Dakota Datebook

VCSU’s V-12 Program


At the outset of World War II, the United States began a massive ship building program designed to overwhelm the Axis power’s naval strength. As thousands of ships were constructed, the Navy realized that it would need to greatly expand its officer training program to man the large number of new vessels.
To adequately train the officers for the expanded fleet, the US Navy began the V-12 program. Operating in civilian educational institutions, the V-12 program provided active duty personnel with the college education needed to become naval officers. Throughout the program’s history, 120,000 military personnel attended classes in 131 colleges and universities spread throughout the United States. The V-12 program proved a runaway success. It contributed to the Allies’ naval superiority by commissioning 60,000 new Naval and Marine officers. It provided educational opportunities to many Americans who would otherwise not receive it, and its non-discrimination policy resulted in some of the first commissions for African Americans. Furthermore, the program greatly assisted America’s colleges and universities who were otherwise suffering from dwindling enrollment as many college age men were drafted into military service. The program had an important impact after the war as well. Many V-12 alumni rose to the top of their business, law, educational or entertainment professions. Among the most recognizable former members of the V-12 program include Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State, Johnny Carson, Jackie Cooper, Samuel Gravely, the First African American Navy Admiral, Robert F. Kennedy, and Jack Lemmon.
Although far from either of America’s coastlines, the Navy operated the V-12 program in North Dakota as well, training new officers in Dickinson, Grand Forks, Minot, Wahpeton and Valley City. And it was this day, July 1, 1943, that the first V-12 participants arrived in Valley City to attend classes at the State Teachers College. While stationed at Valley City, the naval troops adhered to strict military discipline. The men rose at six, and while in uniform spent their day in both standard college courses and naval training. After school-hours, military discipline loosened and the men were allowed to interact more fully with other college students. Men participated in varsity basketball, intramural baseball; published newspapers and even issued a booklet commemorating their time at Valley City. After 28 months the V-12 program was closed at Valley City State, and on November 1, 1945 the school’s unit was decommissioned. However, in those two and a quarter years, the school produced hundreds of new naval officers, providing an important service to the successful completion of the Second World War.
Written by Lane Sunwall
Bates College, “July 1943: The Navy Arrives”, Bates College http://www.bates.edu/bates-and-the-community.xml (accessed June 9, 2008).
Clancey, Patrick, “U.S. Naval Activities: World War II: By State:
North Dakota”, HyperWar Foundation http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ref/USN-Act/ND.html (accessed June 10, 2008).
The United States Navy Memorial, “Veterans of the Navy V-12 Program”, System Planning Corporation http://www.lonesailor.org/v12history.php (accessed June 9, 2008).
Welsh, Donald H. Cornerstones: A Centennial History of Valley City State University 1890-1990. Valley City, ND: Valley City State University, 1990.

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