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JROTC History (unofficial)



     The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps came into being with the passage of the National Defense Act of 1916. The focus of JROTC was on secondary schools. Under the provisions of the 1916 act, high schools were authorized the loan of federal military equipment and the assignment of active or retired military personnel as instructors on the condition that they followed a prescribed course of training and maintained a minimum enrollment of 100 students over 14 years of age.

     At its inception, the JROTC course consisted of three hours of military instruction per week for a period of three years. Any JROTC graduate who completed this course of military instruction was authorized a certificate of eligibility for a reserve commission to be honored at age 21 (although this provision was allowed to lapse after World War I as the need for reserve officers declined). When the United States entered the conflicts in 1917 however, there were few resources to spare for the JROTC program. Between 1916 and 1919, the Army established units at only 30 schools. About 45,000 students enrolled in JROTC during the 1919-1920 school year.

     Federal support and assistance for the JROTC program was limited between the world wars. Due to funding constraints and a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Army, the number of JROTC units increased only gradually during this era. By 1939, 295 JROTC units were in operation – not an impressive total for a program that had existed for over two decades.

     Federal backing of JROTC in this era was lukewarm, but the backing of certain secondary schools was downright frigid. Many high schools scheduled military classes and training at inconvenient and undesirable times. Some restricted JROTC instruction to the lunch hour while others gave it time in the late afternoon or early evening. Student participation and enthusiasm suffered as a result. Shortages of space and resources also plagued many units. Even so, enrollment in JROTC stood at approximately 72,000 in 1942.

     During the inter-war period, there arose another high school training program that in many respects resembled JROTC. It became known as the National Defense Cadet Corps (NDCC). The main difference between the competing programs centered on the amount of support they got from the federal government. Whereas JROTC units received instructors and uniforms from the Army, NDCC programs did not. Weapons and a few training aids were about all that NDCC schools could expect in the way of material assistance. Many NDCC units wanted to join the JROTC program but couldn’t, due to a lack of funds to support JROTC expansion.

     Since the supervision and funding of NDCC units rested almost entirely in the hands of local school authorities, the Army’s ability to exert its influence over them was tenuous. Consequently, the Army exhibited less interest in the NDCC than it did the JROTC. NDCC took on a second class status and never attained the degree of military acceptance enjoyed by the JROTC. This lack of acceptance was evidenced by the fact that in 1939, only 34 NDCC units were in operation - a mere 27 percent of the JROTC total.