WWII would be the dominating force on campus in the 1940s. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on May 7, 1942, an all-university assembly was held in Memorial Auditorium. President Ray Lyman Wilbur spoke, stressing the value of education to the war effort and ending with a plea for tolerance toward fellow Japanese-American students. Stanford’s Civilian Defense Committee quickly organized and held its first campus drill on May 10.

On May 23, 1942, Executive Order 9066, calling for the internment of all Japanese and American citizens of Japanese descent, took effect. Japanese students who remained on campus were sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center.

The war effort transformed campus life. Math and engineering classes were overcrowded, language and current affairs classes were popular, and engagement and wedding announcements appeared daily. The Army Special Training Program (ASTP) and Women’s Army Corps (WAC) took over campus. By the fall of 1943, more than 3,000 student-soldiers were on the Farm, filling dormitories and fraternity houses.

Just as during WWI, women moved into positions of student leadership. A change in the ASSU constitution was required to allow vice president Janet McClanahan (’44) to assume the presidency. Women also took over reporting for and editing the Daily. At a time when women students were the majority of the student population, the trustees voted in 1944 to discontinue sororities. Excessive competition between sorority women and “hall” women led to serious disunity and university administrators felt they could better supervise and counsel women in the halls.

As the war wound down, Stanford faced the challenge of accommodating returning students. In the winter quarter of 1946, more 4,500 students enrolled, 1,400 of which were on the GI Bill. The university continued to make accommodations, but student housing was an immediate and critical issue. The first four houses of Stern Hall opened at the end of the decade as a men’s dormitory.

Men and women of the Army Specialized Training Program, circa 1944

The Army Specialized Training Program was a federal program designed to use university facilities in order to train specialists for the military in engineering, medicine, language, and other technical skills. Thousands of soldiers trained on the Farm between 1943 and March, 1944, when the program ended.

Civilian Defense School photograph

Sequoia Hall was used by the War Department to house attendees of its Civilian Defense Training School, 1942-1943. Courses trained civilians on methods for working with incendiaries, protection against explosive bombs, and simulated mustard gas attacks.

Signed copy of Japanese Student Association photograph for Ray Lyman Wilbur, May 6, 1942

Following Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, students of Japanese ancestry departed campus to report to “assembly centers” before being sent on to “relocation centers.”

"Japanese Students to Leave Tomorrow,” May 25, 1942 Stanford Daily

Some of the Japanese students, mostly seniors, held out as late as possible to earn their diplomas before reporting to the Santa Anita assembly center.

Proposed Curriculum Procedures for Japanese Relocation Centers, 1942

Reports and studies prepared for the War Relocation Authority by the summer session students of Education 299b, Paul R. Hanna, professor and project director; partially based on their visit to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California.