History of rotc introduction

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The year 1948 marked a watershed in the history of collegiate military education.  During that year, several developments took place that foreshadowed ROTC's transformation from an institution whose primary purpose was t turn out reserve officers to one charged with producing the majority of active duty and career officers as well.  The buildup of Cold War tensions caused Congress to pass the Selective Service Act in 1948, which encouraged tens of thousands of students to enroll in ROTC to enable them to fulfill their military obligation by serving as officers.  They year of 1948 also witnessed congressional approval of the Distinguished Military Graduate Program, which awarded a limited number of regular Army commissions each year to the most highly qualified ROTC graduates.  In that same year, a committee headed by the Assistant Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray, concluded a study which explored the future role of the Army Reserve in the nation's defense.  The Gray Committee recommended that the ROTC be renamed the "Army Officer Training Corps" and become the primary source of officers for the Army.

These developments reflected the growing feeling that the ROTC was, given prevailing conditions, the best available means of producing enough offices of the right type to lead America's Cold War Army.  The need for a college-educated leader capable of understanding and employing increasingly sophisticated military technology, the predilection for an officer corps reared in the citizen-solder tradition and the pressure to keep the costs of officer production as low as possible all played a part in creating this sentiment.


ROTC enrollment was given a boost by the outbreak of the Korean War in June of 1950.  Due to the U.S. government's decision to declare partial rather than full mobilization, the Army decided to rely on the ROTC, not OCS, to meet the needs o the emergency.  The program immediately became more popular among college students because of the deferment if offered from the draft.  University officials, fearing that enrollment at their institutions would be decimated by conscription, flooded the Army with applications for new units which gave additional impetus to ROTC expansion.

The creation of the Army Advisory panel on ROTC Affairs in 192 was another important milestone in the evolution of collegiate military education.  Consisting of 12 civilian and six military educators, the panel provided a forum for the exchange of views between department of the Army and academic community.  Upon its formation, the panel took up the task of articulating the program of "general military education" called for by the Service Academy Board in 1949.  When the aid of education specialists, it drafted a curriculum outline which it labeled the General Military Science Program, for the purpose of establishing a common body of military knowledge that all prospective officers, regardless of future specialty, had to master before being commissioned.  This so-called branch immaterial instruction emphasized (at the suggestion of the Chief of Army Field Forces, Gen. Mark W. Clark) small unit operations and consisted of 480 hours of on-campus instruction - 180 for the basic course and 300 for the advanced course.  In the basic course cadets received an introduction to the Army and learned the fundamentals of drill and staff procedures, while in the advanced course they learned how to apply more advanced tactical techniques.  During summer camp, cadets practiced individual military skills and received tactical training.

In the last year of the Korean War (1950-1953), the General Military Science Program was introduced on an experimental basis.  The following year, it was offered as an alternative throughout the entire ROTC community.  By 1960, over 80 percent of ROTC host institutions had adopted it.  The adoption of the new curriculum allowed the Army to begin the gradual phasing out of branch specific summer training.

The revised curriculum, however, soon drew complaints from civilian educators.  ROTC, these critics charged, now took up too much of a student's time.  During the inter-war years, ROTC had not been such a time-consuming proposition.  Military courses carried no academic credit at many colleges and, because cadets were only getting reserve commissions, military instruction often had little immediacy or urgency about it.  The new time demands were closely bound up with the post-war transition of ROTC form an institution intended only to fill the ranks of the Organized Reserve Corps to one charged with producing the bulk of active duty officers.  The new instructional and training regimen also had the effect of attraction more scrutiny to ROTC instruction, which many academic officials felt fell below college standards.  Some suggested that a large portion of ROTC course work should be accomplished during the summer training.  Such a shift in venue, they argued, would allow the cadet more time to study and at the same time receive more concentrated and effective military training.

Two members of the Army Advisory Panel in particular, Professors Lyons and Masland, emphasized the need for further curriculum reform.  Part of the answer, they insisted, was to substitute courses offered by regular academic departments for military science courses whenever possible.  Courses in management and communications, they pointed out, could be more effectively and conveniently taught by civilian academicians than by military officers who often did not have an appropriate academic background and who would be on campus for at most three year.  Moreover, the policy of "academic substitution" would allow the civilian faculty to participate in the education of prospective officers - something the two panel members believed would act to liberalize cadets.  Like many other, Lyons and Masland urged that the bulk of ROTC military training be conducted at summer camp.  They held up the Marine Corps' Platoon Leader's Course, where all training was accomplished in the summer, as an example for the Army to emulate.

The adoption of the Modified General Military Science Program only partially mollified ROTC's critics on campus.  The old complaints about the program's narrowness and supposed incompatibility with the pursuit of a baccalaureate degree continued unabated.  In fact, it was while the new curriculum was being introduced that the movement to abolish compulsory ROTC at Land-Grant institutions gathered steam.

With the inevitable drawdown at he end of the Korean War, the Army found itself with a surplus of ROTC officers awaiting active duty.  The Reserve Forces Act of 1955 represented an attempt to address this problem.  It stipulated that Army ROTC graduates could be given a six-month active duty tour before being placed in one of the reserve components.  Using this piece of legislation, the Army was able to gradually reduce its glut of junior officers and at he same time give most ROTC graduates a test of active duty.

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