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Documents Exhibits

ROTC and the Old Gold and Black,, 1968-1970

While participation in ROTC remained fairly high in the late 1960s, increasing tensions surrounding the Vietnam War brought criticism in the pages of the student newspaper. Several clippings below demonstrate that controversy. When General William Westmoreland participated in a Spartanburg Veteran’s Day parade – a parade in which Wofford ROTC cadets marched, some students displayed a banner critical of Westmoreland from the balcony of Wightman Hall. President Paul Hardin III ordered it removed.

Although ROTC came in for some criticism, it had its defenders, and the Old Gold and Black published letters in support of ROTC.

General William Westmoreland, the American commander in Vietnam and a Spartanburg County native, participated in the Veteran’s Day parade
From the Old Gold and Black, 1969
An opinion piece, 1969
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Exhibits Photographs

ROTC meets the 1960s

The mid-1960s saw a new generation begin to arrive at Wofford, and American involvement in the Vietnam War brought tensions on campuses throughout the country.  While ROTC remained popular at Wofford, and participation in the battalion remained high, student criticism of the draft and of the war in Vietnam appeared in the Old Gold and Black.  In the spring of 1969, the newspaper editors joined a nationwide call for an end to ROTC on the campus, a call that was ignored at Wofford. 

A cadet at camp, 1967
Cadets at camp, 1967
A cadet at camp, 1967
ROTC Committee Report, 1968
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Documents Exhibits Photographs

ROTC, the 1950s, and summer camp

An essential part of a cadet’s education in military science was attendance at one or more summer camps, particularly between the junior and senior year. Considering the number of students who were part of ROTC in the 1950s and 1960s, a large portion of each class would have spent some time each summer at a camp. This gave them a more fully-immersed military experience than they were getting from classes and lab exercises on campus. Below are several photos from summer camp exercises.

Cadets at camp in 1947
Cadets at camp in 1952
Report from 1950 camp in the Old Gold and Black
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Brushes with History

Living through history

I’m taking a moment to pause from posting old items and stories from the College archives to talk about living through history, how archivists try to collect and document those experiences, and what you might do yourself during these very unusual days.

I’ve said before that history happens on ordinary days, and most of the time, it happens unexpectedly.  Major events can change the world between breakfast and dinner, and historians spend years trying to understand and explain them.  And in some cases, history unfolds over days and weeks and can have just as profound an effect on us.  I think that’s what we’re going through now.  Part of the challenge with living through history is that we don’t know the end of the story because it’s not happened yet.  I’ve pointed this out to students in my Western Civ classes when I talk about the outbreak of World War II in 1939.  We have the advantage of hindsight, I like to point out.  The British didn’t know in the dark days of 1940 how the war was going to turn out, while we know how the story ends.  That affects how we see those events, whereas they had to live with the uncertainty.  So today, we are living with uncertainty. 

Often, people probably think about archivists (and historians) as people who deal with the past.  That’s true – part of what I do is to maintain the records of Wofford’s past so that people today can appreciate where we’ve been, and I help people – students, administrators, faculty, alumni – learn more about the past.  However, archivists have to look forward as well, for if we don’t collect the records of today, then archivists, historians, and other researchers in the future won’t have any way to understand what we are going through right now.  I’ve gotten questions about how Wofford experienced the 1918 influenza epidemic, and I’m trying to research that, but it would be easier if people then had kept better records.  (More about that to come.)

So, I have to be aware that we are making history right now, and make sure that it gets documented.  That might mean keeping track of emails and other messages that go to campus.  It might mean collecting news articles and other types of documents.  It might involve asking others to be sure they are keeping good records of what’s going on.  It might even mean taking a more intentional act, like keeping a journal. 

In addition to the routine things that I do, like keeping announcements and email messages, I decided a few weeks ago, actually at my mom’s suggestion, to start keeping a journal.  I try to take a few minutes each evening to write (or in my case, dictate to my iPad) a few memories of the day.  I don’t know what I’ll do with it in the end, but it might become part of my own file in the archives so that down the line, some future researcher will be able to see a little of what went on in Spartanburg and at Wofford during the spring of 2020.  That’s how historians a century from now will piece together what this experience was like – by reading the words of several people who kept records. 

So, what can you do?  You can keep a journal as well.  Write about what happened today, what your own experience was, how unusual everything seemed.  Even mundane thoughts, added to those of others, might be able to paint a picture of life for someone in the future. 

Beyond writing, take time to think and recognize what an unusual time this is.  I certainly have never worked from home for three weeks before, and I’ve never tried to figure out how to teach a class without seeing my students face to face.  You are certainly doing things differently now, so reflect on that.  I know that clergy are trying to figure out how to do ministry without seeing their congregations.  What’s that like for you? 

Another thing to consider is, how will this change us as individuals, communities, and a nation?  What’s going to be different in the future because of this experience?  Take some time to think, reflect, and maybe write some history of your own. 

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Documents Exhibits Photographs

The Cold War ROTC

Having proved its value to the campus and the nation during World War II, ROTC returned as strong as ever after the war.  The student body grew beyond its usual pre-war size of 500 students as GI’s rushed to complete bachelor’s degrees.  The largest student organization on campus appears to have been the Veteran’s Club, and the college even had about 32 apartments on campus for married students.  The 1947 yearbook noted that the post-war ROTC unit was almost as large as the pre-war program, and that the officers in charge were popular “despite the fact that most of the student body had been in some branch of the service.”  While the professor of military science and tactics before World War II was generally a captain, after the war, the position was generally held by a lieutenant colonel or colonel.  ROTC remained a force on campus well into the 1960s, with the battalion generally being organized into several companies along with a band and rifle team. 

ROTC continued to be popular after World War II, as this 1947 photo attests.
ROTC Activities Day, 1950
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Documents Exhibits Photographs

War Memorial Service

The college recognized the 76 alumni who died in World War II at a memorial service in February 1946.  President emeritus Henry Nelson Snyder, who had taught and would have known each of the alumni personally, was the speaker at the service.

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Documents Exhibits Photographs

ROTC and World War II

“Four times in its history, Wofford College has been called to war,” began President Henry Nelson Snyder’s message to Wofford alumni in December 1941.  World War II would both prove ROTC’s value to the campus and the nation, and profoundly change the college.  By the eve of World War II, around 780 Wofford graduates had received commissions through Wofford’s ROTC unit.  Nationally, ROTC provided some 100,000 officers to the army, far outnumbering the 14,000 Regular Army officers then serving.  About 600 Wofford alumni were serving as active duty officers by 1943, and nearly all had received their training at Wofford.  While the Army did not completely abolish ROTC during World War II, they did considerably scale it back, no doubt relying on officer candidate schools to supply their urgent demands.  The basic ROTC course continued, and many of the students who remained in college took it. 

Alumni Bulletin, December 1941

            During much of 1943 and 1944, the Army took over the campus, using the facilities as a college training detachment for training aviation students.  The program, run largely by the air corps, was designed to give non-college graduates a portion of a college education before sending them to officer candidate school and flight school.  During those 15 months, Wofford first and second year students took their courses at Spartanburg Junior College, and juniors and seniors took courses at Converse. 

Seniors, 1943
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Documents Exhibits Photographs

The ROTC unit wins honors

The summer of 1940 saw Wofford’s ROTC cadets win a significant honor at their summer encampment, as they placed first of the 28 colleges in the South.  Each cadet was rated on leadership, conduct, field training, rifle firing, athletics, and other activities.  This marked the first time that Wofford’s cadets had received this honor.  For the first time in the history of ROTC at Wofford, the college’s group collectively had the highest rating of any group.

ROTC in141
Rifle Team, 1938
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Documents Exhibits Photographs

ROTC in the Great Depression

The stock market crash of 1929 brought further challenges to Wofford students, making ROTC an even more important part of the campus.  Students in the advanced course depended on the stipends and uniforms issued by the Army, and for many of them, that stipend made the difference between staying in college and leaving.  The fall of 1931 saw 241 students in ROTC, and the fall of 1933 saw 282 students taking part in a student body of around 400-500.  The stipend in 1930 was around $109 per year, which all students in the advanced course received.  All students, basic or advanced, received arms, equipment, and outer clothing except for shoes.  College officials in the late 1930s felt that even more students would take the advanced course if the Army would allow more than fifty or so students to enroll. 

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Documents Exhibits Photographs

ROTC: Camp and Command, 1920s

Students regularly attended camp. Below are several cadets at Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1921.

Caption: James G. Huggin ’25 was one of the company commanders in 1925.  He went on to a career in the Methodist ministry in western North Carolina.  His daughter, Mrs. Betsy Collins presented his sword to the college in 2010. The sword is on display in the gallery.

James G. Huggin, a company commander in 1925