V-12 Navy College Training Program Comes to Campus

With 2,1000 future officers training on campus, Dartmouth's V-12 program was the nation's largest.

"That the colleges of America have gone all out to aid the war effort is exemplified by the dramatic changes now introduced on the traditionally quiet Dartmouth campus. For the duration the student body has forsaken its easy-going pace to accept the snap and discipline of the Navy and the Marines. Nestling in the foothills of the White Mountains, Dartmouth College, although 150 miles away from the ocean, is now a training shop for 2,100 men in Navy blue and Marine khaki. Here future ensigns and lieutenants study and work, march to their classes, eat from aluminum plates, sleep in barrack-like rooms."

New York TimesAugust 1, 1943

After Pearl Harbor, college and university professors, students and administrators all over the nation joined or were called to military service and America's traditional four-year college experience became a casualty of war. With the draft age lowered to 18, many young men could not enroll in college - much less earn a degree - before entering the military. Adjusting to the consequent shortage of college-educated commissioned officers, the U.S. Navy developed a way to combine college education with military service: the Naval Indoctrination Training School and the V-12 Naval Training Program. Dartmouth became host to the largest of the Navy's V-12 units. On July 1, 1943, some 2,000 enlisted men and an officer staff came "on board" at the College, including 300 students from Dartmouth and 74 from Thayer School. The College and its three professional schools accelerated their curricula and shifted to three-term, year-round operation. Fraternities closed, Winter Carnival was canceled, the Daily Dartmouth ceased publication and rationing was put in place. Civilian students were outnumbered three to one on campus. Run on military time, with reveille at 6 am and taps at 10 pm, Dartmouth operated like a naval base for the duration of the war.

The V-12 program was in effect until summer term, 1945. At the end of the war, the College's Navy students received transfer orders to NROTC (Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps), which began at Dartmouth in the winter term of 1945. Since the NROTC unit would require special instruction, the Department of Naval Science and Tactics was established at Dartmouth in June 1945. 

In the summer of 2007, inspired by President James Wright's outreach efforts to veterans returning from the war in Iraq and by the Ken Burns PBS documentary "The War," the Dartmouth College Archives began an oral history project, "War Years", aimed at documenting the undergraduate experience at the College during the 1940s.

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Image courtesy of the Rauner Special Collections Library