World War I lacks trained pilots, so a U.S. School of Military Aeronautics opens in 1917 on campus – one of only a handful nationwide. For an eight-week curriculum, the government provides military instructors, uniforms and a tuition fee of $40 for the first four weeks and $5 per week afterward. Students learn theory of flight, meteorology, principles of radio, aerial photography and tactics. Flight training is done at off-campus sites. Berkeley’s peak enrollment is 1,500, and it graduates some 2,000 pilots before the program’s closure during the 1919-1920 academic year.
In 1920, a similar program, the Air Service ROTC, is introduced on campus. By 1926, aircraft engines, machine guns and even a mounted aircraft can be found on campus. But in 1932, during the Great Depression, the program ends for budgetary and other reasons.