“[The bombing of Pearl Harbor] was the end of an era; nothing would ever be the same again…It has been said that anyone old enough to remember Pearl harbor remembers exactly where he was on that fateful Sunday. For me, the place was the Davidson campus. It was a good place to be on a day that changed the world.”
– James L. Morgan ’45.
On December 7, 1941, Davidson students gathered together in unity as Dr. Cunningham remarked on the events:
“A solemn Dr. Cunningham made a serious plea for the student body to continue their education as long as possible: ‘Gentlemen, I think it is imperative for the welfare of you and your country that you get all you can!’… No one present will ever forget that moment, or the laughter that ’swept through the audience like a wildfire,’ or the president’s utter embarrassment.” [Fall 1997 Davidson Journal]
This incident represents the spirit of Davidson throughout the war years. After December 1941, America was at war and so was Davidson College, but even in the darkest hours, Davidson College retained a spirit of playfulness and joy, along with strength. Davidson College would find a way to survive this trying time, even if it meant running two colleges at once: the campus and the War College.
Despite Dr. Cunningham’s efforts to mantain enrollment, between 1941 and 1945 enrollment dropped from 691 to 162. Students were not only enlisting immediatly after graduation, also dropping out of school to do so.
In November 1942 President Cunningham journied to Washington in order to lobby Davidson College as an Air Crew training site.
In February 1943, Davidson College was approved as a training site. The college housed the 24th College Training Detachment of Aviation Cadets (Army Air Crew Cadets). Davidson College would house and feed the cadets, as well as offer forty-eight hours of classroom work a week, mostly freshman-level mathematics, physics, English, American History, and geography. The government would pay $168,576 for twelve months.
By April 1943, 500 cadets had arrived on campus needing housing food, and education. Supplying their needs and classes was a grueling challenge for the limited faculty and staff. The cadets lived in barracks where the Visual Arts Center now stands and ate in the Chambers Gallery. The last class of cadets left Davidson College on June 30, 1944.
President Cunningham remarked that during this time “Davidson essentially oversaw the running of two colleges on the same campus” and coined the phrase “war college” to refer to the Air Crew Cadet force.
Davidson College trained 2002 Army Air Crew Cadets.
After the Army Air Crew cadets moved from the campus in mid 1944, they were replaced by approximately 225 young men enrolled in the Army Specialized training reserve program (ASTRP).
“[A]ll men in the unit were seventeen years old and high school graduates and had previous been accepted in the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve and were placed in the A.S.T.R.P. after having passed certain qualifying tests. The government planned to continue their education, until their eighteenth birthdays… [The A.S.T.R.P. t]erms last[ed] for twelve weeks [and] consisted of twenty-five class hours per week… The unit also underwent extensive physical training programs, attending regular physical education classes six hours a week. An A.S.T.R.P. basketball team was organized and it twice played against the college team… After two complete terms.. of college work, the men had completed their academic training and were sent to North Georgia State College and to Auburn Polytechnic Institute for further work. Davidson’s A.S.T.R.P. unit was officially closed the second of December, 1944.” [Quips and Cranks 1944]
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1945.
Wars – World War II – Military Units Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
World War II Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
World War II (Narratives by Alumni) Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Author: Tammy Ivins
Date: March 2008
Cite as: Ivins, Tammy. “War College” Davidson Encyclopedia March 2008 <https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/college-archives-davidson-encyclopedia/page/war-college>