Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 21
Tales told out of school

     At 11 a.m. on June 14, 1943, World War II arrived on the campus
of the University of Delaware. At that hour, 100 khaki-clad U.S. Army
privates stepped off a Pennsylvania Railroad "special" and began their
march down College Avenue toward the heart of the University. En
route, the march was interrupted so that each man could be checked by
a community physician. (There were rumors of a disease outbreak at
their former station and the checkup was followed by five days of
     By noon, the group had been assigned alphabetically by threes to
housing in Harter and Brown residence halls. Occupation of the
University by the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) had begun.
     Actually, the association between the Army and the University of
Delaware had begun in Washington, D.C., months before. By then, the
draft and reserve call-ups had stripped many colleges of most of their
male students. Although the women remained, their numbers were small
and the financial status of many institutions was in jeopardy.
     In Washington, Army officials wanted to establish some form of
collegiate training, paralleling what the U.S. Navy had developed
years before. Now, with pressure from colleges and university
officials, the Secretary of the Army crafted a program that would
enroll, at the Army's expense, thousands of recent draftees and
reservists whose test scores qualified them for college work. The
University of Delaware was one of many institutions, large and small,
that qualified to participate.
     The first arrivals on the Newark campus were, for the most part,
young men who had been in service about 60 days. The majority of them
were fresh from freshman- or sophomore-level work on their own
campuses. They had passed through Army orientation plus six weeks of
basic training. Then, they spent two weeks at City College of New
York, where testing had selected the men to train in engineering,
foreign languages (anticipating later service as part of occupation
forces) and agronomics (to prepare soldiers to assist in rebuilding
food-production capabilities of war-torn lands).
     Most of those arriving in Newark were enrolled in what was termed
"basic engineering."
     Because the full complement of UD soldier-students could not be
on campus until late July, classes did not begin until August. So, the
Army's professional leadership joined with the University's physical
education staff to "get those men in shape." Key figures from the
University were the late football coach Bill Murray and baseball coach
"Shack" Martin, who put the new arrivals through four hours per day of
bone-crunching, muscle-expanding drills, including a heavy dose of
competitive sports.
     When classes began, the soldier-students were organized into
companies of 30 men. Each morning, they formed for reveille (blown by
an able ASTP member who had once played trumpet in his high school
band). After breakfasting in Old College (where all meals were taken),
the companies fell in at 7:45 a.m. and marched, military style, to
their assigned places of study. Thus began the eight-and-one-half-hour
study day (with one hour for lunch). University faculty led classes in
mathematics, world geography, American history, chemistry, physics and
     Recognizing that each unit of work would be for only six weeks,
the professors pushed their charges hard. Some of the names of those
professors fade in my memory, but well-remembered are Fenton
Daugherty, Henry Clay Reed, Cuthbert Webber and Ray Dunlap. In many
cases, the professors also became friends and hosts to their unusual
corps of students.
     Delaware's ASTP command operated as part University, part
military camp. Heading the 300-member unit was Col. Ashcraft, a long-
time Army veteran and retired colonel brought back for this special
duty. "The Colonel" added just the right element of spit and polish,
with room inspections, command requirements and a colorful retreat
ceremony on Friday afternoons conducted below the library and between
the dormitories. Many of Newark's townspeople would gather to watch
the ceremonial maneuverings.
     After three term units, ASTP came to an unexpected end. By March
1944, Army officials had become uncertain just why such activities
were being sustained or what good would come of them. There was need,
too, for thousands of additional troops to fill rosters in newly
created infantry divisions, hospitals and more. On March 31,
Delaware's ASTP members boarded a troop train and began a three-day
ride to Camp Carson, Colo. From there, they were routed into newly
formed organizations in which they would move overseas and into
combat. Some 200 of the total group would be reassigned to units in
Mississippi, from which they would move to European and Pacific
     A handful of the Delaware contingent would return to Newark under
the G.I. Bill and would be among the early post-war graduating
classes, the first of them in May 1947. Sadly, there were no reunions
at the time, and with the many spin-offs that occurred when ASTP was
dismantled, few men served together again.
     Yet, half a century later, there are many among the original 300
men who look back fondly upon those days at Delaware when, for a brief
time, they were Blue Hens.

A native of Chicago, John H. Appleyard, Delaware '47, met his wife,
Eleanor Kriebel, Delaware '44, while on the Newark campus with the
ASTP. Chairperson emeritus of the John Appleyard Agency Inc. in
Pensacola, Fla., he is the author of more than 25 books and