The Effect of World War Two on Georgia Tech

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America's involvement in World War II, lasting from late 1941 to 1945, had dramatic effects on both the country and the world. On a smaller scale, the war had an enormous impact on the Georgia Institute of Technology. A vast majority of Tech's students were a part of the military during the conflict, either on the front lines, in the Army, Navy, or Marine ROTC, or members of the Navy's V-12 program. In fact, by the fall of 1943, military students outnumbered their non-military counterparts by almost three to one. [1] There were several temporary effects on campus, mainly affecting the existing traditions and publications of Georgia Tech. World War Two also brought about lasting changes for the Georgia Institute of Technology with the addition of ROTC programs. These programs brought a large numbers of students, and even women to the campus (though they were not enrolled). [1]


Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) during the War

In the beginning of 1941, before America entered the war, Georgia Tech was selected by the Bureau of Navigation to host a new Naval ROTC program. Georgia Tech was one of six schools across the nation to be selected for this program. Along with the program, Georgia Tech received $300,000 in order to construct an aeronautical training and research facility.[2] This training facility provided the equipment and space for the ROTC program to grow. Since this space was completed before the war, it was already operational at the time when the ROTC program needed it most. All of the ROTC programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology experienced increased enrollment during the war, and especially right after the Pearl Harbor Bombings. In 1932, before the war, there were eighty-eight freshman, eighty-nine sophomores, thirty juniors, and thirty-six seniors.[3] Once the war started, these numbers experienced a drastic increase. Members of the Army, Navy, and Marine ROTC programs at Georgia Tech participated in the war on the front lines, earning themselves the reputation of having “superior performance abilities as compared to the other units.”[4]

The Navy V-12 Program

Students involved in the Navy V-12 program doing exercises

The Navy's V-12 Program was started as a response to the lowering of the draft age to eighteen in November of 1942 and the shortage of officers in the Navy with a college degree as a result. The idea was to take students who were either already accepted into a college Navy reserve program, enlisted men already in the Navy recommended by their superiors, or high school seniors who passed an entrance exam.[5] The Georgia Institute of Technology was one of 131 colleges around the United States to be chosen for the V-12 program. Because of this, students from all over the southeast transferred to Georgia Tech to enroll in the V-12 program. Here is an account of one such student, Charles E. Littlejohn, a transfer student from the University of Alabama:

"At first, Littlejohn didn't think Tech's curriculum was as difficult as Alabama's. But as the weeks wore on, Littlejohn's view changed considerably. An excerpt from a letter to his mother dated July 21, 1943, reveals his change of heart:
'Had an aero quiz yesterday. Have a mechanics test tomorrow and a math and metallurgy quiz Friday morning. I'll know I'm in school by Friday night.' "[1]

As seen, students from other schools soon realized what Georgia Tech was all about. Transfer students were also very quick to pick up on Georgia Tech's traditions, as show in this excerpt from the student publication for V-12 students, the Nautilus: "New Prof calls role for first time and asks if there were any omissions. Straight-faced senior pipes out, 'G.P. Burdell--he's in the hospital.' So instructor makes out card and dear George gathers absences day by day. Just wait till the next quiz; someone's going to have to write like mad to finish two papers.” The V-12 program allowed students to complete their degrees while they were still technically on active duty, thus in effect allowing them to get an education paid for by the government. When in the program, the students were required to be enrolled in 17 academic hours and 9 and ½ physical training hours during each week. They also studied year round, with three/four month semesters.[5] Across the nation, the V-12 program took in over 125,000 men and graduated about 60,000 of them.[5]

Temporary Effects on Campus

The Navy ROTC in formation during 1943

While many of the changes and effects of the war on the Reserve Officer Training Corps and the Navy programs lasted far beyond the war years, there were other temporary effects to the Georgia Institute of Technology. Several of the more notable effects are as follows:

The Rambin' Wreak Parade

During 1942 and 1943 the Rambin' Wreak Parade, a cherished part of Georgia Tech's homecoming traditions, was canceled due to the fuel rationing that was in effect across the United States. The tradition was reinstated in 1944, but with the caveat that all of the vehicles had to be hand drawn, thus overcoming the fuel rationing issue.[1]

The Yellow Jacket

The Yellow Jacket, a popular on campus publication, was also canceled from the latter part of 1943 until the end of the war. The last issue, October 1943, talked about all the changes that had occurred on Georgia Tech's campus in the past years: "Probably the first rude awakening came when we were told that there would be no vacation in the summer of 1942, and school would continue on the accelerated program 12 months a year. This was not the only shock, as many more were to follow in quick succession. Next came women invading our sacred grounds--women in night school--women in defense classes--and women working in the Robbery, a thing before unthought of." [1]


In the year following the Pearl Harbor attacks, Georgia Tech considered suspending the football program for the duration of the war, but there was a national movement at the time that supported keeping football programs at universities to increase student moral. So the football team continued under Coach Alexander, for whom the Alexander Colosseum is named. The football team did very well during the war time years, thanks in part to the Navy students, either in the V-12 program or labeled 4-F (unfit for active military duty) and therefore not able to go into active duty. In 1943, Georgia Tech beat Tulsa in the Sugar Bowl, making Georgia Tech the first college to win all four of the major bowl titles. At the end of the war, in 1945, Bobby Dodd replaced Alexander as football coach and became Georgia Tech's athletic Director. [6]

The Lasting Impact

World War II had lasting, significant impacts on campus: the ROTC programs gained in size and strength and they are still strong today; two of the best football coaches in Georgia Tech's history coached during the conflict. The war also demonstrated the longevity and importance of Georgia Tech's traditions. For example, when the Rambin' Wreck parade was canceled, students still figured out a way to hold it.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 World War II and the Tech Connection,
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 V-12: The Navy College Training Program,
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