Post War IU I
October 1945 was a significant month and year for Indiana University. It marked a transition from the frantic days of the war effort to a world finally at peace and in the process of healing. On Oct. 8th, 1945, the Army Russian Language School was closed for good. This marked the end of the last of IU’s wartime military programs, which in total had trained 13,428 men and women for a variety of specialized services in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corp. After the last of the ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) students completed their training, the only students still in uniform at the IU Bloomington campus were Navy personnel at the School of Medicine, and these were scheduled to return to civilian status no later than January 1946.
A Fall 1945 editorial in the Indiana Daily Student acknowledged this transition and its importance. “This is the semester toward which we’ve bent all our concentration, our efforts, and our prayers for four war years. It is the fulfillment of our desire to be college students on a ‘normal’ university campus in a world at peace.” Indeed, beginning in 1945 more “normal” college activities were starting to come back in rapid succession. The Marching Hundred University Band was not back up to full strength yet, but that did not hamper the football team in any way as IU beat Nebraska 54-14 in their homecoming game, which was filmed by MGM for its newsreel, “News of the Day.” LIFE Magazine also came to campus to take pictures for a feature called “Life Goes to a Party.” The following week, preparations were underway for the 1946 Arbutus Queen contest. On Oct. 20, a dance was held at the men’s gym. The entertainment was supplied by Les Brown and his orchestra who accompanied the singing of university celebrity guest Doris Day. On Oct. 31st, the IU administration announced the end of war-time rationing of shoes. The students responded to the news by scheduling a dance; dress was informal and the cost per couple was $1.80.
During the fall of 1945 war veterans started coming back and it was at this point that the university really began to grow. By the end of the Spring 1946 semester there were a total of 2,895 veterans enrolled at the IU campus. The projection for the Fall 1946 semester was 4,200 veterans. Anticipating the housing shortage which would accompany the influx of all the veterans entering programs at IU, President Wells made housing a priority. Starting with a modest 20 trailers in the Fall 1945 semester at “Woodland Courts” located near the Auditorium, the housing project quickly grew to 320 units housing veterans and their families. At the same time, Hoosier Halls, a series of barracks style dormitories were built on the immediate north and south of the Field House to accommodate an additional 319 single student veterans. Finally, a five acre lot at 1400 South Henderson Street was developed into plots for couples who already had their own trailers. The community would eventually include 21 trailers and a two-family house.
Returning veterans played a significant role in IU student life. Looking at a breakdown of the numbers, 76% of the veterans were from the Army, 17% were from the Navy, 4% were Marines, and the Coast Guard, Nurses Corp, and Canadian Air Force, added 1% each. Only 1.5% of the student veterans were women. About 88% of the veterans were from Indiana, and for 54% of them college life was a new experience. The average age for all pre-war IU students was 20. In Fall 1945, the veterans raised that average age to 23.3 and a year later to 24.8. Those who were married made up 31% of all student veterans, and of the married couples, 7% had children. Of all student veterans, 80% were in school under the newly ratified G.I. Bill.
Indiana University has the distinction of being the first University in the nation to enroll veterans under the G.I. Bill. More formally known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the G.I. Bill was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). These benefits included low-cost mortgage rates and loan guarantees to purchase homes, loans to start a new business or perhaps a farm, and full coverage for tuition and living expenses for those who wanted to attend college or vocational education programs. Veterans were even covered by one year of unemployment compensation, receiving $20 per week until they were able to find a job. The G.I. Bill was available to every veteran who had served on active duty during the war for at least ninety days and had not been dishonorably discharged. By the time the program ended in 1956, more than 2.2 million veterans had used it to attend colleges or universities. Another 6.6 million had applied these benefits to various other training programs.