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Officers' Reserve Corps


OFFICERS' RESERVE CORPS. Formed in June 1916 by the National Defense Act, the Officers' Reserve Corps (ORC) was originally intended to supply the U.S. armed forces with civilian volunteers who were educated in military leadership and tactics. In 1920, a second National Defense Act created the Organized Reserves, which consisted of both the ORC and an Enlisted Reserve Corps. Early in 1948, the Organized Reserves became the Organized Reserve Corps, which in 1952 became the Army Reserve. Originally, members of the Officers' Reserve Corps served on virtually a voluntary basis, being paid only for the time they served in active duty—two weeks every two to three years. This ended in 1948, when Congress voted to provide ORC members with training pay and retirement benefits with the passage of Public Laws 460 and 810. That same year, women by law were allowed to make up no more than 2 percent of the officer corps.

During the interwar period, the corps saw its membership grow rapidly, reaching 66,000 members in 1921, and 110,000 in 1929. Membership peaked at 191,698 during World War II. Of this number, some 95,000 had graduated from Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) programs at several hundred colleges and universities. In the 1960s, increased opposition to the Vietnam War in particular and the American military establishment in general led to a decline in both ROTC enrollment and ORC trainees. As membership declined in the 1960s, the ceiling on women officers was removed by acts of Congress in 1967, and higher numbers of African Americans began to enroll in ROTC programs as well. Consequently, both the ROTC and ORC enrollment stabilized beginning in the 1970s.


Neiberg, Michael S. Making Citizen-Soldiers: ROTC and the Ideology of American Military Service. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Weigley, Russell Frank. History of the United States Army. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.


See alsoNational Guard ; Reserve Officers' Training Corps ; Women in Military Service .

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