The Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) was established by the U.S Army in December 1942 to identify, train and educate academically-talented enlisted men as a specialized corp of Army officers during World War II. Eligibility was based on brains and previous education. Most trainees were about Bill’s age-between 18 and 21 years old and were required to score significantly higher on IQ tests than even Officer Candidate School qualifiers.
Had Bill been accepted into the program as promised by his recruiter he would have returned to his studies at UCLA and embarked on a program described as “more rigorous than those at West Point or the Naval Academy.” Designated “soldiers first, students second”, the ASTPers were under strict military discipline at all times; wore military regulation uniforms; stood all normal formations, such as reveille; were subject to Saturday morning inspections; marched to classes and meals; had lights out at 10:30 PM; and generally behaved as soldiers. The standard work week was 59 hours of supervised activity, including a minimum of 24 of classroom and lab work, 24 hours of required study, 5 hours of military instruction and 6 hours of physical instruction.
By Christmas 1943 some 140,000 men were on campuses across the nation. This proved to be the program’s high point. On February 18, 1944, the War Department unexpectedly announced that 110,000 ASTPers would be returned to line duty. Bill’s dream of returning to UCLA was dashed. Most of the ASTP student-soldiers were assigned to the infantry, thus providing critically needed ground forces for the impending invasion of Europe. These men were aptly described as “Scholars in Foxholes.”