From 1943 to 1946, more than 125,000 young American men enrolled in the V-12 Navy College Training Program and were placed in 131 colleges and universities across the country. The program was the federal government’s solution to two of the country’s major problems, both of which stemmed from the lowering of the draft age to 18 in 1942. The first was the shortage of college-educated officers in the military; the second was the American university system facing economic collapse from the abundance of classrooms suddenly left empty from the draft. By sending men to college—and simultaneously preparing them to enter the military, with nine and a half hours of physical training per week (on top of a 17-credit course load heavy in math and sciences)—the United States was able to address these national issues and prepare itself for World War II.
All V-12 trainees were on active duty, which meant that they were subject to strict military discipline and had to be in uniform at all times, even while strolling about campus. In this photo, taken in 1945, Denison’s V-12 Navy unit marches into Swasey Chapel for recognition service. Denison was one of nine schools throughout Ohio to participate in the V-12 program—a group that marched alongside the V-5 Naval Aviation Cadets at the college—which saw approximately 60,000 men commissioned as Navy ensigns or Marine Corps second lieutenants by the end of the war.