For the record: Training programs during WWII

Thousands of Penn faculty, staff, students, and alumni were involved in World War II, from serving in active duty, to participating in special training programs and research projects both on and off campus.

The R.O.T.C. on campus was established during World War I, and was active on campus even during the years between the wars. Penn offered a course of study in the Department of Naval Science and Tactics, and in 1940, the United States Department of the Navy selected the University as a training site for Naval Reserve Officers. This made Penn just one of eight schools in the country to do so. The photo shows naval aviation cadets in the Quad, circa 1942.

Penn also offered Engineering, Science and Management Defense Training, which was a program funded by the government that provided college courses, free of charge, to fill scientific and technical civilian positions before and during WWII. By 1942, 4,000 people had already completed courses at Penn, and more continued after that date.

The Women’s Army Corps at the Moore School (now the School of Engineering & Applied Science) was designed to train participants for work in the Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Participants completed 40 hours of training each week; the program ran for 32 weeks. 

During the war years, Penn also trained servicemen in foreign languages that were deemed necessary for the effort, including Moroccan Arabic, Chinese, Bengali, Hindustani, Russian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.