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 a number of American universities, it offered training in such fields as engineering, foreign languages, and medicine.
The highly accelerated ASTP program was offered at 227 land-grant universities around the country.Students were expected to complete a four-year program in 18 months with a bachelor’s degree and a commission. A minimum of 25 class-time hours per quarter were required to meet the compressed schedule. Intensive courses were offered in engineering, science, medicine, dentistry, personnel psychology, and 34 different foreign languages.
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.The soldiers week featured 59 hours of “supervised activity,” including at least 24 of classroom and lab work, 24 of required study, six of physical instruction, and five of military instruction. At its height in December 1943, about 140,000 men were enrolled in the program.
By November 1943 the Army recognized that its ASTP replacement training centers were not producing nearly enough new soldiers for the Army Ground Forces, particularly in light of the impending invasion of France. In January 1944, Col. Beukema reported to a U. S. Congressional investigating committee that ASTP was more demanding than either West Point or the Naval Academy.
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.
Still, critical views were held. A highly dismissive opinion was expressed by Major General Henry Twaddle, a former Army Assistant Chief of Staff for G-3, who wrote, “The underlying reason for institution of the ASP program was to prevent some colleges and universities from going into bankruptcy. From a strictly mobilization viewpoint, the value of the program was nil.