UT had been involved in training civilians as pilots since 1939 under the airplane pilot training program of the Civil Aeronautical Authority’s training unit. Early in 1943 Dr. Fred Smith, dean of the university, received a call from the Manpower Commission, asking the university to take five hundred Air Force trainees and feed, house, and provide instruction (including flight training). The board of trustees agreed, and the number grew to twelve hundred. Six hundred cadets arrived in March 1943 with another six hundred soon to arrive, and UT agreed to train twelve hundred cadets every five months.
Residents of three women’s dormitories (Temple Court, Henson Hall, and Chamberlain House) and the male residents of Blount Hall received word that they must move before March 15. In addition, the Air Cadets (Sixty-Third College Training Detachment [Air Crew]) used East Stadium and Alumni Memorial Gymnasium, which served as large barracks. The required 10 hours of flight training was first conducted at McGhee Tyson Municipal Airport but soon moved to Island Home Airport, which cadets reached by pulling themselves across the river on a ferryboat. The Training Detachment, which remained until June 30, 1944, was among the largest in the nation, and became the “number one program.” The Air Force kept twelve hundred cadets on campus throughout the period, sending them through in the agreed-upon five-month cycles.