The New York Institute For Special Education

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· Serving Students with Special Needs since 1831 ·

#Throwback Thursday: World War II Blinded Veterans

3 soldiers looking a raised map of Europe

With the ending of World War II, the United States found itself with many veterans in need of rehabilitation. Thousands of soldiers were blinded by combat and even by the horrible conditions in prisoner of war camps. The government turned to schools for the blind for their expertise and experience.

Dr. Merle E. Frampton in uniform Our Principal Merle E. Frampton spent several years during the war as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. He served as an adviser to the Naval Bureau of Rehabilitation in Washington DC. After the war ended, he returned and developed an important program that evaluated and accessed almost 200 Naval and Marine veterans. The veterans were also introduced to adapted sports like basketball, bowling and modified baseball.

Woodworking, shoe repair, radio electronics and Braille are just some of the skills the school introduced to these proud veterans. Their residential placement at the school was for an evaluation period of 3 weeks to determine the extent of their needs; and to develop a plan for getting them the services they required to become independent citizens.

A 26-year-old ex-sergeant after completing training started a new career as a teacher at the school. Judson Morgan taught woodworking and shoe repairing to a class of students at the school for several years.

The United States Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve), better known under the acronym WAVES for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, was the World War II women's branch of the United States Naval Reserve. Dozens of WAVES were trained at the school and taught classes to the veterans helping them adjust to their blindness.

Two WAVEs inspect a braille dictionary

During the war, Frampton organized a “victory garden” at the school on the land that is now Frampton Hall to supplement the dietary needs of the students. The crops from victory gardens in the United States grew around one third of the vegetables available during the war. 

Plaque in the school lobby honoring the service the school gave to the WWII veterans
This plaque hangs in the lobby of Schermerhorn Hall.