History of rotc introduction

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The years immediately preceding America's entry into World War I witnessed increased Army interest in collegiate military training.  The general Staff devoted considerable attention to it.  That body believed that America's institutions of higher learning were the source from which the United States should draw the bulk of its reserve officers.  But to obtain the desire qualitative results, the General Staff felt, the system of collegiate military training had to be standardized, which in turn necessitated centralized direction.  "Central control," it wrote in one report, "is needed to insure efficiency and standardization."  Imposing such uniform program of military instruction on the nations highly diversified system of higher education, is also realized, would be extremely difficult.

The Army Chief of Staff at the time, Ben. Leonard Wood, proposed some definite ideas about how to improve the existing system of military training at colleges and universities.  In addition to upgrading on-campus instruction, Wood wanted to introduce a system of summer camps t provide cadets with practical training and to require every lieutenant to perform a short tour of active duty upon commissioning.

In 1913, Wood tested his summer camp prototype when he sponsored two experimental student military instruction camps for high school and college students at Pacific Grove, Calif., and Gettysburg, Pa.  Except for tents, rifles and personal equipment, which were provided by the Army; student paid the entire bill.  The training lasted five weeks and included drill, marksmanship, squad patrolling, and other tactical subjects.  Two years later, with the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania as a backdrop, Wood opened an additional summer camp at Plattsburg, N.Y., for some 1,200 attendees, ages 20 to 40, with contributions from business and professional men.  Within weeks, national interest in Wood's camps escalated into the Plattsburg Movement.  Utilizing the Plattsburg model, Wood hosted two more camps that same summer; one attracting 3,000 participant and the other 16,000.  These camps prepared 90,000 officers for service in World War I and served as models for the ROTC summer training program that followed the war.

While Wood was busy pushing his program, repetitive from Ohio State University, led b President William O. Thompson and Dean Edward Orton, Jr., advanced a program of their own.  At the 1913 annual convention of Land-Grant colleges, Orton recommended legislation instituting minimum national standards fro collegiate military training and education.  AT the very least, he wanted each military science program to include two years of military drill, three periods per week of military instruction, strict discipline during drill periods, a week of field training each year, and instruction in small unit tactical operations.  Students completing this course of study would be commissioned into a reserve officer corps.  To ensure compliance with prescribed standards, the federal government should, in Orton's opinion, reserve the right to discount payments of Land-Grant funds to those schools failing to meet this criteria.

Repetitive from various civilian and Army education organizations met in Washington, D.C., in November 1915 and, using Orton's proposals as a guide, drafted a bill to create a Reserve Officers' Training Corps.  The full support of the academic associations made possible the eventual incorporation of the ROTC Bill into the National Defense Act of 1916, which was passed on June 3 of that year.  In addition to creating the ROTC, the act established an Organized Reserve Corps; an organization into which ROTC graduates and other reserve officers could be pooled during peacetime.

The first ROTC units appeared in the autumn of 1916 at 46 schools. They registered a combined enrollment of about 40,000.  These units were established too late, however, to permit them to exercise a significant impact on American involvement in World War I.  ROTC training, in fact, was suspended in 1918 in favor of the Student Army Training corps, a body formed to train enlisted men for special assignments - not to provide on-campus pre-commissioning training.


Shortly after the armistice, ROTC was reestablished at most of the institutions that had maintained pre-war units.  Congress attempted to reinvigorate the program when it passed the National Defense Act of 1920, which provided for more federal support of ROTC units in the form of uniforms, equipment, and instructors.  In the period between the wars, the ROTC grew steadily although not as much or as quickly as some government and Army officials would have liked, due to limited appropriations.  Starting with units at 135 institutions in 1919, the program encompassed 220 college and universities by 1940.  Production also increased.  By the time the United States entered World War II, the ROTC had produced over 100,000 officers and its graduates constituted about 80 percent of the organized Reserve Corps.

To get an ROTC until established on their campus during this period, college and university presidents had to petition he Army Adjutant General's Office.  In their petition, they had to pledge to offer a four-year course of instruction of military science, which included a basic course of three hours per week during a student's first two years and an advanced course of five hours per week during his final two undergraduate years.  If the petition was approved, the school was given the authority to require compulsory enrollment in the basic course and to determine the number of credit hours awarded for each military science course.  The army assigned active duty officers and enlisted men as instructors and paid their salaries.  Upon acceptance by school officials, the senior officer assumed the title Professor Military Science and Tactics (PMS&T) and the other officer the title of Assistant PMS&T.  Permission to enroll in the advanced course was granted only to those cadets who desired t pursue a commission.  They Army provided uniforms, equipment, and textbooks and paid advanced course cadets a small subsistence allowance to defray the costs of haircuts and uniform care.  Cadets also received a small stipend during their six-week summer camp between the junior and senior year.

The branch affiliation of each ROTC unit determined its curriculum and summer camp regimen.  Some institutions supported units of several types (infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineer, etc.).  Certain subjects, i.e., map reading, military history, military law, basic tactics, camp sanitation, drill, and marksmanship were part of every curriculum.  All military science instruction, both basic and advanced, was categorized as wither theoretical subjects; and marksmanship, drill and ceremony, and orienteering as practical ones.  The advanced course of instruction followed a military pattern.  The infantry had the largest enrollment and greatest number of ROTC units.  Approximately 40 percent of the ROTC officers produced between the wars were commissioned through Infantry units.

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