It’s that time again… due to popular demand, it’s our fourth installment of WWII-era photos featuring the jockstrap-clad pre-flight training school cadets at St. Mary’s College in California. You can view the first one here. Part II was from last Christmas. Part III was the boys of summer. And now here we are with another look at these strapping young men – many away from home for the first time – photographed as they trained to go to war during the holidays.
I first became aware of these black and white 5″x7″ triptych photos through posts on the Vintage Workingmen Beefcake Facebook group. Listings also turn up on auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by the index card used to record the physical training progress of the cadet.
The earliest photos (from June 13, 1942) feature the men completely nude, but all subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fencing to better detect posture misalignment and spinal curvature.
There is still some confusion between these photos and the Yale / Ivy League posture pics, since the Navy photos were sometimes used to illustrate stories about the Yale pics. Note that all of these images contain a visible U.S. Navy / St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School placard, even if they have been cropped out in some posts. Similarly the Yale University photos are identified as such within the frame of the photos:
Fortunately for us, multiple photos of some cadets have surfaced, allowing for comparisons of their training progress:
And while there is a lack of ethnic diversity, there are a variety of body types.
My collection now includes close to 600 jpegs of different cadets. While some of these men did perish during WWII, the largest majority that I have researched lived to ripe old ages.
Any surviving cadets would now be close to 100 years old. I recently discovered one who passed away a few months ago at the age of 103.
One thing these young men have in common, as they were documented in timeless photos of their physical prime: they were far from home during the holidays, training to fight for their country.
At this time of year, nearly 80 years later, we again salute The Greatest Generation for their fine forms and dedication.