80 Years Ago: The Men of St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Celebrating the jockstrap-clad WWII men of St. Mary's Pre-Flight training school, which began 80 years ago this month.
St. Mary’s College during WWII

June, 2022 marked 80 years since the start of the U.S. Navy pre-flight training program that took place at St. Mary’s College. Images of naked or jockstrap-clad cadets were taken during training at the school in Moraga, California when it was requisitioned for the war effort from 1942-1946. You can see more of these photos in our previous posts:

Men of St.Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Boys of Summer: St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. I

Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. II

Unfortunately, there is still some confusion when these pictures surface, as they are sometimes miscredited as Ivy League posture photos. For comparison, here are two of the different Yale posture photos:

The single profile pose was used from the late 1930’s until 1952. It was then replaced with a mirror/ triptych setup, which has “Yale” visible in the background.

Prior to World War II, there were other physical fitness photos taken at the army base in Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. These fully nude pics do not pop up on the internet as often as those from St. Mary’s Pre-flight school. As shown above, both sets of photos contain the location identified within the photo.

The St. Mary’s photos were taken to measure the fitness progression of each recruit as they underwent extreme physical training. Each picture was accompanied by an index card containing body measurements and physical achievement statistics over the course of several months.

This allows for some contrasting images that would be the envy of many fitness plans.

Only the earliest St. Mary’s photos – dated June 13, 1942 – feature the men completely nude. All subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps. In all of the photos, the men stand behind some sort of grid fencing to better illustrate misalignment and spinal curvature. The above comparative photos were dated June 13th & August 28th, 1942.

My collection of photos gathered from around the internet now includes close to 700 different cadets. The youngest identified died at age 20 and the oldest lived to 103 years old.

Whether the individual photos of these handsome young men capture them at the beginning of their lives or tragically close to the end, all of the subjects are timelessly captured in prime physical condition as they trained to serve their country. 80 years later, we salute and admire their fine forms and dedication.

Navy Memorial Bench plaque from the St. Mary’s campus.


The Yale Posture Photos: James Franciscus
Men of St.Mary’s Pre-Flight School
Boys of Summer: St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School
Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. I
Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. II

7 thoughts on “80 Years Ago: The Men of St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s