Assistance Offered by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln to Returning World War II Student Veterans

Natalie Beattie, History 250: The Historian Craft, Fall 2019

After World War II, as the nation saw an influx of young men returning home from the battlefields, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was tasked with figuring out how to help veterans readjust to civilian life, while upholding their pledge of providing higher education to everyone. A sentiment such as this, was developing at colleges all over the United States, but the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was a leading example of how institutions could go about providing care, in any form, to military persons in the post-war era. During the 1944-1945 school year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had approximately 125 veterans enrolled.[1] By the 1946 fall semester there was a total of 9,600 students, with 6,500 of them, enrolled as veterans.[2] With this large presence of veterans on campus the University dealt with the growing concern regarding the best way to go about helping the veterans succeed. In response, University officials and staff developed multiple programs aimed at educational success, as well as campus life benefits during the late 40s and early 50s. Not all of these programs would be a success, but the University of Nebraska-Lincoln acknowledged the need to aid veterans in their transition back to civilian life.

The sudden influx of World War II veterans on college campuses across the United States was largely due to the creation of the G.I. Bill. Following one of the nation's bloodiest wars, those service members who were lucky enough to be alive needed help to return to civilian life. The United States government recognized this hardship, and saw the opportunity to provide veterans with certain benefits as a reward for their service and sacrifice to the nation. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act or G.I. Bill did just that, and was passed on June 22nd, 1944 under the Roosevelt administration. The bill provided a host of benefits, but the one that would affect the student population increase at Universities such as the one in Lincoln, Nebraska was that veterans could return to college, and finish or start their degree(s) without cost. To qualify for the educational benefits, a soldier must have actively served in a branch of the military “for ninety days or more on or after September 19, 1940 and prior to the termination of the war” and have received an honorable discharge following his service.[3] A veteran, who had been honorably discharged due to an injury could also receive these same benefits, even if their service was less than ninety days. “Eligibility lasts until four years after discharge, or until the end of the war, whichever is later.”[4] There was also an age limit included in the G.I. Bill that was later removed, “a veteran who was over 25 years of age at the time of entering the service may now receive as much education as a man who was under 25 years of age at the time of entering service.”[5] For the World War II servicemen, the G.I. Bill provided them a chance to continue where they left off and prepare for the future. An opportunity such as this was also a way to help them readjust to civilian life. Veterans could pick any school or college and the primary cost of the institution was covered. In addition, “books, supplies, equipment, and other necessary expenses,” would be covered, “up to $500 in all for an individual for a school year.”[6] The $500 allotment was equivalent to $6,192 in the year 2010.[7] Receiving a full time education, also meant an allowance of $65 or $90 a month, depending on the number of dependents. Most importantly, however, the G.I. Bill was a way for veterans to have a post-war career path with minimum financial burdens.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln created many programs to help post-war veterans transition back to a life as a student and a civilian. The biggest problem the University would have to tackle was the need for more physical space after the introduction of the G.I. Bill caused an overwhelming number of undergraduates. J.P. Colbert, Chairman of the Consultation Board for Veterans and Ex-War Workers received many letters from service members asking not only about the application process, but where they could live in Lincoln. Colbert presented the problem directly saying, “The housing situation in Lincoln is extremely critical with no hope of immediate improvement. You should, therefore, come to Lincoln before the opening of school and attempt to find a suitable place to live”[8] even “suggest[ing] that you do not bring Mrs. Turnbull and your child with you unless you definitely have a place to stay.”[9] The situation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was so alarming that the University stopped its publicity campaign that advertised higher education to returning local Nebraskan veterans.[10] Something had to be done to address the housing situation, and fast.

Huskerville was the name of a new housing complex built for veterans and their families in the fall of 1946 as one of the programs initiated by the University to aid World War II soldiers. Huskerville was a way to account for the growing veteran population by solving their housing concerns. The “residential center” expanded the University’s reach, and was located eight miles northwest outside the city in the old army airfields (now the Lincoln Municipal Airport).[11] Huskerville was very large, almost four city blocks, including “65 barracks-style buildings with three to six housing units.”[12] The facility contained everything one would need, from a grocery store to a movie theater. Inside, it fostered a sense of community for former soldiers as they worked on their degrees, while living with their families. Huskerville, eventually, even had its own elected government hosting events for the residents. Unfortunately, in 1952 an outbreak of polio struck Huskerville leaving two people dead and 18 paralyzed. [13] A mechanical error was the likely culprit that caused the spread of the disease, “were the flush valve toilets in the area, many of which did not have the vacuum breaker safety device that is required by law.”[14] The University of Nebraska-Lincoln used the opportunity to study the effects of the disease and its origin within the community, but it would not be until 1955, just three years later, that the vaccine would be created by Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh. Soon after the polio outbreak, Huskerville was shut down and demolished. While the incident was purely an accident, the idea of separate housing for veterans soon became an afterthought.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln did, however, have other plans and programs to accommodate the new student veteran population that would become a success. The University changed or added elements in certain areas to ensure a seamless transition for ex-service members. Although there were no major curriculum changes, for post-secondary degree levels, refresher courses were implemented to provide the men with classes to reorient them with the subject they would eventually end up studying.[15] These subjects ranged from the arts, foreign language, and engineering. Classes received such an overwhelming amount of interest, that the engineering department had a shortage of drawing tables for the incoming crop of students. The University had to reach out to a local vendor in Omaha, Glenn L. Martin Company, to order a sufficient quantity of tables to meet the enrollment demand.[16] Since the influx of veterans boosted enrollment at colleges across the country, the Veterans Association, placed a hold on orders at the Glenn L. Martin Company. This was just one of many hardships incurred at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as it struggled to meet the needs of returning veterans.

Another effort to accommodate veterans at the University was the creation of a Consultation Board for Veterans that would assist the needs of former service members. The purpose of this organization was “advising and counseling service men and veterans with respect to their educational rights under the G.I. Bill” as well as help with forms and other important paperwork.[17] The board gave advice to ex-service men and women and ex-war workers regarding curriculum and classes, and provided deans and teachers a place to inquire about veteran students. The Consultation Board for Veterans was the predecessor to the Military & Veteran Success Center in existence today at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Overall, the University showed drive and creativity when it came to the programs it would introduce in order to assist this portion of its enrolled students. 

Post World War II veterans certainly made an impact on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln statistically, but their voices and opinions regarding campus life and overall experience, whether positive or negative, were also represented. Just because they were not the typical college student, did not mean they shied away from asserting their views or feelings on campus. In 1948, students and veterans banded together to express the need for more parking spots on campus, which led to the “No Parking Riot” and a demonstration of the impact veterans could have on University policy. For veterans living outside the grounds of the University it was especially hard to travel a long distance to campus and find there were no available parking spaces. Parking at that time was open to both students and the general public, with only two designated parking lots open for those enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.[18] The riot captured the attention of spectators at the state capitol building, as well as on 12th and R Street. Eventually, the police were called and were forced to use tear gas, to disperse the demonstrators who were chanting, “We Want Parking.” The University of Nebraska-Lincoln at a committee meeting days later acknowledged the problem and added 1,400 more parking stalls in lots and on campus streets for students of all kinds, including World War II service members.[19] This act meant a lot to veterans, because their voices, along with those of other students, were heard by University officials.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s service to veterans through programs and problem solving during altercations was not just a task they took on because they had to, but because the veterans trusted them. The University was looked up to and held in the highest regard by native Nebraskans in the military and those from across the country. If this trust should be broken, it would detract from the University’s reputation. The volume of documentation from World War II veterans themselves, speaks to their involvement and trust of this land grant institution. Returning World War II veterans had a clear understanding of what kind of path they wanted to continue on for their future. They had visions and ideas for their life separate from the fighting after the war ended. From hundreds of letters serviceman echoed that sentiment about planning a future for themselves. Anton Voboret states, “I would like to take up, Engineering or either Civil Aeronautics. I would like to take this under the G. I. Bill of Rights.”[20] He added, “I would like to ask if there's a chance of getting into an army reserves, where I could go to school, and still be called if needed.”[21] The letters came from all across the country, New York to Wyoming, in various forms, hotel and military stationery, postcards, and even tiny pieces of index paper. No matter their form, they all contained the same kind of message, how do I go about enrolling myself in this college. The men wanted to continue their education, some coming out and simply stating it, and understanding that it was now available to them through the G.I. Bill. Most referenced this law when writing to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, wondering how to go about completing forms and the necessary paperwork. Some letters expressed specific majors that the veterans intended on studying ranging from journalism to dentistry and physiology to radio work. Evan Van Zant expressed, “I have been admitted to the Graduate College at the University and plan to attend the summer session this summer. I am a veteran and would like to take advantage of the G.I. Bill.”[22] Men were even still stationed at their respective military posts, but they saw the war was coming to a close and it was time to prepare for the future. Re-enrolling in college, was their way of preparing for the future, and something that they owed not only to themselves, but to their fellow comrades who died in battle, who would never be able to continue their education.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln was not the only college in the United States that was pledging to serve the returning World War II veterans in their educational pursuits. Universities around the country were creating and developing programs to assist veterans in many different areas. At the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, veterans established a national GI College Fraternal Organization under the patented name Gamma Iota Alpha.[23] For membership, one must have received an honorable discharge from any branch of the service and it was open to both men and women. The organization pledged that it would be open to any veterans of any war “who are college graduates and it will continue after the last man finished his work under the GI Bill of Rights.”[24] Special lapel buttons and keys for watch chains were made to show membership in the fraternity, and there were chapters at a number of colleges across the nation.[25] Gamma Iota Alpha was advertised to veterans at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through the Daily Nebraskan on May 6th, 1945.

The rise in World War II veterans on campus due to the G.I. Bill caused the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to acknowledge this group's needs while upholding a standard for education. Across the United States, organizations and other colleges understood the importance of helping those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln programs and organizations were created, problems were addressed, and aspects of education were changed or added to adjust to the changing dynamic on campus following the second global war. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln ultimately showed it cared and supported its students and it was willing to go the extra mile. While not every plan would end up being a success, the effort was a way to reintroduce these ex-service members back to campus life. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln because of its dedication, played a major role in veterans’ return to civilian life.

Endnotes

  1. Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Joseph S. Trum, 7 July 1945, RG 28-11-01, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  2. Correspondence from G. W. Rosenlof to George T. Trial, 25 November 1946, RG 28-11-01, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  3. Dorothy Walter Baruch and Lee Edward Travis, You’re Out of the Service Now (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1946), (p.119-120).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Charles R. Tooker, 17 January 1946, RG 28-11-01, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States 
  6. Dorothy Walter Baruch and Lee Edward Travis, You’re Out of the Service Now (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1946), (p.119-120).
  7. Martorell, Paco, and Peter Bergman. In Understanding the Cost and Quality of Military-Related Education Benefit Programs. (RAND Corporation, 2013), https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt5vjwnk. (p.3-6).
  8. Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Stanley V. Thelander, 2 July 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States 
  9. Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Murray Turnbull, 16 May 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  10. Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to H.R. Turner, 9 February 1946,  29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  11. Noble, Robert Ray. 1948. ”Huskerville: A Sociological Analysis.” Digital Commons, https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/archivaltheses/1110/
  12. “‘Huskerville’ a world in itself,” The Scarlet. (Lincoln, NE.) December 9th, 2004. Retrieved from http://scarlet.unl.edu/scarlet/archive/2004/12/09/story6.html
  13. Typescript of University of Nebraska News Service, Dept. of Public Relations, (date unknown), 29/01/07/07, Box 23, Folder 1, Special Subject Files, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  14. "Polio from Drinking Water." The Science News-Letter 72, no. 1 (1957): 5. www.jstor.org/stable/3938722.
  15. Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Lieutenant Joseph S. Trum, 7 July 1945, RG 28-11-01, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States 
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. “Students Had Parking Riot At University 10 Years Ago,” The Daily Nebraskan. (Lincoln, NE.) May 23rd, 1958. Retrieved from https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn96080312/1958-05-23/ed-1/seq-5/#words=Parking+Riot+rioting
  19. Ibid.
  20. Correspondence from Anton Voboret to J.P. Colbert, 20 May 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  21. Ibid.
  22. Correspondence from Evan Van Zent to J.P. Colbert, 13 May 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States 
  23. “Veterans Establish National GI College Fraternal Organization,” The Daily Nebraskan. (Lincoln, NE.) May 6th, 1945. Retrieved from https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn96080312/1945-05-06/ed-1/seq-6/#words=Bill+GI
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid.

Bibliography

  • Correspondence from Anton Voboret to J.P. Colbert, 20 May 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  • Baruch, Dorothy Walter, and Lee Edward Travis. You’re Out of the Service Now. New York:Appleton-Century, 1946.
  • Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Charles R. Tooker, 17 January 1946, RG 28-11-01, Box 2,Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  • Correspondence from Evan Van Zent to J.P. Colbert, 13 May 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  • Correspondence from G. W. Rosenlof to George T. Trial, 25 November 1946, RG 28-11-01, Box 2, Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States 
  • “‘Huskerville’ a world in itself.” The Scarlet. (Lincoln, NE.) December 9th, 2004. Retrieved fromhttp://scarlet.unl.edu/scarlet/archive/2004/12/09/story6.html
  •  Photograph of Huskerville Residents, (date unknown), RG 42-12-02, Box 1, 421202-06356,University Photos, University Communications Records, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  •  Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Joseph S. Trum, 7 July 1945, RG 28-11-01, Box 2, Folder1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  •  Martorell, Paco, and Peter Bergman. In Understanding the Cost and Quality of Military-Related Education Benefit Programs. RAND Corporation, 2013. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt5vjwnk.
  •  Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Murray Turnbull, 16 May 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2, Folder1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States 
  •  Noble, Robert Ray. ”Huskerville: A Sociological Analysis.” Digital Commons, M.A. Thesis,University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1948. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/archivaltheses/1110/
  •  "Polio from Drinking Water." The Science News-Letter 72, no. 1 (1957): 5.
  • www.jstor.org/stable/3938722
  • Photograph of Population Chart of Huskerville, June and July of 1952, RG 42-12-02, Box 1, 421202-06358, University Photos, University Communications Records, Archives &Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  •  Correspondence from J.P. Colbert to Stanley V. Thelander, 2 July 1946, 29/06/06/07, Box 2,Folder 1, Business and Finance, Veterans Affairs, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States  
  • “Students Had Parking Riot At University 10 Years Ago.” The Daily Nebraskan. (Lincoln,NE.) May 23rd, 1958. Retrieved from Nebraska Newspapers
  • https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn96080312/1958-05-23/ed-1/seq5/#words=Parking+Riot+rioting 
  • Typescript of University of Nebraska News Service, Dept. of Public Relations, (date unknown),29/01/07/07, Box 23, Folder 1, Special Subject Files, Archives & Special Collections, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States
  •  “Veterans Establish National GI College Fraternal Organization.” The Daily Nebraskan.(Lincoln, NE.) May 6th, 1945. Retrieved from Nebraska Newspapers https://nebnewspapers.unl.edu/lccn/sn96080312/1945-05-06/ed-1/seq-6/#words=Bill+GI











 

Assistance Offered by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln to Returning World War II Student Veterans