Skip to main content

Armstrong’s Greatest Generation

In May of 1939, Armstrong Junior College coed Maree Helmken captured the sunny mood of springtime Savannah for a Life Magazinefeature on cool cotton dresses. Three months later, on September 1, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and Europe was at war.

Cover of Life Magazine from 1939

World War II affected both the curruculum and the enrollment at Armstrong. Flight instruction launched students into the skies over Savannah. Armstrong’s male students exchanged their Big A sweaters for leather flight jackets.

New courses appeared in the catalog:
navigation, map-reading, aerodynamics, military terminnology, nautical astronomy, and wartime French.

A new science building provided state-of-the-art equipment.

Chemistry lab of new science building, 1942

The great exodus of male students occurred in the spring of 1943. Enrollment plummeted.

Wings, 1940 Frederick Walter Reiser from the Geechee, 1941

The campus became almost totally female. The 1944-45 college Bulletin listed one hundred and forty-seven male alumni, twelve female alumnae, and eight faculty members serving in the armed forces. Eleven additional names appeared as missing in action.

The Geechee staff in 1944

At war’s end, the veterans returned. They brought their G.I. Bill pay checks and added a lively presence to the campus. They organized veterans’ clubs, published a salty news-sheet, thrilled the girls, and leaned hard against the social conventions and constraints expected by the administration.

Homecoming Dance, 1948Veteran's Club, 1948

In the fall of 1999, Armstrong Atlantic State University awarded special degrees to two students from the junior college days whose academic career had been interrupted by the war and who had never been able to complete their Armstrong program.

World War II reunion, 1999

Last updated: 6/10/2018