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Sesquicentennial Moments: WWII Military Training Programs

Students in the WWII military training program in front of Academic Hall
Special Collections & Archives, Southeast Missouri State University
Young men in the WWII military training program in front of Academic Hall

To meet the massive - and urgent - demand for military servicemen in World War II, Southeast joined hundreds of other colleges as temporary training centers, supplying manpower for the nation’s total war effort.

When the United States entered the second world war in December 1941, Southeast enlisted in the herculean task of training soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Students in Home Economics and Industrial Arts immediately constructed hundreds of model airplanes to teach pilots and ground personnel how to identify enemy fighters and bombers. The college established a Civilian Pilot Training curriculum and participated in the Army Air Force Enlisted Reserve, a program offering college courses to prospective pilots, navigators, and bombardiers at nearby Harris Field.

The Pentagon selected Southeast for its V-1, V-5 and V-12 Navy College Training Programs designed to quickly supplement the number of commissioned officers in the US Navy.

Under V-1, male students between 18-20 enlisted as apprentice seamen; receiving on campus training preparing them to be aviation, deck, and engineering officers.

V-5 naval cadets took classes in physics, math, meteorology, navigation, aerodynamics, and civil air regulations, before heading out to the University of Iowa’s pre-flight school. 

Southeast was also one of the 131 colleges and universities participating in the V-12 program. Between 1943 and 1945, V-12 students took seventeen hours each semester – heavily weighted toward math and science – with ten hours of physical training per week. After four semesters Navy candidates went on to midshipmen’s school, and the Marine candidates went to boot camp and Officer Candidate school.

Joel P. Rhodes is a Professor in the History Department of Southeast Missouri State University. Raised in Kansas, he earned a B.S. in Education from the University of Kansas before earning his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.