G.I. American universities

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A US Army servicewoman with an English friend at Shrivenham American University in 1945

In May 1945, the U.S. Army's Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in Florence, Italy. Two further campuses were later established, in August 1945: the first in the French resort town of Biarritz and the second in the English town of Shrivenham, Berkshire. These three campuses were set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the USA, and therefore students attended for just one term.

Students removed their caps, and therefore the distinction between officers and enlisted personnel was eliminated.[1]

A detailed discussion of these G. I. American Universities can be found at The G.I. University Project.

Florence American University[edit]

The first American university for service personnel was established in June 1945 at the School of Aeronautics in Florence, Italy. Some 7,500 soldier-students were to pass through the university during its four one-month sessions from July to November 1945[2].

Biarritz American University[edit]

Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz in France were converted into quarters, labs, and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The university opened 10 August 1945, and approximately 10,000 students attended at least one eight-week term. After three successful terms, the university closed in March 1946.[3]

Shrivenham American University[edit]

Under General C. M. Thiele, a British Army Camp near Swindon was converted into a university campus. After two successful terms, the university closed in December 1945. About 4,000 students attended each term.[4]


  1. ^ The Biarritz American University (The BAU)
  2. ^ The Army University Center No 2 Biarritz, France Precursor to the GI Bill by Tony James (paragraph 5
  3. ^ George P. Schmidt and J. G. Umstattd. "The American Army University at Biarritz, France", Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer, 1946): 303–316.
  4. ^ Robert Gehlmann Bone, A History of Shrivenham American University. Swindon: Swindon Press, 1946.

Further reading[edit]

  • Anon. "Contented G.I. s". Time 46, 21 (19 November 1945): 77–78.
  • Beardsley, Wilfred Attwood. "Teaching Languages in the Army University in Florence." Hispania Vol. 30, No. 1 (Feb. 1947): 27–31.
  • Dickman, A.J. "The G.I. University in Shrivenham, England: 1 August to 5 December 1945. The French Review 20 (1945): 18–20.
  • MacKenzie, Norman. "Shrivenham." New Statesman and Nation, 17 Nov 1945, p. 329.

External links[edit]