The Service Flag Flies on Old West, 1943
Dickinson College and World War II

Before examining the initiation of the Army Air Corps program at Dickinson, it is first necessary to give some background information about policies which the College adapted as a result of the onset of World War II.  Dickinson quickly came to the realization that aspects of the Liberal Arts education had to be changed, as the College "began the readjustment of its academic program and procedures to meet the educational needs of America at war." (3)  The primary goal of the College became to provide all students with a solid education "amid unusual conditions for study." (4) This meant, in some cases, an "acceleration" in certain courses of study.  The College maintained that the same liberal arts courses would be offered during this period of war, stipulating however, that students who did not wish to take "accelerated courses" might remain on the less demanding schedule.  The administrators of Dickinson did not ignore the fact that college life would be accelerated as a result of the War, they just felt that "the best results would come through the pursuit of normal college living, making sure not to neglect the social, recreational and spiritual phases of a students development." (5)

Admission policies during World War II did not change drastically, as students were admitted from high school when they had completed the necessary courses for college entrance.  Dickinson College did participate in a nation-wide program which stated that men with at least three and a half years of high school experience might be admitted to college and that after one year these men would be eligible for a high school diploma. This program provided a distinct advantage to draft eligible male students because it allowed them to "complete as much as three semesters of college work before being called to active duty." (6)

Aside from the general Liberal Arts courses which the College offered, the War made Dickinson adapt to new classes aimed at paraprofessional training.  Courses such as pre-medical, pre dental, pre law, pre engineering, pre business, pre theological all were offered at Dickinson during the War.  All students (including those planning on enlisting) were encouraged to begin this pre professional training because "the post-war world would offer enlarged opportunities for service in all of the professions, and would require the highest standards of training for success." (7)   Woman were also encouraged to take part in these pre professional courses so they might gain training to supplement the reduced man power during the War.

Dickinson College administrators and faculty realized that expert guidance was needed in all dealings with students, to ensure a satisfying outcome "both in relation to their government service and their professional careers." (8) Consequently, in cooperation with the United States government, the College established the Office of the Liaison Officer to regulate the guidance of all  students with selective service status.  In addition, the College created the Board of Deans to help facilitate the advising of all students enrolled at Dickinson.

Economic aspects of Dickinson life were also changed as a result of the War.  The scarcity of students enrolled --- 195 in the fall of 1943 (9)--- brought the fee for a semester to $350 dollars for men.   It was also established that "because of the war, costs for men would be established on a semester basis," presumably so as to account for mid-year enlistment.  For woman, the fees to attend did not change drastically, as it already cost $850 dollars for a two semester year at the College, due to the policies of residence in force at the time. (10)

Campus life at Dickinson also went through various reformations to adapt to a nation at War.  Many of the student realized that "they had to have a stake in the struggle and that they must give up moments of leisure time." (11) The 1944 Dickinson year book, Microcosm, states,

There are busy hours now with time taken up in service to the Red Cross and Civilian Defense.  Another class of co-ed Nurses' Aides has supplemented that which was organized last year.  Due to an acute shortage of nurses at the station hospital of the Carlisle Barracks, the first class of co-eds has been assigned entirely to duty in the Army hospital.  There are Red Cross bandages which are sent out to base hospitals and faraway posts wherever American troops are stationed.  When the plea came for subscribers to the blood donors' clinic, the students stepped forth without reluctance.  This precious plasma has meant the difference between life or death for some wounded boy behind the lines. (12)

These statements represent a College which collectively believed that it was making a difference when the country needed it the most.  As a result of this, the College community had a bright vision of their future, and believed that Dickinson would be an even finer liberal arts school than it was in pre-war time. (13)

Dickinson students, faculty, and administrators recognized the sacrifice that many individuals were making and displayed a great deal of pride at their unwavering support for these individuals.  For example, the 1944 Microcosm states that "Dickinson's tradition is steeped in the heritage of service to its country's flag.  The sons of Dickinson have rallied to the nation's cause in every war for 170 years.  As our country faces the greatest conflict of them all, we find ourselves again writing another chapter in the golden book of patriotism." (14)   One reason why students displayed such dedication to the war effort can be explained by the fact that many members of the Dickinson community were taking an active part in the great military effort.  The 1944 yearbook boasted that more than one thousand Dickinsonians could be found in branches of the service, "giving their utmost for an Allied victory." (15) Furthermore, as a symbol of the College's steadfast commitment to the War effort, as well as a reminder of its cost, a "service flag" was placed on Old West, above the "old stone steps," to honor those Dickinsonians killed in action.

Despite the many social changes which the Dickinson College community endured as a result of World War II, students and faculty must be commended as, according to the staff of the College yearbook, at least, "the transformation into a College-at-War scheme was a tranquil one." (16)

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Introduction Dickinson and World War II Establishment Termination Remembrance Conclusion

End notes