Presbyterian College had always had an acclaimed ROTC department. In addition, in 1939, PC began training pilots for the Civil Aeronautics Authority. Ground school instruction was given at the college, while flight instruction was offered at the Laurens County Airport.
When the U.S. entered World War II, PC already had over 500 graduates serving as officers in the armed forces. In 1942, the Board of Trustees decided to further support the war effort by implementing a new accelerated program. Under this new curriculum, which limited vacations and included Saturday classes, students could receive a degree in three years rather than the usual four. Exceptional high school juniors were also to be accepted, with the expectation that they would receive their college education before they were drafted at age 18. In addition, the college set up a pilot’s training school, which was to train over 1600 future pilots, navigators, and bombardiers.
According to PC’s president, William P. Jacobs II, “This plan gives the student the advantage of a complete or almost complete higher education under Christian influences prior to induction into the Army. Much of this basic training will have been completed as a student rather than as a soldier – a distinct advantage in the development of vision, depth, personality, morality and spirituality as well as the development of the mind and physique. Earlier maturity seems necessary and inevitable in this emergency. The college will give as much Military as the War Department wishes. Graduates of Presbyterian College will have the advantage of basic training to enable them to advance rapidly in Officers’ Training School.”
By the time the war was over, more than 1500 PC graduates had served their country, with 65 of them having lost their lives.