Army Specialized Training Program
The Army Specialized Training Program was a military training program instituted by the United States Army during World War II at a number of American universities to meet wartime demands for junior officers and soldiers with technical skills. The purpose of the program was "to provide the continuous and accelerated flow of high grade technicians and specialists needed by the Army."
Entry into World War II
After the attack on Pearl Harbor sparked U.S. entry into the war, the Army apparently suspended at least certain advanced elements of Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) training (around 1943). This was a particularly problematic situation for the numerous land-grant universities around the country, which have in their constitution the agreement to train "militia." In addition, far-sighted military planners could look forward to a sudden and massive emergency requirement for junior officer replacements during an anticipated amphibious invasion of the Japanese mainland. However ASTP differed from the V-12 Navy College Training Program in that producing technically trained personnel and not officers was its primary goal, though recruits were expected to become officers at the end of their training. Most young men were specifically trained in areas like engineering, foreign languages, and medicine. ASTP was approved in September 1942 and implemented in December.
Testing program initiated
High school graduates were offered a chance to apply, though the majority of participants were already active duty. Entry requirements were high; minimum IQ was 115 (later 120) compared to 110 for Officers Candidate School candidates. The test instrument used at some, if not all schools, was the Army OCT-X3 Examination for Officers Candidate School, a Stanford-Binet-type IQ test. All new soldiers were required to complete 13 weeks of infantry basic training before being assigned to a college campus. Col. Henry Beukema, a Professor of History at West Point, was named Director of the program. He was responsible for sending 200,000 soldiers to 227 colleges at cost of $127,000,000.
During the late part of the academic year 1942–1943, a national testing program was conducted among the male college student bodies. Selection was based upon approximately one standard deviation above the mean, or above. Enlisted men already on active duty were also tested, and accepted only at the rank of private. Because so many men had graduated from ROTC and received commissions—93,000 by March 1942, outnumbering regular Army by three to one—men who wanted to advance had few choices. ASTP seemed like a promising alternative. Candidates for ASTP included all enlisted men who had completed basic training, or if under 22 years old and completed high school or its equivalent, or if older than 22 years old and with a minimum of one year of college, and who met the IQ standard.
Individuals who passed above the acceptable level were sent to an Army Specialized Training Program, which included intensive courses, approximately 25 class-time hours per quarter, in engineering, science, medicine, dentistry, personnel psychology, and 34 different foreign language at 227 land-grant universities around the country. These programs were accelerated; students were expected to complete the program in 18 months with a four-year degree and a commission. This included many volunteers from the civilian echelons who were at least 17 but less than 18 years of age.
While in academic training the soldiers were on active duty, in uniform, under military discipline, and received regular army pay. Recruits marched to class in groups, ate in mess halls located in the barracks, and trained in the fields around a campus. The soldiers week was made up of 59 hours of "supervised activity," including at least 24 hours of classroom and lab work, 24 hours of required study, six hours of physical instruction, and five hours of military instruction. At its height in December 1943, about 140,000 men were enrolled in the program.
By November 1943 the Army recognized that its replacement training centers were not producing nearly enough new soldiers for the Army Ground Forces, particularly in light of the impending invasion of France. In January 1944, Col. Beukema reported to a U. S. Congressional investigating committee that ASTP were more demanding than either West Point or the Naval Academy.
The 17-year-olds were continued in school until 18, at which time they were transferred from Army Reserve to active-duty status and called up to infantry Basic training. After basic training, those who were willing were returned to the reduced number of land-grant schools still maintaining ASTP. Henry Stimson, Secretary of War during World War II, and self-professed "father of the ASTP," wrote,
|“||Each step of the ASTP story was tied in with the ups and downs in the Army's estimate of its manpower requirements. In all such changes, the college training program, as a marginal undertaking, was sharply affected. [The choice was] between specialized training and an adequate combatant force.||”|
General Lesley J. McNair felt ASTP took young men with leadership potential away from combat positions where they were most needed. "...with 300,000 men short, we are sending men to college." Manpower planners calculated that more infantrymen would be required in advance of the planned invasion of Europe. ASTP was not only one of the easiest programs to reduce or eliminate, it also provided a large pool of ready-trained soldiers. In February 1944, about 110,000 ASTP students were told they would be transferred to combat units.
Students who had been on active duty were shortly terminated from their academic programs prematurely and returned to active duty. Those who had sacrificed non-commissioned rank to qualify for the college training diversion were not necessarily reinstated, and often shortly went into combat as privates.
From a wartime high of 150,000 students, ASTP was immediately reduced to approximately 60,000 members. The remainder, having already completed basic training, were sent to the Army Ground Forces. Even though they did not have the experience to qualify for non-commissioned officer rank, the Army anticipated that their superior training and intelligence levels would result in advancement to leadership positions.
Alumni used as replacements
About 35 U.S. divisions received an average of 1,500 men each, though some got considerably more, like the 395th Infantry Regiment, which in March 1944 received an injection of about 3000 replacements from the ASTP program.
The new replacements, fresh out of college, often were given a harsh reception by their Sergeants, long-term regulars who considered them a bunch of college kids who wanted to steal their stripes. The former ASTP members tended to stick together, which made it worse for themselves. The Sergeants didn't know what to make of men who preferred to go to the base exchange to pick up ice cream and soda rather than go into town and get drunk on beer. One company commander said, "what kind of soldiers deal out bridge hands during their ten-minute training breaks?" The ASTP alumni were typically not impressed by the intellect of their new officers and non-commissioned leaders. However, once in combat, the ASTP soldiers rapidly proved their worth and any distinctions between the regular Army and the college soldiers were erased.
In the spring of 1944 ASTP levels were further reduced at the direction of the Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall. The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps' continued to experience serious shortfalls in producing casualty replacements, necessitating the use of divisional service troops and Army Service Forces troops as infantry replacements. When the defeat of Germany was in sight, and the testing of the new atomic bomb successful, the apparent need for potential junior officer replacements disappeared and the final ASTP groups were largely disbanded, although there were ASTP units for medicine and engineering still existing in August 1945.
Major General Henry Twaddle wrote, "The underlying reason for institution of the ASP program was to prevent some colleges and universities from going into bankruptcy. From a strictly mobilization viewpoint, the value of the program was nil.":128
Largely a failure, one secondary benefit of ASTP was a financial subsidy of land grant colleges whose male student bodies had been decimated by the diversion of about 14 million men into the various armed forces, and another was a softening of university resistance to lowering the draft age from twenty to eighteen. One positive contribution was the number of men exposed to college who might not have attended otherwise. After the war ended, four out of five surviving ASTP alumni returned to college.
Known alumni include the following:
- Heywood Hale Broun, sports commentator
- Mel Brooks, movie actor
- Frank Church, U.S. Senator
- Bob Dole, U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader
- Herman Kahn, futurist and theorist
- Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, Nobel Prize winner
- Ed Koch, U.S. Congressman, New York City Mayor
- George Koval, Russian spy in Manhattan Project World War II
- Arch Moore, former Governor of West Virginia
- Jerry Rosholt, author and historian
- Gore Vidal, author and politician
- Charles Warren, California politician; chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality
- Kurt Vonnegut, author 
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