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Tufts and the U.S. Navy had a close and productive relationship from 1941 to 1972. This relationship began when President Leonard Carmichael fought for the establishment of a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program at Tufts.

Bugler and flagsNROTC students were placed in class V-1, USNR on inactive duty and took one course each semester in Naval Science and Tactics as the NROTC "department" was called. The NROTC was a vital program to Tufts prior to the war. With the start of World War II, life on the Tufts campus changed dramatically. Large numbers of male students left for military service, while some finished their remaining semesters before being commissioned for active duty.

Tufts' campus was largely transformed into a Naval Training Center, altering its dormitories, dining, and athletic facilities to accommodate the new students.

In the spring of 1943, the Navy Department announced a new nationwide officer training program. Tufts College was once again among the institutions selected. The School for War Service was established and facilitated the Navy College Training Program. The Tufts USNR class V-1, including the NROTC, were to be put on active duty and incorporated into the V-12 program on July 1, 1943.

V-12 students sent to Tufts from other universities and enlisted sailors from the Atlantic and Pacific fleets were also placed on active duty in the United States Navy on the Tufts campus. NROTC students were commissioned as ensigns in the USNR or 2nd Lieutenants in the USMCR (Marines), while V-12 students were commissioned after Midshipman's School or Flight Training. They were sent to active duty throughout the world after being commissioned.