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4th Historical Marker Honors “Bluejackets”

Photo: The BluejacketsThey came by the trainloads, 600 at a time, from Navy basic training units across the country to the sleepy little college in the hills of East Kentucky. It was World War II and the Navy needed shipboard electricians for the fleet. The Navy brass had turned for help to Morehead State Teachers College, now Morehead State University.

For a period of four months, the young sailors lived in college dormitories, ate in the college cafeteria and had classes in a science building. Their classes were taught by Naval officers and by college professors. They marched on campus streets and the college football field, then idle because of a wartime shortage of male students. They wore their blue uniforms in public and became known affectionately as the “bluejackets”.

Some of them found romance at the college or in the community and returned after the war to marry their Kentucky sweethearts. Still others came back to the little campus to earn college degrees as part of the tidal wave of new college students studying under the G. I. Bill of Rights. And others became casualties of war and never returned to anyone or to anywhere.

From the late spring of 1942 to the late summer of 1944, Morehead was a Navy town and proud of it. As a
result of the presence of the U.S. Navy Training School (Electrical), what is now MSU was able to
survive the strains of wartime rationing and low enrollments.

The University paused during its Founders Day celebration in March 2001 to remember the young
sailors and the courage and patriotism of President William H. Vaughan and Dean Warren C. Lappin who had
convinced the Navy to come to the mountains.

MSU’s fourth institutional historical marker was unveiled in honor and memory of Drs. Vaughan and
Lappin and the more than 4,400 sailors who trained on the campus. The marker was erected in front of
Thompson Hall, one of two residence halls that housed the sailors.