ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Five: The Modern Era, 1971-2016

Though it might not have seemed like it at the time, there were certain things to be thankful for during the winter of 1970. Storrs had seen its fair share of turmoil, to be sure, but the events of the late 1960s had not forced a closing of the university at any time. Even the fire of December 1970 failed to have the desired effect; although Colonel Richard DeKay admitted to the Connecticut Daily Campus that the incident was “a bit of an inconvenience,” military science classes continued as scheduled and repairs to the affected offices began the day after the fire. “I’ve been trying to get this placed remodeled,” DeKay joked as he sifted through the charred remains of his office. “I guess now it’ll be easier.”

Although things began to settle down during the 1970-71 school year, the continuous confrontations over Vietnam and other social issues raised by university groups during the late 1960s seemed to have taken their toll on UConn’s president. In October of 1971, Homer Babbidge tendered his resignation, stating that it was his time to pass “the baton of leadership” to someone else and denying that his leaving had anything to do with recent events. Whether or not that was true is difficult to ascertain; what is clear, however, is that regardless of the criticism he had faced from campus radicals during the late 1960s, Babbidge has retained his popularity with a majority of the student population. A petition asking him to reconsider his resignation garnered over 7,000 signatures, but to no effect, and Glenn Ferguson was appointed as the new president of UConn in May of 1973.

As always, changes to the university during this time were mirrored by changes to its Cadet units. This time, it wasn’t the introduction of a new branch, but a new gender that would forever change the face of ROTC. Until the late 1960s, female involvement in ROTC was primarily through auxiliary programs meant to support and encourage interest in Cadet training. One such program known as “Angel Flight” was active at UConn beginning in 1956. While those involved referred to one another using military ranks (the head of the chapter was known as a flight leader) and had some semblance of a uniform, they were not officially affiliated with the military. They served as hostesses at Air Force ROTC events, helped Cadets type term papers, and sponsored events like the annual military ball. While the organization still exists nationally today (now co-ed and known as Silver Wings), the UConn chapter appears to have died out sometime in the 1970s.

By 1969, however, certain administrative and legislative changes within the military meant that a number of jobs had been opened to females, and the demand for female officers increased significantly. Both nationally and at UConn, the Air Force took the lead in incorporating women into ROTC on a trial basis, and women were admitted to AFROTC units at several universities during the 1969-70 school year. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that the original plan of gradual integration was abandoned, and dozens of programs were opened to women by the fall of 1970.

It was about this time that UConn AFROTC had its first participating female Cadets, and in May of 1973 Ann Orlitzki became the first female Second Lieutenant commissioned through UConn ROTC. She would be followed the next year by Martha Bower and Mallory Gilbert, who also received commissions as Air Force officers. Army ROTC followed close behind; by 1972, at least one woman was participating in training, and the program’s first four female Second Lieutenants were commissioned in 1977.

Even with the introduction of women, ROTC programs faced a sharp decline in enrollment during the early 1970s. The transition to an all-volunteer military, the decision by many land-grant colleges to make ROTC optional, and a pervasive anti-military atmosphere all served to decimate the ranks of Cadet units across the country; by one account, Army ROTC enrollment fell from over 140,000 to just over 38,000 between 1967 and 1975. In 1969, amid protests similar to those at UConn, Yale banned ROTC, leaving the Army and Air Force units at UConn as its sole representatives in Connecticut.

ROTC was therefore faced with the difficult task of maintain sufficient enrollment during a time when the military was an increasingly unpopular career choice. The obvious solution, far easier in theory than implementation, was to make the military more appealing to young men and women. While an increase in both the number of scholarships offered and the size of a Cadet’s monthly stipend were critical to this goal, changes to the daily on-campus life of a Cadet were even more beneficial in improving the appeal of ROTC. Haircut regulations were relaxed to allow sideburns, Afros, and haircuts below the ears, and many programs significant reduced the amount of time Cadets spent in uniform each week. Training was altered to focus less on the “spit and polish” subjects of drill and ceremony, and the traditional system of discipline through demerits was done away with, as were other forms of physical hazing and punishment previously considered rites of passage for new Cadets.

Campus Carnival, ROTC Hangar, 1978.

Campus Carnival, ROTC Hangar, 1978.

As intended, the relaxed environment and increased monetary incentives that came to characterize ROTC during the post-Vietnam period served to portray the program as less of a burden and more of an opportunity, and to blur the line between an ROTC Cadet and a normal college student. At UConn, the hangar provided a unique opportunity to improve relations between the university and the ROTC. Thanks to its spacious drill floor, it was used as a venue for a number of student activities throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, including carnivals, dances, and even “Beerfests.”

The ROTC reforms of the 1970s resulted to a rise in enrollment by the end of the decade. At many institutions, however, the outright ban on military training continued. Yale, for example, continued its no-ROTC policy well the 1990s due to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy enacted by the Clinton administration in 1994, which barred openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. Similar protests were raised at UConn, with critics of the legislation pointing out that exclusion of homosexuals from the military—and therefore ROTC—conflicted with the university’s policy against discrimination due to sexual orientation. Although an April 1995 vote by the University Senate proposed the phasing out of ROTC by June 2000, the recommendation was not accepted by the Board of Trustees. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011, and a year later ROTC returned to Yale in the form of Air Force and Navy Cadet programs (UConn still has the sole Army ROTC unit in Connecticut.)

Cadet weapons have come a long way since the days of black powder muskets and bolt-action rifles. In this undated photo, two UConn Cadets examine an M14 Automatic Rifle, the standard issue infantry rifle for U.S. military personnel from 1959-1970.

Cadet weapons have come a long way since the days of black powder muskets and bolt-action rifles. In this undated photo, two UConn Cadets examine an M14 Automatic Rifle, the standard issue infantry rifle for U.S. military personnel from 1959-1970.

Looking at the current ROTC curriculum, it is interesting to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. While the lax grooming standards of the 1970s and 80s have been replaced by a return to short haircuts and minimal facial hair, the uniform requirement has remained more or less the same; Cadets are required to wear their uniform while attending Military Science and Aerospace Studies classes and during leadership labs and field exercises, but spend a majority of the week in civilian clothes. As they have for decades, Cadets continue to spend several weeks in the field during the summer, with Army Cadets training between their junior and senior years at the Cadet Leaders Course (CLC) at Fort Knox, Kentucky (previously known as the Leadership Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), and before that “Advanced Camp”), and Air Force Cadets between their sophomore and junior years at Maxwell Air Force Base, Kentucky and Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

Currently, UConn ROTC benefits from a close relationship to the CT National Guard, which provides equipment and other support for Cadet training. In this 2010 photo, Army Cadets prepare to board UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters of the CTARNG’s 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, which will transport them to a Field Training Exercise (FTX) at Camp Niantic, CT.

Currently, UConn ROTC benefits from a close relationship to the CT National Guard, which provides equipment and other support for Cadet training. In this 2010 photo, Army Cadets prepare to board UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters of the CTARNG’s 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, which will transport them to a Field Training Exercise (FTX) at Camp Niantic, CT (Photo: Nick Hurley)

At UConn, the ROTC hangar, long a fixture on campus, was demolished in 1999, with the UConn Foundation Building quickly being built in its place. Both programs had moved out of the hangar the previous year, taking up residence in the former admissions building on North Eagleville Rd (now the Islamic Center, across from Swan Lake.) By the 2002-2003 school year, both programs had moved again, this time to their current homes on the third and fourth floors of Hall Dorm. Hawley Armory remained in use throughout this time, and is still utilized today; the court serves as a parade deck for Army and Air Force Cadets, and the building also houses the Army program’s supply offices.

After several decades of relative peace following the Vietnam War, UConn ROTC Cadets were once again faced with the realities of war following the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 and the beginning of the Global War on Terror. Many of those who commissioned through UConn, both before and after the outbreak of war, would go on to serve combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and at least two Army ROTC alumni have to date paid the ultimate price for their service during this current conflict. Captain Jason Hamill (’98) was killed in Baghdad in 2006, and First Lieutenant Keith Heidtman (’05) died on Memorial Day 2007 when his helicopter was shot down in the Diyala province of Iraq.

Cadet Lieutenants Nick Hurley (hmm..the name sounds familiar!) and Ashley Cuprak, both CLAS ’13, pose with Jonathan the Husky during a UConn football game at Rentschler Field in 2011.

Cadet Lieutenants Nick Hurley and Ashley Cuprak, both CLAS ’13, pose with Jonathan the Husky during a UConn football game at Rentschler Field in 2011 (Photo: Nick Hurley)

Several weeks ago, UConn Army and Air Force ROTC graduated its newest officers. Thirty-eight young men and women from the Class of 2016 put on Second Lieutenant rank for the first time and set out to begin their careers. Like their predecessors a hundred years ago, they cannot know what the future holds, but it is my hope that in reading these posts, they will now have a better understanding of where they came from, and the legacy that they, as UConn ROTC alumni, are now a part of.

It is a legacy that bears the names of thousands of Cadets who made their start at Storrs and went on to show the world the true meaning of professionalism, leadership, and heroism at places like Belleau Wood, Bataan, Normandy, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, and Baghdad. When their country needed them, UConn ROTC graduates have been there to lead young American men and women in combat—and all too often, they’ve given their lives while doing so.

We here at Archives and Special Collections take pride in the knowledge that, in preserving the documents and artifacts related to UConn ROTC for future generations, we are playing a small part in safeguarding that legacy. If after reading these posts you are interested in donating artifacts or documents related to your own time in UConn ROTC to the collections, please contact Betsy Pittman, University Archivist, at betsy.pittman@uconn.edu.

Thank you for reading! And Happy 100th Birthday ROTC!

 

 

Sources

Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Connecticut Daily Campus, 1970-1989
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1970-1995
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”

University of Connecticut Photograph Collection:
Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Record Group 1, Series II, Box 244
Record Group 1, Series XIV, Box 222

Misc.

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

Renner, Gerald. “Does ROTC Belong on UConn Campus? The Debate Is Boiling Over.” Hartford Courant, April 5, 1995.

Stave, Bruce M. Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits: Creating the University of Connecticut, 1881-2006. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2006.

 

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Four: Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, 1946-1970

Students at the Fort Trumbull Campus in New London, circa 1946.

Students at the Fort Trumbull Campus in New London, circa 1946.

UConn, like many other American universities, experienced a period of significant growth during the immediate postwar period in terms of enrollment and campus expansion. Long-serving president Albert Jorgensen struggled to accommodate the influx of returning students, mostly veterans, which doubled the university’s student body to almost 3,300 by 1946. The opening of the Fort Trumbull campus in New London, previously an officers’ training school acquired by UConn in 1945, provided a partial solution. Hundreds of returning servicemen were sent there to resume their education, receiving two years’ instruction at Fort Trumbull before transferring to Storrs for their junior and senior year. While effective, the campus was meant only as a temporary measure; it was returned to the federal government in 1950 and demolished in 1954.

At Storrs, meanwhile, the solution was to build, and build fast. In the five years following the end of the war, countless temporary and permanent structures were built on the Storrs campus to provide housing for students and staff alike. In 1948, construction was completed on a new building composed of surplus Army Air Corps hangars. Known as “the Cage,” it was originally built for the school’s basketball team, but would eventually become the new home of UConn ROTC when the former moved to Greer Field House in December of 1954. The School of Insurance followed in 1949, and in 1950 no less than twenty-five new structures were dedicated, including the Williams Health Service Building, the Budds Building, and the North and Northwest Campus residence halls (all but one, Wright, are still standing and in use today.)

An Air Force ROTC Color Guard passes in review on Gardner Dow Field in 1952.

An Air Force ROTC Color Guard passes in review on Gardner Dow Field, 1952.

Change came to ROTC as well. The program was not only reinstated under the prewar model, but joined by a new branch. So-called Air ROTC programs had been in existence since the early 1920s, but not at UConn, which only maintained “an Infantry unit of the Senior Division, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps” in accordance with its original 1916 mandate from the War Department. That changed in the fall of 1946 when the university’s application for an Air ROTC unit was accepted by the War Department, and Lieutenant Colonel Converse Kelly and Major Robert Eaton arrived on campus to oversee its formation. This action was superseded a year later by a Department of Defense order transferring all personnel of the Army Air Forces, including Air ROTC units, to the newly-created United States Air Force. Air ROTC became Air Force ROTC, and the instructors at UConn became known as Assistant Professors of Air Science and Tactics. The new program produced its first officers in the spring of 1948, and by the early 1950s both it and Army ROTC had relocated from the armory to more spacious offices in the basketball hangar.

UConn Army and Air Force ROTC units assembled at Memorial Stadium for Military Day observances, 1955.

UConn Army and Air Force ROTC units assembled at Memorial Stadium for Military Day observances, 1955.

In many ways the 1950s represented the “golden years” for UConn ROTC. As the campus grew, so did the program, and by the middle of the decade the combined strength of the Cadet Regiment (Army) and Division (Air Force) exceeded 2,000 students. With the increased enrollment came a proliferation of military-related social activities and clubs. In 1950, a UConn chapter of the Arnold Air Society was founded. Open to Cadets in the advanced Air Force ROTC, the aim of the organization was, according to the 1951 Nutmeg, “to help accomplish the mission of the Air Force, aid the Air Scout program, and to recruit for the ROTC program.” The chapter is still in existence today. An associated all-female group known as Angel Flight, founded at UConn in 1956, acted as an AFROTC auxiliary of sorts; members served as hostesses at Air Force ROTC events, helped Cadets type term papers, and sponsored events on campus.

Not to be outdone, Army ROTC established E Company, 10th Regiment of the National Society of Scabbard and Blade in the fall of 1951. A military honor society that promoted scholastic and leadership excellence on college campuses, the UConn chapter of Scabbard and Blade numbered some twenty-two Cadets by 1957 and was best known for its sponsorship of the annual Military Ball. Company F-12 of the National Society of Pershing Rifles came to Storrs in 1954. As a military fraternal organization, its members were dedicated to promoting the principles of discipline, loyalty and devotion through a focus on close-order and exhibition rifle drill.

Company F-12, UConn Pershing Rifles performs during a Military Day ceremony sometime in the 1950s.

Company F-12, UConn Pershing Rifles performs during a Military Day ceremony sometime in the 1950s.

The highlight of each school year continued to be Military Day, typically held in mid-May just prior to graduation. Alternatively referred to as Military Day, Military Commencement, Armed Forces Day, and 76th Division Day (due to ROTC’s relationship with the nearby 76th Infantry Division in West Hartford), the event dated back to the mid-1930s and was always well-attended. Each year, friends, family, and distinguished military guests turned out to watch as senior Cadets received their commissions as Army and Air Force officers. Beginning in 1954, the event was held on the football field of the new Memorial Stadium (dedicated 1953), and typically included a drill demonstration by the Pershing Rifles, a parade of the combined ROTC unit and band, the presentation of awards to outstanding Cadets, and a keynote address (usually delivered by President Jorgensen.) The festivities were often accompanied by a demonstration of military technology or firepower. In 1957 an Army assault force “captured” Hawley Armory after a helicopter insertion on Gardner Dow field (at that time spectators at Memorial Stadium could see clear across campus to the Armory, as Oak Hall, Babbidge Library, the Business Center, the ITE Building, and Gampel Pavilion had not yet been built.)

Brigadier General Walter Larew pins Second Lieutenant rank onto his son Karl’s uniform during Military Day ceremonies, 1959.

Prosperous as they were, the 1950s were not without hardship. The war in Korea, though perhaps less impactful than the Second World War had been on the campus, claimed the lives of seventeen alumni, including at least two Army ROTC graduates. The Cold War, and the U.S.-Soviet tension that characterized it, also took their toll. In 1958, Air Force Captain Edward Jeruss (’47) was killed when his unarmed aircraft was shot down over Armenia, and Lieutenant Paul Drotch (’57) died in May of 1960 while conducting a training flight near Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Still, the growth and improvement seen during the fifteen or so years following the end of the Second World War represented a high point in the history of UConn ROTC—especially considering what the 1960s would bring.

The decade began with a major shift in ROTC curriculum. In 1935, President Albert Jorgensen had arrived at UConn amidst a wave of protest against compulsory military training on campus. In the early 1960s, as he prepared to retire as President Emeritus, the issue had again come to the fore. In December 1961, after several months of debate, the Board of Trustees voted to drop the mandatory basic ROTC course beginning with the 1962-63 school year. The reason? In the words of President Jorgensen, “required ROTC is not considered essential to production of the necessary number of officers for the Armed Forces.” The decision at UConn reflected the general opinion of the Department of Defense that a large pool of reserve officers, and thus the compulsory ROTC program that produced them, was no longer vital to national defense as it had been previously. It was felt that an all-volunteer force could adequately meet the military’s manpower demands. Student response to the decree was exceedingly positive; the Student Senate had for years notified the Trustees that the student body was in favor of voluntary ROTC, and now they had finally gotten their wish. Many students believed that while enrollment numbers would plummet, the new system would lead to “less confusion, bad feelings and apathy among the cadets,” because those who remained in the program would truly want to participate.

In the fall of 1962, as the first year of voluntary ROTC got underway, Jorgensen left campus and UConn welcomed its new president, Homer D. Babbidge Jr.. Almost immediately, Babbidge gained favor with the campus community for his quick wit and empathy when it came to student issues. In the first few years of his tenure, he greatly expanded the library budget, rejuvenated interest in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, and took steps to increase private funding for the university. The popularity he gained early on would be put to the ultimate test during the latter half of the decade, however, as events abroad manifested themselves at Storrs in a major way.

Cadets and Protesters at Military Day ceremonies, May 1968.

Cadets and Protesters at Military Day ceremonies, May 1968.

As the war in Vietnam escalated during the late 1960s, protests erupted on college campuses throughout the country, including UConn. As the most conspicuous military presence on campus, ROTC was an early and frequent target. The trouble began in earnest in 1967, with a small demonstration of eight students outside the hangar. While this occurred without incident, more serious events were soon to follow. The following May, demonstrators led by members of the UConn Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) picketed the annual Military Day ceremonies at Memorial Stadium, taunting Cadets as they marched onto the field and chanting during Babbidge’s keynote address. Several protesters engaged in what they termed “guerrilla theater,” donning bloody makeup and ragged clothes and limping around the parade field. The object, they stated, “was to drive home to the ROTC cadets and all present that they…were being trained to kill and be killed.”

The trouble continued into the fall semester. On two separate occasions, SDS-backed protesters disrupted interviews taking place on campus between students and recruiters from the Dow Chemical Company and the Olin Corporation, both of which produced weapons and ammunition for the military. During the Olin protests, on what he would later refer to as “the saddest day of my life,” Babbidge was forced to call in the state police to disperse the crowds and restore order. Blows were exchanged, and several students and faculty members were arrested.  Similar actions against on-campus interviews continued into the 1969-1970 school year.

Tensions reached a boiling point in May of 1970, when National Guardsmen shot and killed four student protesters at Kent State University in Ohio. The incident sparked a new wave of unrest at UConn and elsewhere, as calls for a nationwide student strike led to requests that classes be cancelled for the remainder of the semester in order to allow the campus community “to respond in a constructive way to this ominous situation.” The UConn chapters of SDS and the Black Student Union issued a number of demands, including the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia and the abolishment of ROTC, with the intention that the hangar at UConn be converted into a free on-campus daycare center. When the University Senate failed to act on the latter issue, students took matters into their own hands, and occupied the hangar on May 11th for a “paint in.” Peace symbols and other related artwork were applied to both the interior and exterior of the building before the group dispersed that night. In a counter-protest, some 300 students who supported Babbidge and the ROTC signed up to repaint the building and repair the damage done.

It wouldn’t be the last time that the hangar was targeted that year. In the early hours of December 15th, 1970, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through an office window, and flames soon engulfed several rooms inside the building. The UConn Fire Department was able to contain the blaze, and no one was injured, but substantial damage was done to three administrative offices. Although UConn Police and the FBI began investigations immediately, a perpetrator was never identified.

It was a depressing end to a difficult period for UConn, Babbidge, and the university ROTC. The future of all three remained unclear as the new decade began and the war in Vietnam showed no signs of stopping. In the fifth and final installment of this series, we’ll look at the resolution to the events of 1967-1970, the introduction of women to ROTC, and the ever-changing relationship between the university and its Cadet units during the 80s, 90s, and present day.

Sources

Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Connecticut Daily Campus, 1946-1970
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1946-1970
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”

University of Connecticut Photograph Collection:
Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Record Group 1, Series II, Box 244
Record Group 1, Series XIV, Box 222

Misc.

Starger, Steve. “Military Day Punctuated By Protest.” Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), May 17, 1968
Stave, Bruce M. Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits: Creating the University of Connecticut, 1881-2006. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2006.

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Three: The Second World War, 1941-1945

Maurice “Moe” Daly, Class of 1923.

Maurice “Moe” Daly, Class of 1923.

While many Americans had expected for some time that sooner or later the country would be drawn into the war, the Japanese attack of December 7th nonetheless came as a shock. Even as the UConn community processed the news, ROTC alumni halfway around the world found themselves under fire. Major Maurice F. “Moe” Daly, Class of 1923, was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines during the Japanese attack there on December 8th, and was eventually taken prisoner when Bataan fell the following April.

While ROTC alumni went into action overseas, the campus at Storrs underwent a significant transformation. In February 1942, the Connecticut Campus ran an article asking for volunteers to man an air raid post located atop the university water towers (located between Towers residence halls and Husky Village, torn down in 2010), and practice blackouts were conducted to prepare for potential enemy air raids. Male students and faculty members alike left in droves to join the armed forces, and by April of 1943, for the first time in the school’s history, female students outnumbered their male counterparts.

In contrast to the standardization that defined ROTC curriculum during the interwar period, the war years brought significant changes to officer training programs across the country. By September of 1942, the unit at UConn was drilling without rifles, having had to return them to the army the previous summer, and the normal summer training for advanced course Cadets had been suspended due to a lack of facilities, equipment, and instructors. In February of 1943, the advanced course was done away with altogether, with no new contracts being issued for the duration of the war. The basic course was reduced in size, and upon completion, if slots were available, Cadets would be sent to Officer Candidate School (OCS) rather than continue onto the advanced course.

The suspension stemmed from the War Department’s realization that prewar ROTC was ill-suited to meet the demands of the current situation. With the military growing at an unprecedented rate, and casualties mounting as the war escalated, the armed forces needed thousands of junior officers, and they needed them fast. To be sure, the existing pool of leaders commissioned through ROTC during the interwar period represented a valuable source of manpower and leadership during the early days of the war, but by 1942 the demand was simply too great to be met by the traditional four-year commissioning track.

ROTC Cadets prepare to receive commissions from President Jorgensen during Military Commencement Ceremonies, May 1943. This occasion marked the last full dress parade of the ROTC unit for the duration of the war.

In place of the old structure, a number of programs designed to provide the military with officer candidates, enlisted men, and technical specialists were modified or put into effect. To begin with, existing OCS programs in all branches were significantly expanded. In addition, efforts like the Navy V-12 College Training Program provided would-be midshipmen and naval aviators with a college education before sending them on to advanced training for their specific duties. UConn hosted a small contingent of V-12 men during the war, and those enrolled in the aviation program (designation V-5, later V-12A) even took to calling themselves the “Husky Squadron.”

A group of students are inducted into the Army Air Corps Reserve by Captain Raymond Flint in front of Wood Hall, October 1942.

A group of students are inducted into the Army Air Corps Reserve by Captain Raymond Flint in front of Wood Hall, October 1942.

A Joint Enlisting Board, consisting of representatives from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, arrived at UConn in October of 1942. By the time they left, more than 500 students had joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC), Air Corps Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve. In doing so, they were allowed to continue their university work until called to active service, at which point they would report for basic training. The first such groups appear to have left campus during the spring and summer of 1943.

The Army’s answer to the demand for commissioned officers and specialists was the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Initiated in September of 1942, it involved more than 200 universities, and like the Students’ Army Training Corps of the First World War, the idea was to provide a large pool of technically trained recruits who could go on to serve in military branches deemed vital to the war effort. Accordingly, training was focused on subject like foreign languages, medicine, and engineering. The first recruits arrived at Storrs in June of 1943, and at peak strength the unit numbered some 800 trainees. The majority of the men departed in March of 1944 for active service, and the final semester for ASTP concluded in the fall of that year.

The ASTP came to represent the largest military presence at UConn during the war. Although they lived on campus, the men were enlisted soldiers and distinguishable from regular students. They wore uniforms, marched to class, and were subject to military discipline. That’s not to say that they were segregated from the general student population, however; trainees were allowed use of university facilities, invited to sporting events and social gatherings, and given their own weekly column in the Connecticut Campus where Private John Meyer entertained readers with the antics of “Homer Sapiens, Private at the U of C.” Relations between the two groups seemed more or less amicable during the nine months the ASTP men remained on campus; the Connecticut Alumnus, commenting on the program, called them “a clean cut group of young men,” and remarked that “it is just possible that a co-ed here and there shed genuine tears at their departure.”

The widespread changes to campus were also evident on the pages of the school newspaper. Ample space in each issue was taken up by news from the front or war-related issues affecting the UConn campus. Especially common were articles detailing the whereabouts and activities of UConn alumni in the military, including many who had received ROTC commissions before the 1943 suspension. News ranged from the mundane to the tragic. The February 2nd, 1942 edition of the Connecticut Campus detailed the exploits of James “Angie” Verinis, ’41, co-pilot of the famous B-17 bomber Memphis Belle, while an October issue announced the death of Captain H.R. Freckleton, an ROTC graduate from the Class of 1935 and the first UConn alumni to die during the war.

Then there was Lieutenant Theodore Antonelli, who had received his commission through UConn ROTC in the spring of 1941. By late 1942 he was serving with a rifle company of the First Infantry Division in North Africa. During a particularly brutal assault on a German-held hill, Antonelli’s commander was wounded. Taking command of the company, he ordered his men to fix bayonets, drew his pistol, and led them in a charge up the hill. The ground was taken, but at great cost to the young officer; fragments from an enemy grenade had torn through his chest, putting him out of action for several months. He later rejoined the division and served throughout the rest of the war, earning a Purple Heart, two Silver Stars, and two Distinguished Service Medals for his actions.

Antonelli was not alone in his bravery. Many UConn graduates and ex-students would be decorated during the course of the war, including Lieutenant Colonel T.R. Philbin, Jr. who had received an engineering degree and an ROTC commission with the Class of 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his daring capture of the Saar River Bridge before its intended demolition by the Germans on December 3, 1944.  Such actions directly contributed to the final defeat of Germany, made official on May 8th, 1945.

V-E Day observances in Hawley Armory, May 8th, 1945.

V-E Day observances in Hawley Armory, May 8th, 1945.

At nine o’clock on that fateful morning, UConn students gathered in the Engineering building and Library to hear President Truman’s radio address announcing Germany’s unconditional surrender and the end of the war in Europe. That afternoon, a modest ceremony was held in Hawley Armory, where President Jorgensen reminded those present that while victory had been achieved in Europe, the war still raged on in the Pacific. Fighting in that theater finally ceased some three months later, and on September 2nd, 1945, the official surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. After almost four years, the war was over.

The end of the war brought a sense of relief to the Storrs campus, but also the sobering realization that peace had come at a terrible cost; by 1945, at least 114 UConn alumni had been killed in action or were missing. Four of the fourteen members of the Class of 1939 who had received ROTC commissions that year had lost their lives, and Augustus Brundage, a long-serving Professor of Agricultural Extension at the school, had lost two of his four sons (also UConn graduates.) While there were occasionally bits of good news of men previously thought dead or missing turning up alive, there were also confirmations that others would never be coming home. Moe Daly, who had endured the fighting on Bataan, the Death March following his capture, and nearly three years in captivity, was unfortunately one of the latter; word came to campus in September of 1945 that he had died aboard a prison ship the previous January.

(The Roll of Honor, which hangs in the west end of the Alumni Center on campus, lists the names of UConn alumni lost in every conflict from the Spanish-American War to the present. An online version can be found here.)

Even as it mourned the dead, however, UConn and its ROTC program looked with determination into the future. Many young men had died, but many more had not, and those who had survived were determined to come back to campus, finish their education, and get on with their lives. The influx of veterans during the postwar period signaled the beginning of another period of drastic change. Next time, we’ll follow the UConn community as it faces the trials of the Cold War and the turbulent Vietnam era, and look at some of the resulting transformations to both the campus and its Cadet battalion.

Sources

*Unless otherwise noted, all sources courtesy of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

The Connecticut Campus, 1919-1940 (digitized through 1926)
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1923-1944
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”
University of Connecticut Photograph Collection, Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Connecticut Alumnus, Vol. 22 No. 4, 1944

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part Two: The Interwar Years, 1919-1941

At the end of my last post, the Cadet battalion of the Connecticut Agricultural College had made the successful transition to a full-fledged ROTC unit and weathered the trials of the First World War.

The program remained in a state of flux for the first few years following the Armistice. Captain Cranston remained in Storrs less than a year, but between his efforts and those of his successor Captain Benjamin Ferris, the battalion grew to an unprecedented size; a September 1919 edition of the Connecticut Campus stated that enrollment was large enough to form between three and five companies of Cadets. The ROTC band was also reestablished that same November following a brief hiatus during the war.

The training itself also underwent a gradual standardization. By regulation, CAC males completed a mandatory “basic course” in Military Science during their freshman and sophomore years, and then decided whether or not to continue on to the advanced course, which would lead to an officer’s commission following graduation. As members of the advanced course, Cadets were paid a daily stipend during the school year (in 1921, it was 40 cents.) Satisfactory completion of the basic course was a requirement for graduation, regardless of whether or not the student continued his participation past sophomore year. The curriculum amounted to three hours of study and practical exercises per week, and included target practice (both at the lighted indoor range in Hawley Armory and an outdoor range near the New Storrs Cemetery on North Eagleville Road) and instruction on personal hygiene, military organization, and map reading, among other subjects. There was also time allotted in the early morning for drill and ceremony, and overnight campouts and route marches to nearby Coventry and Willimantic were made possible following the issue of individual “pup” tents to the Cadets.

Cadets undergo marksmanship instruction inside Hawley Armory, 1920

Cadets receive marksmanship instruction inside Hawley Armory, 1920.

For all the progress, however, there were issues. Cranston’s sudden departure and the arrival of a new commander at the beginning of the 1919-1920 school year caused some confusion and fostered what one student later called the “disease” of “indifference in the cadet personnel of the battalion.” The turnover rate for Professors of Military Science would remain high; Captain Ferris departed in the fall of 1920, and his successor Captain Boyer spent just two years at Storrs. Moreover, instructions from the War Department necessitated frequent changes to the training schedule, and cadre struggled to maintain a sense of continuity between school years. As a result, few upperclassmen were enticed to move on to the advanced course once their obligation was fulfilled, and morale suffered.

CAC Cadet Battalion, 1924, with Koons Hall and Hawley Armory in the background

CAC Cadet Battalion, 1924, with Koons Hall and Hawley Armory in the background.

It wasn’t until early 1921 that progress began to be made through the establishment of a permanent command structure for the battalion, and the appointing of juniors and seniors as Cadet officers. This organizational change was supported by the arrival of new equipment, including modern Springfield 1903 rifles and one of the new M1918 Browning Automatic Rifles. That fall, a group of returning seniors vowed to continue improvements, stating that “as much college spirit should be shown in the conduct of the battalion as in the conduct of our athletic teams, or any one of our activities.” By 1922, attempts were being made to reestablish traditions like the annual military ball, and the following year it was reported that some twenty juniors would be continuing on to the advanced course.

These changes within ROTC were mirrored by significant transformations to the campus as a whole. The old wooden buildings of the nineteenth-century—many of which had burned down or been demolished by the 1920s—were gradually replaced by the more fireproof red brick structures that are so well known today. A new dining hall, known as the “Beanery” (namesake of the café currently in the Benton Museum), opened in the spring of 1920. Holcomb Hall, a women’s dormitory, was completed in 1922 to replace Grove Cottage, which had been destroyed by fire in 1919, and construction of the William Henry Hall dormitory (the future home of UConn ROTC) was completed in 1927. (Photographs of these and other early campus buildings can be found in our digital collections.)

CAC Student Handbook, 1916 edition

CAC Student Handbook, 1916 edition

Then, as now, Cadet life had its benefits and hardships. A system of demerits for student infractions had been in place on campus for years, as indicated by a 1916 edition of the CAC Handbook. Accumulating too many would result in extra duty on Saturdays. For a time, dormitories were inspected each weekday morning and in the afternoon on Saturday, and failure to keep things in good order resulted in demerits or monetary fines: floor not swept, 10 demerits; paper cans not emptied, fifty cent fine; and so on. There were also regulations which governed everyday activities. Among the more interesting punishments:

Any cadet who plays a musical instrument during class or study hours will be punished by a minimum of 10 demerits. 

Any cadet who practices football or baseball or who throws snowballs, apples, stones, dirt, etc. within 100 feet of a dormitory will be punished by a minimum of 25 demerits.

These rules evidently didn’t stop some Cadets from occasionally letting off steam. Captain Ferris penned a letter to President Beach in 1920 concerning the possession of firearms on campus, complaining that “[the students] are constantly firing from the windows in the dormitories.” Beach subsequently reiterated in a bulletin part of the CAC Student Regulations, which stated that “students are not allowed to keep in their possession firearms of any description other than the service rifle.” The punishment for discharging a firearm on campus? A minimum of 50 demerits.

There was, of course, the requirement to wear a uniform, but by 1923 training was organized in such a way that students were required to do so only one day a week (not including the occasional parade, field exercise, or social function.) The off-campus hikes and campouts were seen not only as training exercises, but as opportunities to escape the tedium of campus life; upon announcing one such excursion in May of 1919, Commandant Cranston noted that he intended “to give the men as good a picnic as is possible without interfering with the instruction which they are to receive,” and extended an invitation to all faculty members wishing to join in on the activities.

Cadets on the machine gun range at Camp Devens, summer 1925

Cadets on the machine gun range at Camp Devens, summer 1925

Even the six-week summer training camp required of advanced course Cadets after their junior year, which might have been seen as arduous by those used to the pace of on-campus training, was far from miserable. Those attending the training in 1924 at Camp Devens, for example, found time for “baseball, swimming, riding, movies and exploring” once work ceased for the day at 3:30pm. The following year, in addition to qualifying on the range with their service rifles, Cadets had the opportunity to conduct familiarization fire with automatic rifles, machine guns, and pistols. A howitzer demonstration had been planned, but was cancelled due to lack of facilities.

For all its ups and downs, military training remained mandatory for male students at CAC, even if it only consisted of a few hours a week for the first two years of their college career. This fact was the cause of considerable debate during the interwar period; many pointed out that under the terms of the Morrill Act, courses in Military Science need only be offered by land-grant colleges, not required. As early as 1926, some CAC students protested the idea of a male student being forced onto the parade field every Friday morning, “prancing around for two hours, laboring under the weight of a baby cannon perched on his shoulder.” In the 1930s, Psychology Professor Florien Heiser claimed that “a large number of students dislike the requirement because it is boring, of little or no educational or physical value, interferes with other work and because of opposition to all war and militarism.”

These sentiments reached a boiling point in 1935. In April of that year, responding to agitation against ROTC at a number of colleges across the nation, the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut State College (the name had again been changed in 1933) passed legislation forbidding public debate over military training on the Storrs campus. Quickly dubbed the “gag rule” by those opposed to it, the act garnered significant criticism from students, faculty, and outside groups. On May 15th, just a few days after a large on-campus protest, Charles McCracken resigned as President of CSC, though he maintained that he had made the decision to leave before the Trustees had issued their ruling. Shortly after, on May 17th, CSC’s Social Problems Club organized an off-campus discussion on the gag rule featuring a guest speaker from Columbia University. This was interrupted by a mob of pro-ROTC supporters, who threatened members of the Social Problems Club and forced another student, who had reportedly spoken against the gag rule, to jump into Swan Lake.

While this marked the end of major protests, tensions remained high throughout the summer of 1935, with the Trustees refusing to rescind the gag rule. It was only after Albert Nels Jorgensen was appointed as CSC President in September that the Board at last felt secure enough in the abilities of the college’s administration to repeal the motion. Jorgensen’s appointment seemed to bring a measure of calm to campus, and his arrival signaled another period of growth for the college. Within the first five years of his administration, no less than four new campus buildings were built using funds from the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), including Manchester Hall, a women’s dorm, the F.L. Castleman (Engineering) building, and Wood Hall, a men’s dorm completed in 1940 (now home to the History Department and other offices.)  There was also a fifth and final name change: in 1939, Connecticut State College became the University of Connecticut.

The calm would not last long, however, as events overseas would soon make themselves felt in Storrs. Beginning in October of 1939, the Connecticut Campus ran a column entitled “History in the Headlines,” in which History Professor Andre Schenker offered commentary on the war which had begun that September in Europe. The following May, as students prepared to leave campus for the summer, Germany invaded France and the Low Countries. By the time they returned in September, nearly all of Western Europe had fallen to the Nazis, and England stood alone. To bolster America’s defenses, FDR signed the Selective Service Act into law on September 16th, and as a result those UConn students 21 years of age and older were required to register for the draft (unless they were seniors enrolled in the advanced ROTC course.) As worrisome as these developments were, America remained neutral, and so for the next year or so it was enough to simply note, in the words of the Connecticut Campus’s editor, “that the average college student stands ready to ‘do his part’.”

On the evening of December 7th, 1941, Professor Schenker was attending a performance in Hartford when an usher approached him with an urgent message. After speaking with him, Schenker immediately set off for radio station WTIC, where he served as a world affairs commentator. Later that night, he began his broadcast with the following words:

“It has happened. Japan has decided to commit suicide by attacking the strongest power on earth, the United States…As you all know by now, this morning in the Far East, which means this afternoon our time, a Japanese force suddenly attacked Manila, in the Philippines, and another force attacked the Gibraltar of the Pacific, our base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.”

(The complete recording of Professor Schenker’s broadcast can be found here.)

War had at last come to the United States, and to Storrs. Next time, we’ll look at the role played by the men and women of UConn—and the Cadets of its ROTC program—in the deadliest conflict in human history.

 

Sources

*Unless otherwise noted, all sources courtesy of Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

The Connecticut Campus, 1919-1940
Nutmeg (University of Connecticut Yearbook), 1919-1935
University Archive Subject file, “ROTC”
University of Connecticut Photograph Collection, Record Group 1, Series VI, Boxes 93-95
Walter Landauer Collection, Series I, Box 1
Office of the President Records [Charles Lewis Beach, 1908-1928], Box 9

ROTC TURNS 100: UConn and Military Training, Part One: The Early Years, 1893-1920

This is the first of a series of blog posts by Nick Hurley, who recently completed his M.A. in History at UConn and now works as Research Services Assistant here at Archives & Special Collections.

How time flies!

Since its founding in 1916, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (better known as ROTC) has become a fixture on many U.S. college campuses, and UConn is no exception. More than two hundred Huskies are currently serving as Cadets in either the Nathan Hale Battalion, the Army’s only ROTC unit in Connecticut, or Air Force ROTC Detachment 115, “Snake Eyes Five”.

I spent four years in the Nathan Hale Battalion, from 2009-2013, reaching the rank of Cadet Captain and eventually commissioning as a Field Artillery officer. Given my personal connection to UConn and the military (not to mention my love of all things history), I thought it would be appropriate, especially because ROTC is turning 100 this year, to examine the long and fascinating story of military training at UConn.

Cadets conducting a "mock battle" on campus, WWI era.

Cadets conducting a “mock battle” on campus, WWI era.

To do so, there was no better starting point than the holdings here at Archives and Special Collections. Series VI of the University of Connecticut Photograph Collection contains three boxes of photographic prints which document all aspects of Cadet life from the early 1900’s to the present, including training exercises, social events, and inspections. There are also numerous portraits of Cadets, Instructors, the Cadet Band, and the Color Guard. A small number of these photographs have been uploaded to our digital repository. Physical artifacts are contained in the UConn Memorabilia Collection, including a dress uniform jacket from the late 1930’s and a unit patch dated 1918, and general administrative files from both Army and Air Force ROTC can be found in the UConn Office of Public Information (OPI) Records.

CAC Cadet Band, circa 1907. Note the blue uniforms and collar insignia marked “C.A.C”. These would be replaced by Army green uniforms and ROTC insignia beginning in 1917.

Though this year marks the centenary of ROTC, UConn’s affiliation with military training in general dates back to 1893, when the Storrs Agricultural School was renamed the Storrs Agricultural College. Along with the name change came the conferral of land-grant status to the university. Under the terms of the Morrill Act of 1862, land-grant colleges received federal land and assistance in return for offering academic programs in agriculture, engineering, and military tactics. The administration at Storrs deemed it appropriate to not only offer military classes, but make them mandatory, and thereafter every male student who enrolled at the school received instruction under the direction of a newly-hired Professor of Military Science. This training was not intended to produce commissioned officers, however, and students incurred no military obligation upon graduating from Storrs Agricultural College, which in 1899 became the Connecticut Agricultural College (CAC).

Members of the CAC Cadet Battalion, 1905. The officer in the second row, fourth from left is Lieutenant E. R. Bennett, Commandant of Cadets

Members of the CAC Cadet Battalion, 1905. The officer in the second row, fourth from left is Lieutenant E. R. Bennett, Commandant of Cadets

The roots of what we now know as ROTC can be traced back to the National Defense Act of 1916. Among its other provisions, it provided federal assistance for the establishment of officer training programs at a number of universities. UConn was one such institution, and on November 1st, 1916, War Department Bulletin No. 48 announced the creation of “an Infantry unit of the Senior Division, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps” at Storrs.

The introduction of ROTC brought both change and continuity. Activities like the Cadet Band and Color Guard remained integral components of ROTC life, and drill continued to be held in Hawley

Rifle range, Hawley Armory basement, circa 1920

Rifle range, Hawley Armory basement, circa 1920

Armory, named for SAC graduate Willis Nichols Hawley following his death during the Spanish-American War. Completed in 1915, the facility also housed facilities for athletics, an auditorium, and even a rifle range in the basement. (Today, the armory continues to serve as a supply room and exercise area for UConn Cadets—but, not surprisingly, the rifle range is no more!)

Still, no one could deny that a significant shift in military training at Storrs had occurred. An article in the April 30, 1917 edition of the Connecticut Campus noted that:

A young man now entering the Connecticut Agricultural College, if a citizen of the United States and physically fit, becomes a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Without cost he is furnished with rifle, uniform and necessary equipment. For two years he devotes three hours a week to military training under the prescribed course. At the end of the two years, if he so elects, and if he is recommended by the President of the college and the Commandant he may sign an agreement to devote five hours a week to the advanced course in Military Training for the remaining two years of the college course…a graduate of the college who has completed the advance course is eligible for appointment by the President of the United States as Second Lieutenant in the regular army for a period of six months with pay at $100 per month and to a commission in the Officers’ Reserve Corps.

Calisthenics in Hawley Armory, 1920

Calisthenics in Hawley Armory, 1920

There were more visible changes as well; students no longer wore the Cadet blue uniform, exchanging them for Army greens with an olive drab cuff insignia emblazoned with the letters “U.S.” and “R.O.T.C.” In addition, new rifles and other equipment were soon delivered to campus courtesy of the War Department, and Lieutenant Frank R. Sessions arrived in October of 1917 to replace Captain Charles Amory as Commandant. The arrival of Lieutenant Sessions was not a moment too soon. War had been declared that April, and many male students had already left campus for the battlefields of France and Belgium. Of the nearly six hundred CAC students and alumni who would ultimately serve in the Great War, at least seven would not live to see the armistice declared in November of 1918.

Those who remained in Storrs trained with a new sense of purpose and urgency. By the summer of 1918, however, the Cadet contingent at CAC was overshadowed by a new government-initiated program: the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC). The Corps essentially placed participating universities on a war footing; students and staff alike were inducted into the military, and remained on campus for instruction in trades and skills deemed vital to the war effort. At the completion of such courses, the intent was to assign graduates to officers’ school, regular duty as enlisted men, or further technical training. Some four hundred CAC men had signed up by the time the short-lived program was disbanded in December of 1918. Following a brief lull, ROTC was reinstated the following January with the arrival of Captain Claude E. Cranston as the new Professor of Military Science. By the end of that year, Cadet training had more or less returned to what it had been before the introduction of the SATC.

ROTC Cadets standby for inspection of their encampments and equipment, 1919. Hawley Armory is in the background. Laurel Hall now stands on the site of the parade field

ROTC Cadets standby for inspection of their encampments and equipment, 1919. Hawley Armory and Koons Hall are in the background. Oak Hall now stands on the site of the parade field

Notwithstanding a brief suspension during the First World War, then, ROTC had by 1920 established itself as a fixture on the Storrs campus. The future of the program would be anything but tranquil, however, as the remainder of the twentieth century would prove eventful, both on campus and abroad. In my next post, we’ll look at the debates over compulsory participation in ROTC. Stay tuned!

–Nick Hurley