World War II arguably presented one of the most trying times for NC State College in the 1940s. Enrollments dropped, ROTC was reduced and revenues at the university sank due to more men being drafted and joining the service, according to Alice E. Reagan’s North Carolina State University: A Narrative History.
So the federal government acted to help schools like State offer programs that allowed their young men to complete their education while gaining valuable military training. Those programs were funded with federal money and run by the universities, according to Reagan’s book.
“When it became evident that the government planned to create these military programs, the [Frank Porter] Graham and [John] Harrelson administration eagerly prepared State College to participate,” Reagan writes. “Harrelson appointed a War Training Board, headed by Professor Hilbert A. Fisher of mathematics, who served as armed services coordinator.”
And on this day in 1943, the first group of men called “soldier-students” arrived on campus to take part in one of those programs at NC State College. Eight-hundred men of the 59th Training Detachment of the Army Air Force came to take part in an “intensive five-month pre-flight training program,” writes Reagan. They took math, physics, chemistry, history, English and geography courses in addition to their flight training.
“Over 4,000 Air Corps Cadets received their pre-flight training in this program at State College,” Reagan writes. It was housed at NC State until May 1944, when its administration was transferred back to the U.S. Army Air Force.