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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 1920s saw ROTC take root on the campus. In the 1924-25 academic year, 37 seniors, 65 juniors, 63 sophomores, and 114 freshmen were on the ROTC roster. The course of study continued to be split between a two year basic course and a two year advanced course. Between their junior and senior year, students were expected to attend a summer camp at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Three Army captains and a staff sergeant were responsible for leading ROTC at Wofford.
Over their four year course, students learned military courtesy and discipline, hygiene and first aid, drill and command, marksmanship, and scouting and patrolling in their first year, musketry, drill and command, automatic rifle, scouting and patrolling and combat principles in their second year. During the advanced course, juniors learned map reading, military sketching, drill and command, machine guns, mortars, and combat principles at the platoon level. Seniors studied military law and reserve regulations, military history and polity, administration, field engineering, and more advanced combat principles.
These images and documents are from the first year of ROTC on Wofford’s campus – 1919-1920. The catalogue text shows the required courses that students seeking a commission had to take. Olin D. Johnston ’21, later a South Carolina governor and United States Senator, was an early company commander.