V-12 Navy College Training Program
The V-12 Navy College Training Program was designed to supplement the force of commissioned officers in the United States Navy during World War II. Between July 1, 1943, and June 30, 1946, more than 125,000 participants were enrolled in 131 colleges and universities in the United States. Numerous participants attended classes, and lectures at the respective colleges and earned completion degrees for their studies. Some even returned from their naval obligations to earn a degree from the colleges that they were stationed in.
The V-12 program's goal was to produce officers, unlike the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which sought to turn out more than 200,000 technically trained personnel in such fields as engineering, foreign languages, and medicine. Running from 1942 to 1944, its recruits were expected but not required to become officers at the end of their training.
The purpose of the V-12 program was to generate a large number of officers for both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to meet the demands of World War II, far beyond that turned out annually by the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and standing U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School to that point. Once enrollees completed their V-12 subsidized Bachelor's degree programs, their next step toward obtaining a commission depended on service branch:
- Navy officer candidates were required to complete the V-7 United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School program. It was a short course of eight months. The first month was spent at Indoctrination School, a "Boot Camp" for Officer Candidates that had Marine Corps drill instructors. Pre-Midshipmen's School was a preparatory four-month course teaching military skills like seamanship, navigation, ordnance, and how to behave like an officer. Midshipmen's School itself taught academic skills and was 3 months long. Graduates were commissioned as ensigns in the U.S. Naval Reserve and the majority entered into active duty with the U.S. fleet.
- Marine Corps candidates reported directly to boot camp and were later enrolled in a three-month Officer Candidate Course. Once complete, participants were commissioned as second lieutenants in the Corps.
When the United States entered the Second World War in the early 1940s, American colleges and universities suffered huge enrollment declines because men (at the time essentially all undergraduate students outside of the teacher training colleges were men, and at prime draft age) who would have normally gone into college (or would have remained enrolled until their degreed course of study was completed; were either drafted, volunteered their enlistment into service; or, were preemptively diverted from their university studies into military enlistment/officer commissioning exempt technical civilian jobs in war-related industries. As a result, some colleges worried they would have to close their doors, essentially for the duration of the conflict. Helping offset this, the federal government backed U.S. Navy run V-12 Program paid tuition to participating colleges and universities for college courses that were taught to qualified candidates. Those eligible included naval enlisted personnel who were recommended by their commanding officers, Navy and Marine Corps ROTC members, and high school seniors who passed a qualifying exam. After the V-12 Program was established on July 1, 1943, public and private college enrollment increased by 100,000 participants, helping reverse the sharp wartime downward trend.
Depending on the V-12 enrollees' past college curriculum, they were enrolled in three school terms, or semesters, which lasted four months each. Students were paid $50 per month, required to wear service uniforms, and engaged in rigorous physical training.
Captain Arthur S. Adams, from the Training Division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, was the officer-in-charge of the V-12 program. Richard Barrett Lowe, future Governor of Guam and American Samoa, was one of its early commanding officers.
|“||Gentlemen, we are about to embark on an education program that will have important effects on American colleges, on the Navy, and, most important of all, on the lives of thousands of this nation's finest young men. We must educate and train these men well so that they may serve their country with distinction, both in war and in peace. Vice Admiral Randall Jacobs, May 14, 1943||”|
The primary purpose of the program was to "give prospective Naval officers the benefits of a college education in those areas most needed by the Navy." The Navy did not want to interrupt the "normal pattern of college life," but instead, the goal was for the participants to complete a degree in their field of study; while supplementing their course work with Navy classes, for which the colleges awarded regular academic credits.
The Navy's plan was to contract not only classroom, mess hall, and dormitory space for a "stipulated amount of instruction," but also plans were made to make use of each campus' instructors and administration; a much needed infrastructure that was already in place. The students were expected to "have the benefits of faculty counseling, of extracurricular activities -- in short, the best undergraduate education the colleges can offer."
Vice Admiral Randall Jacobs, USN, the Chief of Naval Personnel, announced plans for the joint venture between the Navy and the colleges and universities during a national conference which was held at Columbia University on May 14 and 15, 1943. Administrators from 131 colleges and universities under contract with the Navy attended the conference along with Naval officers from the Bureau, who were designated as the administrators of the V-12 Program.
The colleges and universities were "expected to keep academic standards high" and were ultimately placed in charge of the implementation, which was accomplished in six months. Captain Adams stated that the Navy had no intent of "taking over the colleges," but instead, the Navy wanted to take "full advantage" of each institution's academic resources and to make use of the experience and knowledge of the college administrators. This included all details of the program such as the length of the college day, scheduling of exercises, meals, recreation, textbooks, and class time.
The V-12 program while economically and functionally beneficial to undergraduate colleges and universities in maintaining quasi-normal educative functionality during a general mobilization of all manpower for the war; also met and exceeded critical needs of the military.
The numbers of officers needed at sea; and, in the many and multiple theaters of the conflict, given the global scope of the war, were not only beyond the capacity of the services' officer academies, the requirement was well beyond the capacity of the uniformed services' officer corps itself, entirely. Enlisting (by contract) colleges and universities to undertake part of the officer candidate education mission, freed the Navy & War department's officer corps to concentrate principally upon the prosecution of the war; from the very beginning of the conflict. And to not have to divert from the outset of the war, all their energies to the building up of a global uniformed officer corps to command the forces.
In addition WWII was an unprecedented technical challenge for all the armies/navies who fought in it. The WWII US Navy's need for college trained officers would have demanded such a program to create in the cadre of officers, men who possessed the technical qualifications demanded for the specialized scientific, organizational, and management tasks performed in the waging of a modern war.
Midshipman Schools (V-7 Midshipman Program)
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