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Film: USNR Midshipmen's School, Chicago, 1942

The Archives, with the help of Northwestern's Digital Collections department, is able to present a short film on the US Naval Reserves Midshipmen's School that was located on the campus from 1940-1945. The color film, shot by Lieutenant L. A. Wheeler, shows the trainees in a variety of drills and exercises, on land and at sea.

Click here to view the film. (Approx. 12 minutes, Real Player)

Drills outside Abbot Hall, click to enlarge

A second reel of film, including an extended segment of a training cruise onboard the USS Wilmette, can be found here.

Memorial plaque, click to enlargeDuring World War II, Northwestern's stated objective was to use its entire resources to aid in winning the war. To this end an accelerated program of study incorporating the quarter system was adopted which allowed students to graduate in three years by attending summer sessions. Students who had completed three years of high school with high standing were allowed to enter the university thus enabling them to complete their degree requirements before reaching the minimum draft age of twenty.

Northwestern also offered its facilities for use by the War Department. The Army, Navy, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration operated eleven training programs at Northwestern in addition to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (N.R.O.T.C.) established in 1926, which was a popular program on campus and increased in enrollment with the outbreak of war.

Afternoon Inspections, click to enlargeThe Navy V-7, Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School, was established at Northwestern in September 1940. This program was offered to any college junior or senior. Candidates enlisted in the Naval Reserve and, following a one-month indoctrination course as Apprentice Seamen, attended a three-month course in the Midshipmen's School. Upon completion of the course, candidates were given an Ensign's commission and put on active status. Instruction was given in navigation, seamanship, ordnance and gunnery, and engineering. In 1941, the admission requirements were changed. Applicants were required to have a college degree, one course in plane trigonometry, and one additional year of mathematics.

Though not part of the V-7 program, President John F. Kennedy attended a separate accelerated training program at Abbot Hall, a two month course for already commissioned officers. President Kennedy was commissioned as Ensign in October 1941 and following his training at Northwestern went on to PT Boat training at Melville, RI, in October 1942 where he was promoted to Lieutenant. [Our thanks to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for this information.]

An illustrated history of the Midshipmen's School can be found in Abbot Hall, U.S.N.R: The record of the United States Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School, Abbot Hall, Northwestern University, September 1940 - August 1945 (Abbot Hall Publications Committee, Chicago), a copy of which the Archives has in its collection.

USNR training on Lake Michigan, click to enlarge

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archives@northwestern.edu | Last updated 7/28/2008