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When Yale Schooled for War
Sixty years ago the Yale campus was transformed into a World War II military base, and no class experienced the transition more dramatically than the Class of 1943—by graduating in 1942.

When the Class entered Yale in 1939, the war in Europe seemed far away, and college life was normal. The “golden days” continued until early 1942 when draft registration in the colleges put an end to the popular saying: “They don’t draft Yale men, they just ration them.” Most of the class enlisted in reserve units of the Army, Navy, and Marines, a strategy that permitted students to complete their degrees; others, however, were drafted or volunteered for active service.

At the time, President Charles Seymour announced a new college program to be in effect during the emergency, adding a summer term to the academic year so that undergraduates would receive their degrees in three years. On July 6, 1942, the juniors returned as seniors living on “borrowed time.”

The war crisis added new courses to the curriculum, including Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, and Malayan, as well as combat training and jujitsu. After the long hot summer term, the Class of 1943 expected to graduate in February 1943. But in late in October they learned that their graduation would be further accelerated to December 1942.


“Instructions in Case of Air Raid” were printed in the program.

The abrupt departure of the Class was necessitated by the University’s negotiations with the Armed Forces to establish an officers school at Yale. In January 1943, Cadet Advanced Training Center No. 1 opened, and about 3,000 cadets of the Army Air Force Technical Training Command moved in, taking over half of the residential and a third of the academic facilities. The cadets attended classes eight hours a day, six days a week, for periods of 6 to 20 weeks, to qualify as photographic laboratory commanders, communications officers, airplane maintenance engineers, and airplane armament officers, each with the rank of second lieutenant.

Military programs would soon take over most of the campus, and 20,000 service men and women, including 12,000 aviation cadets, were trained in all. Yale also conducted an Engineering, Science, and Management War Training Program in New Haven and Fairfield counties to prepare thousands of workers for jobs in essential industries.

On December 19, 1942, nearly 600 seniors received their degrees at a simple graduation ceremony. Academic gowns were worn only by the faculty, and many seniors were in uniform. For the first time in Yale history, a Senior Class Dinner was held in place of Class Day, and “Instructions in Case of Air Raid” were printed in the program. In the cold of December the traditional planting of the Class Ivy had to be done indoors in a silver planter, but it was no less meaningful.

Their ivy ode reads in part: “We shall quickly be snatched off to arms, for bristling War grips the whole world, brings fear into our homes, and threatens every one … It is up to us with bravery to drive off their fury, their plots, and threats; and when they have been beaten, we must establish order with moderation and justice. In warlike times. let us remember the symbol of Light and Truth, the tender ivy.” (Forty-three members of the Class died in the War.)

Still, the seriousness of the occasion was offset by some humor in the Class History: “We, the Class of 1943, are undoubtedly the most impressive and brilliant that ever went through Yale . in three years and four months. Every other class has had to take four years to do it.”  the end


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