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Army Air Corps

From "The Griffin", April 2, 1943, p.5


World War II drained the student population from colleges and universities across the country.  Selective Service enrollment had begun in 1940 in anticipation of United States involvement in the War in Europe.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941, draft calls began and increased steadily over time as enrollment in the reserves rose in 1941 and 1942. In May 1943, 79 men from Canisius reported for duty at Fort Niagara and Camp Upton, New York, the largest number of Canisius College inductees up to that time. [1]

By the last years of the war, a skeleton staff of faculty and administrators was serving a very small student body.  Offsetting this financial drain, Canisius received federal funding for an Army air cadet training program and later for a nurse training program. Both contracts enabled the college to stay open during these lean years.

In 1939, a federal law was passed allowing the War Department to send servicemen to colleges and universities for academic and flight training. [2]  For this purpose,  Canisius College was inspected in January 1943 by the Army Air Force 24.  In March 1943 Canisius joined 56 other schools across the nation participating in the Army Air Cadet Training Program.  Canisius provided general education courses and housing for this five month program. The Army designation for this training program at Canisius was the 22nd College Training Detachment.



The Canisius Contribution

The cadets came from all over the United States to Canisius. The first 200 arrived March 1, 1943 (PDF) and April 1st of the same year another 150 cadets arrived to begin their training.[4]  The first four months of cadet training consisted of academic classes (PDF) which included the required courses of English, Geography, Mathematics, History, Physics, Medical Aid and Physical Training. The fifth month of training was conducted at the Clarence Airfield where cadets were taught to fly small aircraft under the supervision of the Civil Aeronautics Association. [5]



Canisius professors taught extra classes to prepare the airmen for graduation, as well as assist civilian students in completing their education in three years, as a three year degree program was instituted to aid students in completion of their college education prior to reaching draft age. Professors worked double hours, with no time off and no transition as each new class of cadets came in on the heels of the previous class.  In addition to the teaching schedule the professors also proctored study hours for the Cadets.




Command of the 22nd College Detachment

The commanding officer of the 22nd College Training Detachment was 1st Lieutenant James J. Foran.


He had a staff of three officers: the Adjutant, 1st Lieutenant William Christopher; the Plans and Training Officer, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Christoff; and the Tactical and Supply Officer, 2nd Lieutenant Murray Asch.



Along with a three-man military staff, a civilian physician, Dr. Kerin Lyons, was hired by the Army to serve as the 22nd College Detachment’s surgeon.  Dr. Lyons’ military medical staff consisted of Sergeant Ezio Agresta, Corporal Arthur Herman and Private 1st Class Frank Davidson, seen in the photograph below, along with the rest of First Lieutenant Foran's staff.


There were three chaplains, one military and two civilians that served the 22nd Detachment.



Catholic Chaplain


Fr. Fay was also a professor of History at Canisius College. He was known as “Father Duffy” of the 22nd, according to Lt. Col. Samuel L. Biank, Jr., a past Military Science professor at Canisius, in his “History of Military Training at Canisius College”. [3]




Protestant Chaplain


"Dr. Reiner made a hit with everybody the first Sunday he appeared at the Consistory.  He is well liked by all because of the friendly manner in which he conveys to us the principles that we are fighting for."{"Chandelle" caption}





Coordinating Chaplain of the New York and New England Area, Army Air Forces Eastern Flying Training Command.{ Chandelle" caption}





Cadet Life

The cadets were housed in what was then known as the Masonic Consistory (PDF) which was leased by Canisius College from the Buffalo City Council. This building, now Canisius High School, is located on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, N.Y.  A popular venue for many of Buffalo’s social events prior to 1943, the Consistory’s large main ballroom was converted into barracks for the Cadets.  According to the March, 1943 issue of The Griffin student newspaper, the two large glass chandeliers hanging in the barracks were all that remained of the Consistory’s former elegance after the transformation.


Taken from the Army Air Corps 22nd Detachment's magazine, "Chandelle" Winter 1944 issue


On any given weekday the Canisius students were regaled with the sounds of the Air Cadets’ singing as they marched to the Consistory some 6-7 blocks away, to their class or Drill at the Canisius College Campus and back at night. [6]  The football field behind Old Main served as the drill field and obstacle course for the Cadets. 



Daily life for a cadet consisted of classes and study hall Monday through Friday, drill and and inspection on Saturday and Saturday night and Sunday were left for relaxation. As the Cadets came to Buffalo from all over the country, a home cooked meal was a rarity.  Many Buffalo families invited the cadets into their homes for dinner. Other forms of entertainment were sightseeing, going to the theatre, or getting together after class with friends in a local bar or restaurant.[7]


From The Army Air Corps magazine, "Chandelle" Winter 1944 issue


Although the Cadets were a class unto themselves given their military affiliation, in the short time they were at Canisius they involved themselves in college life as much as their rigorous schedule allowed.  In April 1943, the Cadets initiated their own column,“On The Beam," (PDF) in the school newspaper, The Griffin. This column was a compilation of mostly humorous news of the Cadets as well as engagements and marriages.  They also found time to form a basketball (PDF) and a baseball team, competing against other military units in the area.


Marching songs were not the only ones sung by the Air Cadets, as they also formed a Cadet Choir. Photo from "The Griffin", April 16, 1943, pg. 5


As each cadet class graduated, a Graduation Ball would be held in the Consistory. The May 14, 1943 issue of The Griffin states that “the Consistory once again acquired its pre-war color as Buffalo’s showplace, the occasion being the graduation of the first class to pre-flight school.” [8]


From Army Air Corps magazine, "Chandelle" Winter 1944 issue


The Air Cadet Training Program was terminated in May 1944 as the War Department realized that fewer pilots would be needed in the coming months.  In an interview in 1991 with Rev. James M. Demske, S.J., Rev. J. Clayton Murray, S.J., a philosophy professor at the time of the war, stated that the closing of the 22nd Detachment "…caused quite a bit of turmoil among our cadets as they had hoped to go on to become pilots."  Dr. Charles Brady, former professor of English at Canisius, states in his history, “Canisius College: the First 100 Years”,  “These would-be pilots were diverted to Infantry boot camp.”

Although shortlived, this program changed the face of Canisius for a time and helped keep Canisius' doors open during this difficult time. The Army Air Corps Cadet training program trained approximately 1000 men in the 15 months prior to its abrupt end. The final Graduation ceremony for the Air Cadets occurred in May, 1944.


[1] From the WW II files of Rev. J. Clayton Murray, S.J., held in the Canisius College Archives

[2] Lt. Col. Samuel L. Biank, "A History of Military Training at Canisius College."  Held at Canisius College Archives, Buffalo, N.Y., 1982.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Rev. Clayton, S.J. Murray, publisher of "A Historical Retrospective of the last 125 Years of Canisius College: a document which combines and updates Vols. I, II,and III of Datelines."

[5] Biank, “A History of Military Training at Canisius College," 1982.

[6] Charles Brady, "Canisius College: the First Hundred Years" (Canisius College: Buffalo, New York), 1969.

[7] Biank,“A History of Military Training at Canisius College," 1982.

[8] “The Griffin” student newspaper, column titled “On the Beam”, May 14, 1943. Canisius College.