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World War II training on and off campus

In the fall of 1941, preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor, undergraduate enrollment stood at 2,432. By November 1943, however, only 655 of the 3,742 students in residence were civilian. The footage on the two silent films shown here was shot a few years before and after the United States entered the Second World War. The first film captures Princeton students at an ROTC summer training camp off campus. In contrast, the later footage features military students marching on Princeton’s grounds. The Princeton campus, like many others in the country, had turned into a military training facility.

Princeton had maintained an ROTC Field Artillery Unit since 1919, when the First World War had ended. The primary objective of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was to provide military training at civilian colleges and universities to quality them as Reserve Officers in the US military. As part of a four-year elective course in Military Science (leading to the rank of Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery in the Officers’ Reserve Corps) students attended a six-week summer training camp at the end of the junior year. The film, which was shot before 1942, captures activities at a summer camp at Madison Barracks, New York, including a medical checkup (1:01), mess (4:05), drills (5:29 and 14:58), artillery practice (7:48), and informal scenes. In 1942 the summer training camp was suspended and in the following year ROTC was integrated in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), which arrived on Princeton’s campus in April 1943. The footage from 17:27 shows various military training units that resided on campus during the war. More information is provided with the next clip, which contains similar footage.

To compensate for dwindling resources during the war, Princeton hosted several military training schools on campus. In addition to the ASTP (known as the A-12), Princeton accommodated the Army Post Exchange School, the Naval Officer Training School, the Naval College Training Program (V-12) for Navy candidates and Marines, and the Navy Pre-Radar School. Dormitories provided barracks for the service groups, and fourteen of the largest halls were occupied by Army and Navy trainees. The trainees marched to meals and classes, as can be seen on this footage of various unidentified training units.  The ROTC returned to campus with the reestablishment of the Army Unit and the introduction of a Naval Unit in 1946 and an Air Force Unit in 1951.

These silent 16mm films are part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0106 and part of item no. 0092).


6 responses to “World War II training on and off campus”

  1. My father, Bernard M. Doff, trained with these young gentlemen. Class of ‘42 and served as a medic in WWII. From 1979 to 1989, he was purchasing manager for Princeton University Food Service. I am watching the video for any sign of him: washboard abs, prematurely balding, and smoking a pipe. He was proud of his years at Princeton and daughter Melissa Doff, Class of 1984.

  2. Hello. My dad was in the Army Language Program at Princeton during WWII. He studied Turkish and Arabic. I still have his original transcripts from Princeton. His name was Emanuel Marshall Parker, and I’d love to find out more about his time there. Can you help me? Paul Parker

    • Thanks for reaching out! You should have gotten an email from us last week. We answer questions like this all the time. For others who have similar questions, feel free to contact us.

  3. Are there records at Princeton of the servicemen who were taught engineering during World War II? My Grandfather, from Perth Amboy, was supposedly taught there. I assume he wasn’t enrolled in the University. Was there a seperate U.S. Army program for soldiers?

    -Joseph Makoviecki

    • Thanks for your question. Yes, there were separate programs for both the Army and Navy here at Princeton during World War II. The enrollment records of the programs are found in our Office of the Registrar Records (AC116). You may view the finding aid here:

      If we may be of further assistance, please let us know.

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