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A look back

A pick-up and a flatbed were all they needed.

Dean Petersen and his son-in-law drove to Beaumont, Texas determined to haul a Navy anchor back to Doane College.

“Driving through downtown Dallas at noon with the anchor, heads turned,” Petersen said. “I wished I had thought of putting up a sign that said ‘you should have seen our boat.’”

Doane was one of 131 universities and colleges in the United States selected to participate in the V-5 and V-12 program. This vital wartime program trained more than 60,000 Navy and Marine Corps officers during World War II.

Petersen, a Navy V-12 Doane alumnus and Board of Trustees member, was sent to Doane in 1944 after enlisting in the Navy straight out of high school. He convinced the Navy to donate the anchor.

The anchor was dedicated in 2002 as a part of the Navy Memorial Plaza located on Osterhout Lane.

A total of 787 men received training during seven terms conducted at Doane between July 1942 and October 1945.

Through the efforts of Sen. Hugh Butler, then chairman of Doane’s Board of Trustees, Doane was chosen as one of two sites in Nebraska.

Many of the trainees lived in Men’s Hall (now known as Smith Hall), with the remainder housed in the north half of Frees Hall, the women’s residence. Civilian student enrollment was down dramatically due to war, making housing space available for the trainees.

“It (V-5 and V-12 program) kind of saved Doane,” Petersen said. “There were only about 26 students because World War II was going on. If it hadn’t been for the Navy, (Doane) would have gone belly-up.”

Petersen lived on fourth floor Smith, but was one of the first men to be moved to Frees as more recruits came.

He was a part of the Navy band at Doane, waking up the campus each day by playing the bugle in front of Merrill Tower and sending everyone off to bed by playing taps.

The Navy program stressed a diverse curriculum at Doane, although a strong science and engineering program was established. Many trainees later completed their degrees in one of those two fields, Petersen studying chemistry.

“The instructors were always very helpful and really looked after us guys,” Petersen said. “Doane has always been very good to me. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Doane.”