Scabbard and Blade is a military honor society established in 1904. Wofford received a charter for M company, 6th regiment of Scabbard and Blade in 1928. Wofford’s chapter was open to junior and senior members of ROTC, and members were chosen solely on merit. A cadet who was chosen for Scabbard and Blade had qualities of leadership and honor, according to descriptions in several yearbooks.
The culmination of four years of study and training occurs when each ROTC student receives his or her commission as a second lieutenant. At Wofford, the commissioning ceremony traditionally occurs during Commencement weekend. The commissioning ceremony itself is full of symbolism as each cadet takes the oath of office, has the gold bars of a second lieutenant pinned on their uniform, receives their commission, and then receives their first salute. Once they’ve been commissioned, newly-minted second lieutenants (and college graduates) generally attend a basic officer leader course that is specific to their branch of the Army.
ROTC began to admit women in the early 1970s. By the 1980s, the building on campus that it called home had seen better days, and so the battalion moved to new headquarters and the old ROTC building – which had stood since approximately 1904, was demolished to make way for the new Papadopoulos Building.
ROTC remained active at Wofford in the years after Vietnam, though with noticeably fewer students taking part in the program in the 1970s and 1980s. The program expanded beyond the Wofford campus, with students at Spartanburg Methodist College beginning to participate in 1970. Later, Converse College, USC-Spartanburg (now USC-Upstate) and Limestone College joined the cross-enrollment program. Women also began to participate in 1973. The battalion’s headquarters moved around campus, from the old ROTC Building (a former Wofford Fitting School building near the current Papadopoulos Building) to Snyder House and eventually to the Daniel Building. The battalion remained a visible presence on campus, presenting the colors at athletic events, offering Interim projects, and on lab days, wearing their uniforms.
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.
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.
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.
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.