The Army ran the single biggest educational program in the nation's history, the Advanced Specialized Training Program (ASTP). ASTP sent more than 200,000 soldiers to more than 200 colleges and universities to study chiefly science, engineering, medicine, and linguistics. Selected for their high IQs and previous educational experience and with the promise to become officers. Academically ASTP was later judged to have been more rigorous than both West Point and Annapolis. ASTP held the support of the powerful and influential Secretary of War Henry Stimpson.
The Army faced a crisis in 1944. They were running out of men due to heavy combat losses, especially riflemen. A partial fix, effectively shut down the ASTP and fill combat ranks will these 'whiz kids'. This freed up enough men for ten full divisions. In February 1944, George Marshall informed the Secretary of War to make a decision. If the the ASTP continued at the current level of staffing, the Army would be forced to disband ten divisions, three tank battalions and twenty-six antiaircraft battalions. Source: The Final Crisis Combat in Northern Alsace, Richard Engler, page 20
"By Order of the Secretary of War," the ASTP scholar soldier students were informed that "The time has now come for the majority of you to be assigned to other active duty." That other active duty almost always proved to be in the front lines with the Army ground forces. Stimpson later predicted the outcome to them: "Your intelligence, training, and high qualities of leadership are expected to raise the combat efficiency of those (ground) units." Source: Louis Keefer's book "Scholars in Foxholes
What an advantage to the Allies. Many replacement soldiers were America's best and brightest. Author Stephen Ambrose wrote in Citizen Soldier: "What an asset- at a time when very other combatant was taking conscripts too old, too young, too ill to fight, the U.S. Army was feeding into its fighting force its best young men."
The old-line soldiers had little use for these 'whiz kids', one was my father. A pre-med student before the war and a graduate of the ASTP German languages school at the University of Iowa. His next assignment, a medic with the 44th I.D., 119th Medical Battalion.
Famous ASTP soldiers include Henry Kissinger, Edward Koch, Frank Church, Roger Mudd, Heywood Hale Broun, Gore Vidal, Curt Vonnegut and Mel Brooks. The two dittys proved to be wrong. Many ASTP soldiers died, others served with great distinction in the front lines. The flag refers to a honor system employed during the war. A service flag, with a blue star for each family member in the armed forces and a gold star for the death of a service man, adorned the homes of America.
Each of the three weapon pictures represents an ad-hoc field modifications of merit, the result of Yankee ingenuity. The 'ASTPer' held no monopoly on brain power. The value of the intelligent and resourceful World War II G.I.s cannot be overstated.
At Normandy, a battlefield improvisation, to equip the P-47 (top picture) with an unapproved and untested radio, and thus link the pilot directly to the American artillery communications networks and its forward arty spotters became an instrument of power over the enemy. Another further improvisation resulted in linking tanks with radios to the network and extending the hailstorm of co-ordinate power at the enemy. The arty spotter had three sources to direct and control and took control of the battlefields of France and Germany.
The P-47 was a massive airplane, powered by a 2,000 H.P. motor and armed with eight 50 cals, and a 2,000 lbs bomb load capacity. When it came to strafing and dive bombing, the big P-47 excellent.
Patton's tankers jury rigged flame throwers in Sherman the internal machine gun mount, next to the cannon, when confronted by the Siegfried Line. The field 'flamer' worked beyond expectations. A delighted General Patton demanded more of this field modification. In Normandy, a famous field modification, named the Hedgehog, allowed the tank to cut through the tough countryside hedgerows instead of going over and exposing the soft underside.
Another successful field modification was the installation of a 75 cannon in the nose of a B25 Mitchell bomber in the Pacific. (middle photograph).