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Rewind Chicago: Naval Training At Monmouth College

(Credit: Monmouth College)

(Credit: Monmouth College)

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By John Dodge

CHICAGO (CBS) — This installment of “Rewind Chicago” takes us beyond the city limits down to tiny Monmouth, Ill.

During World War II, Monmouth College was one of seventeen institutions selected by the U.S. Navy as a Naval Flight Preparatory School.

Chicago itself as a long history with the Navy. Great Lakes Naval Training Station, located in North Chicago, is the nation’s largest naval training facility. During the course of World War II, Great Lakes supplied about a million men. Also during the war, Navy Pier became a training school and included a drill hall and aircraft hangar.

Currently, Monmouth College, a private, liberal arts school downstate, enrolls about 1,300 students, most of whom live on campus.

However, back in the 1940s, many of those dorms were used for Navy trainees. The school was home to the Navy’s training program for about 30 months, starting in January 1943.

The rooms in McMichael, Grier and East Hall barracks were equipped with bunks, study tables and chests to house from four to six men. McMichael and Grier are still used as residence halls today.

Navy cadets study in Grier Hall.  (Credit: Monmouth College)

Navy cadets study in Grier Hall. (Credit: Monmouth College)

After their training, many of the cadets transferred to the Naval Training Command Regional Office in Chicago to get their assignments.

The final edition of the Navy campus newspaper, "Wing Tips." (Credit: Monmouth College)

The final edition of the Navy campus newspaper, “Wing Tips.” (Credit: Monmouth College)

The campus was filled with men in uniform. Here cadets line up in front of Wallace Hall, which was built in 1907. The building is still the center of campus.

(Credit: Monmouth College)

(Credit: Monmouth College)

Getting down to business, trainees work on an NP-1 Spartan Trainer outside Grier Residence Hall.

(Credit: Monmouth College)

(Credit: Monmouth College)

And here is a trainer damaged from a hail storm in July 1943.

(Credit: Monmouth College)

(Credit: Monmouth College)

Monmouth was built just before the Civil War and suffered an enrollment problem when many of the men were called into military service.

World War II created a similar issue, as male students began enlisting in the service within a month of Pearl Harbor.

The college got by by becoming a U.S. Naval Flight Preparatory School, according to college historian Jeff Rankin.

More than 4,000 Navy men went through Monmouth College.

One of Monmouth’s most famous alums coincidentally has a Navy connection. While he did not enroll in the training school, James Stockdale attended Monmouth before enrolling at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Stockdale rose to vice-admiral and was one of the most-highly decorated officers in the history of the U.S. Navy. He ran as Ross Perot’s vice presidential candidate in 1992.

Monmouth recently made the collection available online, thanks to the dedicated work of Monmouth senior Karrah Kuykendall, who spent two years on the project.

Rewind Chicago is an occasional series on Chicago’s past in pictures. John Dodge is Executive Producer of cbschicago.com. Click here for previous Rewind Chicago features.