Reserve Officers' Training Corps

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RESERVE OFFICERS' TRAINING CORPS (ROTC). The Morrill Act of 1862 required land grant colleges to provide military training for male students. As World War I raged in Europe, the National Defense Act of 1916 provided for the establishment of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). Fully trained graduates received commissions in an Officers' Reserve Corps that would become available for active duty in a major war.

Between World War I and World War II, the army gave even stronger support than before to military training on college campuses. The navy began similar training in 1925. Some opposition to college military training arose, but it had no real effect on reserve officer production.

After 1945 the air force joined the army and navy in reviving campus military training. During the Cold War the substantial and seemingly permanent enlargement of the American military establishment changed the primary objective of college military training from reserve to active duty service. Then, from 1961 through the decade of conflict in Southeast Asia, the armed forces called almost all college military graduates to active duty, and only the cessation of American ground action promised a partial return to the reserve concept.

The unpopularity of the prolonged Vietnam War led to widespread and sometimes violent opposition to military training on civilian campuses. Even before the truce of January 1973, enrollments had dropped by two-thirds, but more schools than ever, about 375, had military units. All three services had adopted the navy's method of providing scholarships and other inducements designed to assure a steady supply of college graduates for active duty despite reduced enrollments.


Franke, Volker. Preparing for Peace: Military Identity, Value Orientations, and Professional Military Education. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1999.

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

StetsonConn/a. e.

See alsoArmy, United States ; Kent State Protest ; Morrill Act ; Navy, United States .