The Army Specialized Training Program (“ASTP”) was established by the United States Army in December 1942 to identify, train and educate academically-talented enlisted men as a specialized corp of Army officers during World War II. Utilizing major colleges and universities across the country, the Army provided a four-year college education combined with specialized Army technical training over a period of one and one-half years to those enlisted men who were accepted into the program.
The men of the ASTP were distinguished by the octagon shoulder patch insignia of the program which was worn on their uniforms (shown below). It depicts the lamp of knowledge crossed with the sword of valor — an allusion to both the mental and physical capabilities of these specialized officers-in-training.ASTP soldiers were to serve as Army officers in both the successful prosecution of the war and the restoration of civilian governments in Nazi-occupied Europe after the war’s end. But due to the impending invasion of Normandy and the need for additional manpower in its ground forces in Europe, the Army disbanded the program in early 1944. Most of the ASTP soldiers were then assigned to the infantry, where they fought in the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation.
The motto “Soldiers first, students second”, which was upon request by Col. Herman Beukema a well respected professor of history and government at West Point, who moved to the Pentagon to run the program.
All men taking part in the ASTP underwent the same military discipline, wore the same uniforms, took part in daily inspections and marches.
The program never fulfilled its promise, and the large number of “ASTPers” were rapidly integrated into various divisions to make up for personnel shortages in front line units during 1944. This quick infusion of personnel into the 99th Division occurred in March 1944, when more than 3000 joined the division.
The sudden infusion of new men caused some friction with the old hands in the short term, but the long-term effects were generally positive. Many of the 99th Division’s best soldiers were products of the ill-fated ASTP program.
Source: astpww2.org and Wikipedia