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Insignia of the U.S. Army Specialized Training Program: the lamp of knowledge suggests academic learning, the sword represents the military profession

The Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) was a military training program instituted by the United States Army during World War II to meet wartime demands both for junior officers and soldiers with technical skills. Conducted at 227 American universities, it offered training in such fields as engineering, foreign languages, and medicine.[1]

The ASTP differed from the V-12 Navy College Training Program in producing technically trained personnel rather than officers as its primary goal,[2] though recruits were expected to become officers upon completion. The program was approved in September 1942 and implemented in December that year.




After the attack on Pearl Harbor sparked U.S. entry into the war, the Army suspended certain advanced elements of Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) training. This was a particularly problematic situation for the nation's numerous land-grant universities, whose constitutions include the agreement to train "militia." A program which could provide a "continuous and accelerated flow of high grade technicians and specialists needed by the Army" would both help the war effort, offset ROTC enrollment turndown, and keep universities operating when most, if not all, male students would be absent.[3] In addition, a sudden and massive emergency requirement for replacement junior officers during an anticipated amphibious invasion of the European mainland during the spring of 1943 loomed large. Colonel Herman Beukema, a professor of history at West Point, was named director of the Army Specialized Training Program, responsible for sending over 200,000 soldiers to 227 colleges at cost of $127,000,000.[4] The program was proposed in September 1942, formally announced in December 1942, and went into full operation on college campuses in the spring of 1943.


Entry requirements were high. Potential candidates included all enlisted men who were completing or who had completed basic training[5] and had scored at least 110 (later 115) on the Army General Classification Test, a Stanford-Binet-type IQ test, compared to 110 for OCS candidates. If under 22 years old, they had to have completed high school or its equivalent along with specified mathematics courses; if older than 22 years old, a minimum of one year of college, and "substantial background" in one or more languages, or a year of mathematics and physics, or biology. High school graduates at least 17 years of age but not older than 18 were offered a scholarship through the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program (ASTRP) in exchange for an enlistment in the Enlisted Reserve Corps and a call to active duty at the end of the academic term in which they turned 18. The majority of participants in the ASTP were already on active duty in the Army.

During the late part of the academic year 1942–1943, a national testing program was conducted among the male college and high school student bodies. Selection was based upon approximately one standard deviation minimum above the mean. Enlisted men already on active duty were also tested, and accepted only at the rank of private. Because so many men had graduated from ROTC and received commissions — 93,000 by March 1942, outnumbering Regular Army officers by three to one — men who wanted to advance had few choices. Moving up through the ASTP seemed like a promising alternative.


The highly accelerated ASTP program was offered at 227 land-grant universities around the country.[1] Class sessions were in twelve-week terms, with a break of one week between terms. Intensive courses were offered in engineering, science, medicine, dentistry, personnel psychology, and over 30 different foreign languages, with a different number of terms required to complete each. Most subject areas were divided into two phases, the first ("basic") phase covering general education in a subject, and the second ("advanced") phase covering instruction in a specific area.

Basic Advanced
3 terms (instruction in English, history, geography, geology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering drawing) 1 term (marine transportation)
3 terms (civil engineering)
4 terms (chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, sanitary engineering)
Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Dentistry[7]
Preprofessional Professional
5 terms (instruction in English, psychology, physics, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry) Varied (followed the curriculum of accredited medical schools)
Foreign Language[8]
Up to 3 terms (instruction in Arabic (western and eastern), Bengali. Bulgarian, Burmese, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian. Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, or Vietnamese)

While in academic training the soldiers were on active duty, in uniform, under military discipline, and received regular Army pay. Recruits marched to class in groups, ate in mess halls located in the barracks, and trained in the fields around a campus.[1] The soldiers' week featured fifty-nine hours of "supervised activity," including at least twenty-four of classroom and lab work, twenty-four of required study, six of physical instruction, and five of military instruction. At its height in December 1943, about 145,000 men were enrolled in the program.[2]

By November 1943 the Army was having difficulties integrating men who received the specialized ASTP training back into their old units, and recognized that, with the manpower being consumed, the program was not producing nearly enough new officers for the Army Ground Forces. The Army was legally obligated to accommodate ROTC graduates (large numbers of whom became eligible beginning in the spring of 1943) in officer candidate schools first, and as requirements for overseas replacements intensified just as the first large waves of ASTP students graduated in the spring and summer of 1943, no quotas for them ever ended up being allotted to any officer candidate schools. Few, if any, ASTP men ever got the opportunity to become officers. In January 1944, Colonel Beukema reported to a U.S. Congressional investigating committee that the requirements for the ASTP were more demanding than those of either West Point or the Naval Academy.[2]


Henry Stimson, Secretary of War during World War II and self-professed "father of the ASTP," wrote:

Each step of the ASTP story was tied in with the ups and downs in the Army's estimate of its manpower requirements. In all such changes, the college training program, as a marginal undertaking, was sharply affected. [The choice was] between specialized training and an adequate combatant force.

General Lesley J. McNair felt ASTP took young men with leadership potential away from combat positions where they were most needed. "...with 300,000 men short, we are sending men to college." Manpower planners calculated that more infantrymen would be required in advance of the planned invasion of Europe.[9] ASTP was not only one of the easiest programs to reduce or eliminate, it also provided a large pool of ready-trained soldiers. In February 1944, about 110,000 ASTP students were told they would be transferred to more important duties. Students who had not been on active duty were shortly terminated from their academic programs and returned to active duty. Those who had sacrificed non-commissioned rank to qualify for the college training were not necessarily reinstated, and often shortly went into combat as privates.

The 17 year olds were continued in school until the age of 18, at which time they were transferred from the Organized Reserve to active duty and given their mandated basic training. After basic training, those who were willing were returned to the reduced number of land-grant schools still maintaining ASTP. From a wartime high of 145,000 students, the ASTP was immediately reduced to approximately 35,000 members. Even though the ASTP men did not have the practical experience to qualify for non-commissioned officer rank, the Army anticipated that their superior training and intelligence levels would result in advancement to leadership positions.

Graduates in actionEdit

73,000 former ASTP members were sent to units of the Army Ground Forces; 55,000 went to stateside divisions.[10][11] They were used as fillers to bolster the depleted ranks of divisions that had been used as sources of overseas replacements after the output of replacement training centers had proven insufficient. About 35 divisions received an average of 1,500 men each, though some got considerably more, such as the 3,000 received by the 395th Infantry Regiment in March 1944.

Fresh out of college, the new replacements were often given harsh receptions by both fellow officers and veteran NCOs. One company commander asked, "What kind of soldiers deal out bridge hands during their ten-minute training breaks?"[2] ASTP personnel were often skeptical of the capabilities of their new superior officers and NCOs. However, once in combat, they rapidly proved their worth and any distinctions between the regular Army and the college soldiers were erased.

In the spring of 1944, ASTP levels were further reduced at the direction of the Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall. The Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps' continued to experience serious shortfalls in producing casualty replacements, necessitating the use of divisional service troops and Army Service Forces troops as infantry replacements. When the defeat of Germany was in sight, and the testing of the new atomic bomb successful, the apparent need for potential junior officer replacements disappeared and the final ASTP groups were largely disbanded, although there were ASTP units for medicine and engineering still existing in August 1945.


While the ASTP initiative suffered from manpower drawdowns to meet immediate combat needs, it did serve as an important financial subsidy of land grant colleges whose male student bodies had been decimated by the diversion of about 14 million men into the various armed forces.

Another positive effect of the ASTP effort was a softening of university resistance to lowering the draft age from twenty to eighteen. Finally, and most far-reaching, it exposed a large number of potentially very capable men to college who might not have attended otherwise. After the war ended, fully four out of five surviving ASTP alumni returned to college.[2]

Still, critical views were held. A highly dismissive opinion was expressed by Major General Harry L. Twaddle, a former Army Assistant Chief of Staff G-3, who wrote, "The underlying reason for institution of the ASP [sic] program was to prevent some colleges and universities from going into bankruptcy. From a strictly mobilization viewpoint, the value of the program was nil."[12]:128

Notable alumniEdit

Notable alumni of the ASTP include:[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "The Army Specialized Training Program". Shared Sacrifice: Scholars, Soldiers and World War II. Ball State University. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e Keefer, Louis E. "The Army Specialized Training Program In World War II". Archived from the original on 2008-07-27. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  3. ^ "70th Division Association". Archived from the original on 2009-07-05. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  4. ^ Leveque, Phillip. "ASTP: The Army's Waste of Manpower". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  5. ^ "ASTP". 488th Engineers Light Pontoon Company. Archived from the original on 2004-01-23. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  6. ^ Keefer, Louis (1988). Scholars in Foxholes. McFarland. ISBN 0899503462.
  7. ^ Keefer, Louis (1988). Scholars in Foxholes. McFarland. ISBN 0899503462.
  8. ^ Keefer, Louis (1988). Scholars in Foxholes. McFarland. ISBN 0899503462.
  9. ^ "395th Regiment History". Retrieved 2009-03-23.[dead link]
  10. ^ Palmer, Robert. "United States Army in World War II – The Army Ground Forces - The Procurement and Training of Ground Combat Troops". Archived from the original on 2015-06-10. Retrieved 2015-06-10.
  11. ^ Keefer, Louis (1988). Scholars in Foxholes. McFarland. ISBN 0899503462.
  12. ^ Flynn, George Q. (2002). Conscription and democracy: the draft in France, Great Britain, and the United States (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 303. ISBN 0-313-31912-X.
  13. ^ "A Few Notable A.S.T.P. Alumnus". Archived from the original on 2004-01-23. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  14. ^ Vonnegut Jr., Kurt (1991). Fates Worse Than Death. G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0399136339.
  15. ^ Sarah Sharp (1986), Charles H. Warren, From the California Assembly to the Council on Environmental Quality, 1962-1979: The Evolution of an Environmentalist.. Oral history interviews conducted in July 1983 and January 1984. Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1986.

Further readingEdit

  • Keefer, Louis E. (1988). Scholars in Foxholes: The Story of the Army Specialized Training Program in World War II. Jefferson, NC:: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-89950-346-2.