“I'm here. The 'Sunnyside' finally arrived at Cape Girardeau about one hour late at 1:45 PM after a nice sight seeing trip from St. Louis....
"Those 484 miles from Augusta to St. Louis were comparatively uneventful, but our 131 miles from St. Louis to Cape along the Mississippi were interesting ones. If you think the farmers around home had lots of water you should see what those along the Mississippi Southern Mo. had. However the conductor said ‘Taint no water a 'tall compared to what it has been.’…
"Rowboats were everywhere-- we saw one fellow with an unusual contraption- a chair on his raft. We also observed several places where the river had taken the levee out. At one such we saw a flooded farmhouse and on the levee that remained machinery of all descriptions -- side delivery rake combine, corn binder, etc. for a half mile."
-- Letter from my father, Sidney DeVere Brown, Cape Girardeau, Mo., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Wednesday, June 30, 1943.
This is my father's first letter from the Navy. He was in the V-12 program at Southeast Missouri State Teachers College in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This program sent sailors to 131 undergraduate institutions across the United States to prepare them to be naval officers in the war. The Navy announced its V-12 program on December 12, 1942, and began it on July 1, 1943. So my father was part of the first group to enter the program. Among well-known alumni of the program were Johnny Carson, Robert F. Kennedy, Jack Lemmon, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Pierre Salinger.
In his memoir, my father said the following about the program: “At Southeast Missouri State we formed a V-12 Unit. But what was V-12? Its members were college students in Navy seamen’s uniforms. We took regular college courses with civilian students plus a few Navy-specific classes. Ours appeared to be a holding operation until places opened in the four USNR midshipmen’s schools at Columbia, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Cornell Universities, where we would take professional courses preparatory to our commissioning as deck officers. We were protected from the draft and the infantry until the Naval officers’ schools were ready for us. Another theory (Paul Glad’s, as mentioned earlier) was that the program prevented talented people from suffering the high casualty rates that wiped out the Oxford University Class of 1915, who died almost to the last man in the deadly trench warfare along the Somme River. Prime Minister Winston Churchill vowed that the English would not throw away the lives of their natural leaders again in World War II. V-12 had a similar function in the United States.” (Sources: V. R.Cardozier, Colleges and Universities in World War II [Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1993], 51-82; Brown, Kansas Farmboy, 213-14; Turner Publishing, Navy V-12 [Paducah, Ky.: Turner Publishing, 1996], 62.)