While most young men were away serving in the military during World War II, activities on campus supported the war effort as well. Students organized blood drives for the Red Cross and served in the fire department’s telegraph bureau; but perhaps most glamorously, they ran an observation tower for the Aircraft Warning Service from a post atop Main Hall.
The Aircraft Warning Service was a function of the Army Air Force’s First Fighter Command, which provided air defense for the northeast coast of the US. Volunteer groups all along the coastlines helped with the effort. At Wagner, an all-female crew, supervised by Professor Ralph Deal, learned to identify more than 50 types of aircraft and kept a 24-hour watch over the skies, reporting all aircraft sighted to Information and Filter Centers.
“If a plane cannot be accounted for, an alarm goes off,” according to a College PR release of May 1943. “They are as much the guardians of our homeland as the guns and men who patrol the shores.”