Aggies at Arms: Impacts of World War I and World War II

Old Main decorated with flags for the 145th Field Artillery return, January, 16, 1919
Old Main decorated with the flags of the Allied nations, January 16, 1919



President E.G. Peterson and his young family had hardly moved into the President’s Home when the U.S. became embroiled in WWI.  As part of its land-grant mission, USU maintains a long tradition of military training, beginning in 1892 with the arrival of Lt. Henry D. Styer. At President Peterson’s request in 1916, the War Department commissioned the college’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). The military tradition became more significant as the college provided essential military education during WWI. Over 600 American “doughboys,” received mechanical training and more than 1,000 students served during the Great War. 


With the influx of soldiers and trainees, the campus struggled to provide adequate housing. Congress authorized construction of temporary, wooden barracks, but Peterson convinced the governor and legislature to allocate additional funds to build them from brick. Peterson’s foresight resulted in a near doubling of the physical campus by 1920.  


Quonset Hut housing under construction, 1946
Quonset Hut Housing under construction, 1946

Military Science Building (1940-)

In 1940, with the Second World War on the horizon, the college added a Military Science wing to the Field House. The building continues to house both the Army and Air Force ROTC units on campus.

Temporary buildings (1942-1952)

Unlike WWI, few brick and mortar buildings appeared during WWII. Although less permanent, WWII was no less transformative. The college accommodated soldiers and military trainees by moving Quonset-style buildings from the abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp up Cub River Canyon near Franklin, Idaho. More than 2,000 trainees received instruction in a variety of programs, including aviation and radio. The Navy Radio School involved the new technology of radar, which required the government to prohibit photography on campus during WWII.