Problems and Solutions
In its search for a training site in northeast Wisconsin, the Air Corps found much to like at Oshkosh. The first thing they liked about OSTC was that the college had experience with training future pilots. Since 1939, under the authorization of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, a pilot licensure course had been taught at the college with flight instruction taking place at the Winnebago County Airport. In addition to that, the college had some experience training Army and Navy Civilian pilots, a group of men rejected for regular combat service but trained to become utility pilots or flight instructors. OSTC also had a famous local talent to serve as the cadets’ first flight instructor while they took academic classes. Sylvester “Steve” Wittman, famous airplane racer, engineer, and the future namesake of Oshkosh’s airport, taught these men how to fly.
Despite its bona fide experienced instructors, OSTC had no dormitories or cafeterias. Numerous options were discussed and the most hopeful, the Hotel Raulf, a popular downtown Oshkosh hotel, was rejected due to army regulations prohibiting the quartering of military personnel with civilians. The army was on the verge of passing on Oshkosh, due to the lack of suitable housing. Then, President Polk decided to offer the Rose C. Swart Training School building as barracks for the detachment. The army sent Colonel J.B. Olson, a former student of Polk’s, to inspect the building and he declared the building was “excellent” for housing the cadets.
President Forrest Polk, a World War I veteran, negotiated the college’s contract with the Army. As the contractor, the college was responsible for instruction in academic subjects, cadets' physical fitness and the provision of medical care, food, and utilities. For their part, the government paid $26,552 for remodeling and new equipment, as well as a monthly check of approximately $22,055 for the room, board, medical care and instruction of the soldiers (who would never number over 400 at any given time). The contract was signed on March 23, 1943 and the first contingent of cadets arrived five days later.