IIT Archives Home

WWII and the V-12 Program

Pres. Henry T. Heald, IIT, the U. S. Navy V-12, and WW II 1

Heald at Microphone
IIT President Henry T. Heald at microphone addressing V-12 unit, ca. 1943.

During the first half of the 1940s, at the request of the U. S. military services, IIT became an education center for both civilian and military personnel. Blessed with a dynamic young president, Henry T. Heald, and a couple of bright and energetic faculty members who doubled as capable program administrators, John Yellott and Linton Grinter, IIT began a series of war training classes. This included offering a variety of short-term courses taught to civilian war workers so great in number that by August 1942, IIT had already become the "war training center of [the] Midwest,"2 a claim given credence by the fact that as of December 1943, more than 40,000 people had taken defense-related training classes at IIT. Programs specifically for members of the military were so numerous that, by June 1943, 70% of IIT's engineering facilities were being used by the U.S. Army and Navy.

Parade Grounds
Navy V-12 recruits on parade grounds at IIT during "Junior Week" activities, 1944. Looking east from Federal St. at 33rd St. Buildings are on the east side of State St. Steeple is Olivet Baptist Church at 31st and South Parkway Blvd. (currently King Dr.)

Two factors primarily contribute to IIT's extraordinary position at the leading edge of this historic educational effort. One factor was the academic programs the college could offer to supplement the military's training, namely our engineering curricula. The other significant factor was President Heald who, by reports of people who knew him, seems to have been a man of great intelligence and leadership.3 The historical record seems to bear out that this reputation was well-earned, and his involvement with the "V-12" activity, the U.S. Navy's civilian college education program, is yet one more example of that.4



Parade Group On Federal Street
Naval Review during "Junior Week", 1944 on the campus of IIT (Chicago). Looking north along Federal St. from 33rd St. The field at right is currently the site of Hermann Hall. The church steeple is that of St. James Catholic Church (extant) at 2942 S. Wabash St.

On Dec. 15, 1941, barely a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Heald wrote to Adm. Charles W. Nimitz requesting that a Naval Reserve Officer Training unit be formed at IIT. Heald was no doubt inspired by patriotism and a desire to position the university to do whatever it could to help in the war effort, but his request was bolstered by the knowledge that this new war, unlike WW I, would not be won in the trenches. It would take engineers as well as soldiers to bring victory to the Allies in the conflict. Heald cited the fact that the previous year, even before the United States entered the War, the Navy had "[c]ommissioned approximately fifty of our graduates out of a graduating class of 193 engineers"5 or about 25% of the total engineers awarded degrees by IIT in its first full year of operation. While Heald's offer was initially declined6, only a month later, he was asked by the Navy if IIT campus facilities were "available for use by the Navy."7 Specifically, the Navy needed to know how many men could be housed, fed, instructed, and receive physical training, and how quickly the preparations could be arranged.

V-12 Flag
Navy V-12 unit on parade grounds of IIT campus; "Junior Week" (spring event), 1944.

Heald responded that space could be made available for 300 to 600 men within 30 to 60 days, and cited programs in radio and communications, ordnance inspection, physics, chemistry, and shop work as those which IIT was particularly prepared to offer to the Navy.8 Eventually, IIT did provide training for large numbers of personnel during WWII in radio, ordnance inspections, and similar programs. These were the short-term courses attended by civilian and military personnel who received certificates on the completion of the classes, but were not part of the ROTC programs which offered full academic standing to student enrollees and awarded them an undergraduate degree on completion. The radio and ordnance inspection classes became two of the most popular short-term courses taken at IIT by both soldiers and civilians.

Parade Review Group Platform
Henry T Heald (2nd from left, bottom step) and Navy officers on reviewing stand, 1944. Buildings behind reviewing stand are IIT's Main Building (with smokestack) and Machinery Hall. Both buildings were built for Armour Institute of Technology (1893 & 1901 respectively; Patton & Fisher architects) and continue in use today by IIT. They were designated Chicago Landmarks in 2004.

The Navy V-12 program, which did not yet exist in 1941, was to become another component of IIT's effort to assist in training men for military activity, but it would be more than a year before that component could be added to the mix. It was the V-12 program which was destined to become the scholastic component of the military's training options for future sailors by providing a degree-granting curriculum in engineering through civilian colleges and universities. Prior to the creation of the V-12 program, men wishing to get a B. A. degree in military science were required to attend one of the military academies.9 The V-12 program offered men who were interested in Navy careers the alternative of attending a civilian college or university with the rank of apprentice seamen and then to become eligible for an officer's commission upon graduation.10

Parade Review Platform Group
IIT President Henry T. Heald (2nd from left, bottom step), 1944. The other two civilians may be John Yellott and Linton Grinter. Note police car and Armour Institute Laboratory building in background; building is still used today by IIT. Identification of Navy officers is welcome; contact bruck@iit.edu.

On March 8, 1943, a year after Heald's initial offer to Nimitz, a telegram finally informed Heald that the Navy had authorized a "quota for Illinois Institute of Technology of 450 engineers under V-12 program."11 The quota, apparently a maximum number was not to be filled immediately, but a letter dated two days later informed Heald that IIT "has been selected as a site for a Naval Training School under the new Navy Training Program, beginning on or about July 1, 1943." One hundred forty trainee apprentice seamen would be accommodated at IIT. Required accommodations included housing, meals, medical and dental services, and "adequate facilities and teaching staff for instruction in the Engineering curriculum."12 Just two months later, however, with assurances from Heald that greater numbers could be accommodated at IIT, the Navy sent a telegram stating its intention "to establish V-Twelve unit at Illinois Institute of Technology of six hundred ninety engineers."13

AMH Hall Ground Breaking
Ground breaking for "Navy Building" (later dedicated as Alumni Memorial Hall) on the campus of IIT (Chicago). Midshipman with shovel may be Warren Witus per an IIT press release "A/S Warren Witus chose to remove first spadeful of dirt." Henry T. Heald is at right; others unidentified. July, 1945

IIT's ability to house and educate a unit of 600 midshipmen could be accommodated because of an arrangement that Heald had successfully negotiated with H. C. Coffman,14 president of George Williams College,15 to use their campus as well as IIT's State Street campus for housing and classroom space. IIT also assigned faculty members to the teaching staff at George Williams College, among them, George Danforth who taught technical drawing, Mollie Cohen and Helen Stevens who taught English, and Dr. Haim Reingold who taught mathematics. IIT faculty also taught physics at George Williams.16




AMH No People
Alumni Memorial Hall; first academic building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to be built on the campus of IIT. Designed to house the Navy training program (V-12 and later NROTC unit) at IIT. Original configuration included floor to ceiling open bays. Building was dedicated May 29, 1946 in the memory of IIT's alumni and students who died in World War II. Photo is dated 1947.

But Pres. Heald wasn't yet satisfied with the accommodations for the V-12 trainees, and took the opportunity presented by "[t]he inadequacy of physical training facilities" on the IIT campus to plead for the release of war-restricted building materials needed to construct a facility specifically for the Navy's training program. During the war, permission to build new structures had to be granted by the War Production Board. Heald solicited the Navy's help in appealing to the Board so that a building with a swimming pool, lockers and shower rooms, and inside space for physical training activities could be built on the State Street campus – the cost of construction to be borne by IIT.17 The request was not approved, but this explains why references in early documents concerning the building which eventually became known as Alumni Memorial Hall identified it as "the Navy Building."18

AMH - LongShot
Interior of Alumni Memorial Hall, May 1947. The building housed the NROTC offices, armory, rifle range, and classrooms. Identification of armaments welcome; contact bruck@iit.edu.

For the next two years, IIT and the Navy made do with the old and out-of-date buildings available to them on the IIT and George Williams campuses. Victorian mansions in deteriorated condition sitting along two blocks of Michigan Ave., which had long since been converted into IIT's fraternity houses, were turned over to the Navy for the midshipmen's quarters. Messing (meals) and classes were accommodated in the spaces used by IIT for these purposes before the War began. Open areas on campus where historic deteriorated residential and commercial structures had once stood were used for drill and parade grounds.


ALH - 6 Officers
Alternate view of Alumni Memorial Hall, 1947. The upper level of the two-story open bays were converted in 1972 to a second floor, creating offices and laboratories for IIT's Pritzker Environmental Studies Center, and classrooms for use by the university's environmental and civil engineering departments.

V-E Day on May 8, 1945 and V-J Day three months later on Aug. 15 brought welcome news of the end of the conflict to the Allies – and immediate jeopardy to the V-12 program. In reply to a letter from Henry Heald, Capt. A. S. Adams notes that Heald's Sept. 14 letter "discusses a problem which has given all of us cause for concern." The letter to which Adams referred addressed the Navy's decision to "liquidate the V-12 Program by 1 July 1946."19 This decision, based on both the government's cost of educating these student trainees and the Navy's sharply decreased need for junior officers in active duty positions, meant that student engineers then in their fifth academic term would not be allowed to continue their education under the V-12 program. Heald appealed on behalf of the students that the decision be reconsidered, and noted "I feel that Congress is poorly advised to disrupt the Navy's college program at this time. If there is anything which civilian educators can do to help, do not hesitate to call on me."20 Heald requested a speedy decision as his concern was for more than just the student seamen. The G. I. Bill was already in place, and with thousands of veterans who were now qualified for education benefits under the bill, Pres. Heald and IIT needed to know how many civilian applicants could be admitted to the university's engineering programs for the next term.21

AMH Armament Close Up
Naval training equipment installed in Alumni Memorial Hall, 1947.

The paper trail in the IIT Archives doesn't reveal how this issue was resolved, but the V-12 program officially ended with the June commencement in 1946.22 That didn't end the Navy's interest in having its student engineers trained at IIT, however. In particular, new curricula in atomic studies and nuclear engineering would be crucial in the post-war era.23 The long-desired "Navy Building" was finally built and dedicated as Alumni Memorial Hall.24 In March 1946, it was ready to be decked out – literally – as a Sangamo Attack teacher and a Jordy trainer simulator were installed in the newly finished building. This equipment, 53 tons' worth, would serve to train Naval ROTC students for the next several years.25 Not surprisingly, one of the people at the helm in moving legislation through Congress to create a post-war education program for the military was Henry T. Heald who served as a member of the Holloway Board26 which resulted in the passage of Public Law 729, "An Act to provide for the training of officers for the naval service," on August 13, 1946 by the 79th U. S. Congress.27

Alternate view of training equipment with torpedo at back, May 1947.

During the three years the program existed (July 1943-June 1946), the Navy created V-12 units on 131 college campuses across the country. One hundred twenty thousand (120,000) men entered the program, about half of whom completed the strenuous training which included academic, physical conditioning, and leadership components. The V-12 program was a short-lived, but highly significant component of the U. S. Navy's effort to prepare men for junior officer positions as active members of the military during WW II. The program is also significant in military history for its admission of African Americans on equal basis with whites. The program is significant to IIT since it was one of the earliest schools to host a V-12 unit, educated a large number of officers,28 and included African Americans in its ranks. That IIT's president was instrumental in organizing this program would explain why a large contingent was found at IIT.29 The fact that IIT was already racially integrated before the program began perhaps encouraged minority candidates to apply at IIT.

Armament & Officers
Naval officers at the controls of training equipment in Alumni Memorial Hall, 1947. Identifications of people and equipment welcome; contact bruck@iit.edu.

The V-12 program at IIT officially began on July 1, 1943 with 691 men under the command of Lt. W. A. Hamilton. One of those who assisted Lt. Hamilton in 1944 was Ensign Ed Glancy who was appointed physical director for the V-12 trainees. A professional athlete as well as a Navy man, Glancy returned to IIT, in 1947, as a civilian to become head basketball and baseball coach, a position he held for the next 25 years before being named IIT's athletic director. Glancy retired from that position in 1982. One of the young midshipmen, Glancy probably trained was Frank Crossley, an early African American alumnus of the V-12 program. Crossley (BS-Chem. Eng., 1945) served on the USS Storm King transporting men home from the Pacific theater, and then returned to IIT in 1946 to continue his studies. Ultimately, he received IIT's first Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering in 1950, and later served as a senior research scientist at IIT Research Institute for 14 years.

AMH - SeatedGroup
Probably one of the last graduation/commissioning ceremonies of midshipmen in Alumni Memorial Hall before the 1972 renovation.

After the war, when the V-12 program ended, IIT's NROTC unit was activated on March 1, 1946 under the command of Capt. S. McGregor, USN. Since its founding, the unit has commissioned an average of 20 officers a year, with women now included in its ranks.30

Text © 2008 Catherine Bruck
Photos not to be used without permission of IIT Archives.







1.The information in this article was researched and written by Catherine Bruck, IIT University Archivist. Corrections to any of the factual information which may be in errors would be appreciated. Please contact bruck@iit.edu.
2. Press release "Heald oversees training program at school which has become war training center of Midwest"; IIT Archives Acc. No. 1998.149/Press Releases; Aug. 7, 1942.
3. Heald was 36 years old when he became president of IIT in 1940.
4. Per a 1984 [?] questionnaire in the IIT Archives completed by John I. Yellott, Chairman of the War Training Committee, 1940-1945, Heald served as "educational advisor to the Secretary of the navy, so there was top level liaison at all times." Acc. No. 2001.15/Mary Dawson Papers/V-12Progrram, 1984
5. Letter from HTH to Adm. C. W. Nimitz, Dec. 15, 1941; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12
6. Letter from F. U. Lake to HTH, Dec. 20, 1941; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12
7. Letter from O. F. Heslar to HTH, Jan. 21, 1942; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12
8. Letter from HTH to Commandant, Ninth Naval District, Jan. 26, 1942; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12
9. While civilian universities did offer military training for future soldiers and sailors, the Reserve Officer Training Corps programs did not award degrees in military science and did not result in commissions upon graduation.
10. "The Navy students will attend school with the rank of apprentice seaman, becoming eligible for an officer's commission upon graduation." Technology News (IIT student newspaper); Vol. 31, No. 13; June 1943; article titled "Navy to Send 700 Men to IIT on July 1"; pp 1 & 2.
11. Telegram from Wm. W. Behrens, Capt. USN to HTH, March 8, 1943; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 12
12. Letter L. E. Denfeld, March 10, 1943; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 12
13. Telegram from Wm W Behrens, Chief of Naval Personnel to HTH; May 24, 1943; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 12
14. Correspondence between H. C. Coffman and HTH, ca. April, 1943; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 12
15. History of George Williams College: "The YMCA had purchased four acres of land on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin in 1886 to become the permanent home of its Western Secretarial Institute, which served as a summer retreat for YMCA leaders. From this grew the George Williams College Lake Geneva Campus, or College Camp, as it came to be known.
"In 1890, the YMCA opened the YMCA Training School in Chicago, Illinois, to educate young men for YMCA leadership. The Training School merged with the Institute at Lake Geneva in 1896 and was permanently established in Chicago as the Secretarial Institute and Training School of the YMCA. It was renamed the Young Men's Christian Association College in 1913. The YMCA College moved to Hyde Park on Chicago's south side in 1915 (pictured), and in 1933 was named George Williams College in honor of the founder of the YMCA movement." http://www.aurora.edu/cps/history.htm as retrieved on Apr 20, 2008 01:46:14 GMT.
16. Memo "Teaching staff at George Williams" from Dean J. C. Peebles to HTH, July 3, 1943; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 12
17. Letter from HTH to Lt. W. A. Hamilton, U. S. N. R., Sept. 15, 1943; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 12
18. Alumni Memorial Hall was the first building constructed on campus after the War. It housed the training facilities, classrooms, and a rifle range for the NROTC program.
"The Board of Trustees of Illinois Institute of Technology, in appreciation of the splendid efforts of the Alumni Association, unanimously agreed that the first instructional building erected under the new construction program would be named 'Alumni Memorial Hall' and dedicated to those alumni who gave their lives in the service of their country." Document by James D. Cunningham, undated; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12.
19. Letter from A. S. Adams to HTH, Sept. 24, 1945; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 13
20. Letter from HTH to Vice Adm. Louis Denfeld, Nov. 26, 1945; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 13
21. A head count of day enrollment for the third term 1945-46 (ca. March-June, 1946?) shows the following student counts: Navy – 191; Veterans – 1176; Civilians – 587; Total – 1954. Document "Day Enrollment for Third Term 1945-46 (March 11, 1946 to June, 28, 1946); Acc. No. 1999.4/Registrar's Records/Part 1
22. Letter from Louis Denfeld to HTH, undated; ("received approx 5/1/46"); Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 8/Folder 13
23. Letter from HTH to Capt. A. C. Murdaugh, June 12, 1946; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12
24. Ground breaking was held July 13, 1945. Acc. No. 1998.149/Press Releases/July 11, 1945.
25. Memo from R. J. Spaeth to W. J. Parduhn, March 8, 1946; Acc. No. 1998.10/Gilbert Force Papers/Building & Grounds/Parduhn Correspondence.
No record has been found showing when the equipment was removed from the building, but Alumni Memorial Hall was renovated in 1972, which may be the date in question. The NROTC (and IIT'sother ROTC units) were still officed in the building as late as 1974; at some point they were relocated to a building on Michigan Ave., and then again to IIT's Stuart Building. See IIT Archives Drop File on Alumni Memorial Hall for source documents.
26. This appears to have been a congressional advisory committee.
27. Letter from Louis Denfeld to HTH, Aug. 19, 1946; Acc. No. 1998.49/Henry T. Heald Papers/Box 11/Folder 12
28. The largest number of Naval student accommodated at one time appears to be the "third term, 1943-44" (ca. March – June 1944?), with 411 Navy students at IIT and an additional 281 at George Williams College. IIT accommodated 354 students in the Army Specialized Training Program that same term as well as 714 full-time civilian students. Document titled "Illinois Institute of Technology Armour College of Engineering Enrollment of Third Term 1943-44"; Acc. No. 1999.4/Registrar's RecordsPart 1.
29. "During World War II, [Heald] helped organize the U.S. Navy's officer training program which ultimately involved more than 120,000 students at 139 colleges and universities, including IIT." Document titled IIT Campus Roots Quiz 9 found in IIT Archives, Acc. No. 2001.31; ca. 1990.
30. "Command History" as published on the NROTC Illinois Institute of Technology – University of Illinois, Chicago web page at iit.edu/~nrotc/history/history.html, Nov. 6, 2003.

<< Back to History of Illinois Institute of Technology main page