From the Archives: Remembering WWII Veterans of High Point College

In the early 1940s, High Point College was on the verge of disaster. Enrollment rates had fallen to record lows. From Spring to Fall of 1943, the school lost over 40% of its students. The 1943-1944 school year commenced with only 280 students, the lowest enrollment the school had seen in over a decade.

Then-President Gideon Ireland Humphries (pictured right) spoke to the Board of Trustees about inviting an Air Force training unit to campus to “offset the decline in enrollment due to enlistment of males in the military and the departure of females to accept jobs in business”. The trustees agreed, and the 326th College Training Detachment arrived by train on April 5, 1943.



College Training Detachment

For years, HPC had been cooperating in the war efforts. In 1939 the college began offering a Civilian Pilot Training program to both men and women, allowing ten students at a time to study for a private pilot’s license. Later, classes were added in meteorology and navigation. After the Army Air Force Detachment arrived on campus in 1943, the program was officially disbanded, but classes in aeronautics continued to be offered until 1945.

To prepare for the cadets’ arrival, facilities on the campus were enhanced. New equipment was procured for science laboratories, kitchen and dining rooms were enlarged, and civilian students moved into Penny Hall while McCulloch was prepared for military use. Commanding officers established their offices in Roberts Hall.

The third floor of McCulloch Hall.

Cadets were enrolled in classes and expected to participate in campus life. Some got along well with the women of HPC, based on this humorous financial statement from the 1943 Zenith. It shows students paying bribes of over $700 to keep “certain snapshots…(from girls going with cadets)” out of that year’s book. If this were true, the amount would be worth over $10000 today.

By June of 1944, 753 cadets had earned credits at HPC; many would request copies of these records later to continue their studies. Even after the cadets returned home, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the “G.I. Bill” kept the college’s doors open. This bill provided educational funding for veterans, among many other benefits, and could be used for pre-college and graduate studies in addition to traditional college courses. After extremely low enrollment numbers in 1943, the number of students exploded to 871 for the 1947-48 year.

High Point College provided courses for veterans who hadn’t finished high school to prepare them for degree-granting programs. An ad promoting this program ran in the High Point Enterprise in February, 1946;


Roll of Honor

After the war, the Alumni Association compiled three volumes titled Roll of Honor to recognize and document the contributions of individual High Point College students and alumni, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

These books, now fully digitized and available on our Archives website, are in remembrance of their service. Individual pages note the name, birthdate, date of induction, branch of service, parents names, and addresses of those from HPC involved in the armed forces.

You can read more about the Roll of Honor in this post. You may also view excerpts on display in the glass case located near the reference desk on the main floor of Smith Library.


Female Veterans of World War II

Though not at all unusual today, many people are surprised to find that women were crucial to the war effort in both civilian and military roles. Three women from HPC who are listed in the Roll of Honor are pictured below.

Ida Malloye Stanfield (Left), an alumni of High Point, enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943.

Mariana Trice Buffin (Middle) enlisted in November 1943 as a sophomore student at High Point College. She joined the US Marine Corps Women’s Reserve the day after her 20th birthday.

Another alumna, Mary Doan Rankin (right) enlisted in the WAVES program, the Women’s Reserve branch of the United States Naval Reserve, in 1944. Both Marianna and Mary were members of the Nikanthian Literary Society.



The Medal of Honor

Jack Lucas, the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Civil War, was also a member of the High Point College family. Lucas was only 14 when he enlisted in the Marines in the early 1940s. During combat in Iwo Jima, Lucas was injured while protecting his comrades from grenades.

The citation reads:

“Quick to act when the lives of the small group of marines were endangered by 2 grenades which landed directly in front of them, [Private First-Class] Lucas unhesitatingly hurled himself over his comrades upon 1 grenade and pulled the other under him, absorbing the whole blasting forces of the explosions in his own body in order to shield his companions from the concussion and murderous flying fragments. By his inspiring action and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice, he not only protected his comrades from certain injury or possible death but also enabled them to rout the enemy patrol and continue the advance.”

Lucas survived and received the Medal of Honor on October 5th 1945. He was only 17 years old, and the youngest Marine recipient of the medal.

After the war, Jack Lucas earned a degree in business from High Point College and graduated in 1956. He was an active brother in the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and a member of the Veteran’s Club. Jack Lucas passed away on June 5, 2008 at the age of 80, when his wife gifted the Medal of Honor to Smith Library.

You can read more about Jack Lucas in this post, and see a student’s reaction to the Medal of Honor here. More information regarding air force training on campus, veterans of HPU, and some personal materials of Jack Lucas can be found in the Smith Library Archives.

-Blog post by Laura Silva, Archives