JROTC History (unofficial)
THE FIRST JROTC UNIT
Leavenworth High School, Leavenworth, Kansas, claims the distinction of having the first official JROTC program in the United States. The school's JROTC program has been there since Jan. 29, 1917. It had a military science and tactics program as far back as 1897.
In January 1897, 30 students visited the commanding general of Fort Leavenworth. The purpose of their meeting was to request that an officer from the fort come to the high school and teach military subjects. In response to their request, Capt. Houston was detailed to train the students for one hour each morning, five days a week. The students drilled in a hallway with broomsticks instead of rifles.
In the years before Leavenworth High became an official JROTC unit, many events transpired. The unit was disbanded and reorganized, the first cadet hop was held, a week-long hike/campout became an annual event, and medals were presented for the best-drilled individual. The first rifles were purchased and the cadets chipped in and bought their own uniforms. The uniform consisted of a blue coat with a high military collar and blue trousers with a black stripe down the side.
On Jan. 13, 1917, Special Order Number 11 appointed Lt. Col. Ezwa Fuller as the PMS&T at Leavenworth Senior High School. On Jan. 29, 1917, Bulletin Number six named Leavenworth Senior High to have the first official JROTC unit in the United States.
With the outbreak of World War I, Bulletin Number 56, Oct. 10, 1917, discontinued the JROTC unit. This was done because so many cadets were joining the Army that the JROTC Corps membership fell below the required level to sustain a program. After the war, Bulletin Number 63, Dec. 29, 1919, reestablished Leavenworth High School's JROTC unit. Since that date the unit has been a permanent element at Leavenworth High.
Leavenworth High has many firsts in the nation. In addition to having the first JROTC unit, a girls cadet company was started in 1912. Their uniform was a plain white dress with a long navy-blue cape lined in red. This was a very unusual unit because the Women's Army Corps wasn't established yet. The female unit lasted three or four years.
In 1961, Leavenworth High started a Ranger platoon, the first Ranger unit in the nation to be formed by a JROTC program. The platoon members met on weekends and went out on various missions with tactical objectives. They participated in rugged, strenuous activities.
For approximately 70 years, with the exception of two, Leavenworth High School's JROTC unit has been an Honor Unit with Distinction since the inception of that award. The special units have been a guard of honor for General Pershing and Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France on their trips through the United States. They also honored President Calvin Coolidge when he dedicated the Liberty Memorial to World War I veterans in Kansas City, Missouri.