As World War II begins, rationing and blackouts go into effect on campus and in Berkeley; there is fear in the Bay Area of attacks by Japanese submarines and war planes. Several fraternity houses and International House are turned over to the Navy as barracks for V-12, a student officer training program. I-House is temporarily called Callaghan Hall, after Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan, who was killed in action in 1942 during World War II on the bridge of his flagship, the USS San Francisco, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.
By 1944, one in every four male students is part of the Navy training program. The Army uses Bowles Hall as officer training barracks.
Large numbers of students, faculty and staff withdraw from the university to enlist in the military. Other students continue with their studies until called by the draft. For the first time, women students form the majority of the undergraduate population. Many of them join war efforts, which include raising funds for war bonds and helping, in the absence of male farm workers, to harvest agricultural crops.
The U.S. government gives the university a contract to manage the secret Manhattan Project, a research effort to design and build the first atomic bombs. Many UC Berkeley faculty, staff and graduate students participate; much of the work takes place at new, UC-administered labs in New Mexico.
In 1942, a group of Berkeley students who enlist in the military are formed into a U.S. Naval Air Corps squadron called the “Flying Golden Bears” that is deployed to the Pacific and East Asia. One squadron member is William C. Rockwell, who had invented Oski the Bear as a campus mascot – live bears were used until 1941 – and was the first student to perform in the costume. Rockwell designs the squadron’s symbol, which is painted on the fuselages of the squadron’s planes – it’s of Oski flying over the clouds carrying a lightning bolt like a marching baton. Another squadron member is Barclay Simpson, who will go on to become a successful entrepreneur and a major philanthropist for the campus.