1943 U.S. Navy V-5 and V-12 Programs on Campus
Beginning in July 1943, and for the next three years, the U.S. Navy's V-5 and V-12 programs brought more than 900 men to Swarthmore College. Most were on campus for a short time in programs that trained engineers, line officers, aviation candidates, and premedical and pretheological students. In their first year, sailors constituted 43 percent of the student body and outnumbered civilian men by almost two to one.
Among them were 49 Chinese naval officers who arrived on campus that fall for nine months of training, primarily to learn English. The officers came from all parts of China, and most had already seen active duty. They spent several months at Swarthmore before half departed for MIT to study shipbuilding and half left to study naval administration at the Naval Academy. The intent was for these officers to form the backbone of China's postwar navy.
In a December 1943, interview with The Phoenix, U.S. Navy Commander Henry T. Jarrell explained why Swarthmore was selected to host the officers:
"[A] number of institutions were thoroughly satisfactory as to basic qualifications - such as location near a navy yard and not too far from Washington; small enough size for individual attention; and the previous and contemporaneous presence of another Naval unit. The competition of the privilege of having the Chinese was quite keen, and in the end Swarthmore College was chosen because of its friendliness."
The Chinese officers participated in the 1944 Commencement ceremony, attended by Chinese Ambassador Wei and Admiral Liu of the Chinese Navy, and received certificates of English training completion.
The College also unveiled a new fountain and staircase given in honor of the Chinese officers next to Wharton Hall, which was known as the "good ship Wharton" when they lived there. In front of Wharton, a Chinese stone lion guards a copper plaque on the ground, where all 49 officers' names are engraved in Chinese calligraphy.