre-Flight School from its commissioning in May 1942 to its decommissioning in October 1945. They were: Commander O. O. "Scrappy" Kessing, Commander John "Packy" Graff, and Commander James P. Raugh.
The Pre-Flight School baseball team included several former major leaguers among its ranks: John Pesky, Louis Gremp, Joseph Coleman, John Sain, and Theodore Williams (kneeling left to right). Pre-Flight squadrons participated in basketball, football, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, swimming, track, volleyball, boxing, and baseball. Some coaches and players on the various teams were former stars of college or professional teams. The staff included James Crowley (former football coach at Fordham University and one of the "Four Horsemen" of Notre Dame) as Varsity Football Team Coach; Harvey Harman (renowned football coach at Rutgers) as Pre-Flight Athletic Director; Don George (former World Wrestling Champion) as wrestling and hand-to-hand combat instructor; and Glenn Killinger (former New York Yankee infielder) as Baseball Team Coach. In August 1944, Killinger became the football coach with a young Paul "Bear" Bryant, of later Alabama coaching fame, as assistant.
The precedent-setting all-black Navy Pre-Flight School band was designated as the official band for the Chapel Hill cadets in 1942. Until that time, the Navy had only assigned blacks as mess hands and cooks. During its time in Chapel Hill, the band played for flag-raising ceremonies, regimental reviews, wartime rallies, and social occasions. As this memo indicates, the band rehearsed in Memorial Hall almost every day of the week from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and sometimes at night. The 44-member band also included a sixteen-member swing band.
This congratulatory telegram from Rear Admiral J. H. Towers to consolidated university President Frank Porter Graham commends the University of North Carolina for its cooperation in establishing a Pre-Flight Training center that will "develop pilots who will smash the Axis."
United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote consolidated university President Frank Porter Graham that his offer of the university in Chapel Hill as a location for the Navy's pre-flight aviation training program was appreciated and would be "given further consideration" if an adequate training center could not be established in the northeastern United States.
The university students and Chapel Hill community generally responded well to the presence of the Naval Pre-Flight Training School, but relations between cadets and students were strained at times. Dean of Men Roland B. Parker wrote to Dean of Administration Robert Burton House that some of the Pre-Flight cadets had referred to civilian university students as "draft dodgers." Parker said that one particular student referred to in that way "had applied for every branch of the service from the Air Corps down, and had been rejected on the basis of a bad heart condition." Other men students were below 17 years of age. He suggested that an announcement to the cadets might be necessary to inform them of "a few facts which they do not know."
Numerous problems associated with housing and feeding the Pre-Flight School cadets are well documented in university records. The Navy quite rightly expected military standards for sanitation and food preparation to be met at all times. The university's business manager and assistant controller, L. B. Rogerson, was the recipient of many a complaint from Pre-Flight School Commander O. O. "Scrappy" Kessing after routine inspections of Lenoir Hall or when specific problems arose. Commander Kessing informed Rogerson in this memo that "about 150 cadets became violently ill after eating the creamed chicken for supper" and implored him to improve upon the refrigeration system "or else you will have a wholesale poisoning on your hands."
The menu at the dinner for the commissioning of the Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill consisted of boneless breast of chicken on Smithfield ham, new potatoes, and "frenched green beans." "Fancy ices" and petit fours were offered for dessert, followed by coffee, mints and nuts. North Carolina Governor J. Melville Broughton offered the welcome, followed by the Honorable Josephus Daniels offering greetings to the representatives from the Navy Department and Commander O. O. Kessing.
At the Christmas dinner for the Pre-Flight School in 1943, Commander John P. "Packy" Graff expressed the "fervent hope that another Holiday Season will find our all out war effort crowned with total victory, and 'all hands' returned to their homes."
The Cloudbuster newsletter was published weekly by the U. S. Navy Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill. It documented the activities of the Pre-Flight school and included articles of interest both to cadets and to the larger university community. This issue features a photograph of cadets working in the Pre-Flight School Victory Garden, which was maintained for three years while the cadets were in residence on the campus. Vegetables were sold to Lenoir Dining Hall and fed back to the cadets in their regular meals.
James E. Wadsworth '35 served in the United States Navy during World War II and was an instructor in the Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill. These two items are among the many in his collection that document his Navy years. Wadsworth, who served as the university's director of housing from 1946-1973, is shown in the photograph on the right-hand side of the first row.
With the Cloudbusters at the United States Navy Pre-Flight School, 2d ed., Philadelphia, Pa.: Merin-Baliban Studios for the officers and men of the Chapel Hill Pre-Flight School, 1943.