Book highlights College’s aviation training history

by rcnewsblog on July 1, 2014

Aviation coverTwo Salem natives have combined forces to create a historical timeline of aviation in the Roanoke Valley and at Roanoke College.

Roanoke alumnus, Marshall Harris ’71, and colleague Nelson Harris, former mayor of Roanoke, recently published “Aviation in Roanoke,” a book with dated photographs of the evolution of aviation in the Roanoke Valley.

The book also tells the story of the students and faculty at Roanoke who left for war and trained on campus for the military.

“Aviation in Roanoke” begins with early photos of aviation and corresponding stories. The book also highlights construction of an airport that first was Woodrum Field, and eventually became the Roanoke Regional Airport. It also details pilot training and the airport’s growth.

Beginning on page 47, Roanoke College students and faculty are highlighted for their influence on educating and instructing future aviators.

In 1918, the College established a Student Army Training Corps unit on campus to train students and faculty for the military, as a response to those who were called to serve in World War I and II.

Later, the College upgraded its military training by starting the Civilian Pilot Training Program to train pilots for the Army or Navy during World War II.

Aviator courses were first offered at the College in 1939. The program became full time in 1942, and students began to train as naval aviation cadets in a full-time War Training Service taught on campus.

Many of the first trained pilots in the area came from Roanoke’s campus.

CollegianThere is a photograph of the the College’s 1944 Navy cadet class posing in front of the administration building on page 50 of the book. The following page highlights the cover of a Roanoke Collegian magazine from this time, showing cadets practicing in front of Alumni Gym.

The Civilian Pilot Training program was among six other active military groups on campus. The cadets were trained to navigate takeoffs and landings on naval aircraft carriers.

Corresponding pictures of aviation cadets and training at the College can be found between pages 47 and 52 of the book.

More than 1,000 Roanoke men and women served in some facet of the military by the end of World War II.

Read “Aviation in Roanoke” for more details. The book is sold at Barnes & Noble, the Salem Museum & Historical Society and on Amazon.

-By Allison Shannon ’15

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