the college during war
Remembering the Army Specialized
Training Program at Puget Sound
by Tech. Sgt. Wilfred “Mac” McCarty ’44 ASTP/College of Puget Sound “B” Company,
21st Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division
In World War II some of us were sent, after
completing Infantry Basic Training at Camp
Roberts, Calif., to the Army Specialized Training
Program at the College of Puget Sound in
Tacoma, Wash. We were expected to complete
a four-year engineering course in a little over a
year and a half, but we were in the program only
from December 1943 to March 1944.
We went by train from warm, almost desert,
California to cool and wet Puget Sound. I recall
that we marched from the station to the campus
in fog and rain, and that cars were driving up
onto people’s lawns in the fog. As the fog did not
lift until about noon, we did not get a good look
at the town or the campus until then. Later on,
when we would be marched to class in the early
morning fog, the sergeant in charge of us would
not know if we were giving him the finger or
skipping merrily to class, as he could not see us.
Instead of sounding reveille each morning,
the active-duty officers who were in charge of
the program would play a recording of “Oh,
What a Beautiful Mornin’” from the musical
on the sound system. Some nights
after lights were out I would take a flashlight un-
der the covers in my lower bunk and try to read
from my textbooks. I would try to figure out
what they had been talking about in class that
day. In spite of a high Army-intelligence score
(their standards were not really that high), I did
not have the background for an engineering
course. I came from a small farming community
that had fewer than 200 people in town and 15
students in my high school class. We had not
had much in the way of physics, chemistry, and
higher math.
At Puget Sound the teachers and students
were as curious about us as we were about them.
Our classes and study periods were separate
from those of the civilian students. One civilian
teacher was so intimidated by teaching soldiers
and was so scared of us that at his first lecture he
had to sit down and get his breath. I wondered
why he was scared of us when I was scared of
him! I was always tired from our heavy schedule
and our military training. I would almost puke
when I would hear that damned song “Oh, What
a Beautiful Mornin’” as our wake-up call each
One guy in our ASTP unit had a very military
bearing but was also always tired. He walked like
a West Pointer and had the ability to sit at atten-
tion in class with his eyes wide open while he was
fast asleep.
We were issued three-quarter-length tan
Army officer coats. When we would go into town
wearing these coats the troops from Fort Lewis
would not see any rank on our coats but took
no chances and saluted (“salute anything that
moves!”). I always returned the salute!
One day during our three-month stay we
were marched down to town to what I think was
the YMCA for a swimming test. We were sup-
posed to retrieve something out of the water, in
case we were ever on a ship that was sinking and
we had to get our gear. I did not know how to
swim, but I did not tell them that. I guess I was
going to drown before I admitted that I did not
know how to swim. Luckily time ran out before
they got to my name in the alphabet. I was
sweating out something or worrying about some-
While the college was pretty and they treated
us nicely, the pace was too hectic for me. I think
that some of the teachers thought we might
return to the College of Puget Sound to go to
school after we got out of the service. I never did.
But I still get alumni news as if I were a distin-
guished alumnus (of three months), and I actual-
ly do have a soft spot in my heart for the college.
ASTP soldiers on campus in 1944: Leonard
Dricks, George Fisher, Chester Ferlazzo, Jack
Farina, Walter Mascioli, John Fague, Herbert
Fortesque, and Franklin Fields.
Courtesy Patrick Kearney ’44