Battalion History

A Proud History - A Bright Future

The University of Georgia ROTC Battalion has been proud to help develop the leaders of tomorrow.

History of Army ROTC at the University of Georgia

The University of Georgia has had a long and proud history since its founding in 1801. It has taken on its role of supplying men with the knowledge to excel in their endeavors with much enthusiasm. Military knowledge fits well into this role of educating the future leaders of this state and our nation. Military training has been part of the University of Georgia since its very beginning. The earliest training was the state musters, when all able bodied men were called to defend against Indian attacks. During the many conflicts that arose during our history we always took an active part. From the War of 1812 to the Civil War and also W.W.I, W.W.II, Korea and Vietnam, the University of Georgia has educated many military minds. Some of the more famous individuals include Henry L. Benning who graduated in 1864 and became a general in the Confederate Army. Fort Benning is named in his honor. John B. Gordon attended the University of Georgia in 1851, he also became a general in the Confederate Army. Fort Gordon is named in his honor. There was much legislation that affected the curriculum and organization of military training at the University; however, it was from the National Defense Act of 1916 that the present Reserve Officer Training Corps was developed. This program we know today as ROTC is constantly changing to meet the personnel needs of the modern U.S. Army.

Army ROTC and UGA over the years

The first legislation that incorporated military training into the academic curriculum was the Morrill or Land Grant act of 1862. This gave land to established institutions providing that military tactics should also be taught. The ROTC that was created by the National Defense Act provided for two separate programs, the senior division, which was a four year program for colleges and universities, and the junior division, which was a program designed for public or private secondary students. ROTC has undergone many changes over the years; however, two basic provisions of the National Defense Act are the same. Those include the establishment of the four year ROTC program with the basic and advanced courses and the assignment of a Regular Army officer as the Professor of Military Science; Military training began in 1807 with a state law which required all able bodied men, students and faculty, to participate in a state muster which occurred 5 times during the year. These musters often ended up as social gatherings which brought many boisterous good times. In fact in 1807 a "Muster Day" parade was held in Watkinsville. Eventually these musters led to company organizations by students, the earliest of which were called College Riflemen and Franklin Blues. These student companies participated in the Seminole War and the War of 1812. A group known as the College Volunteers participated in the Texas Struggle for independence.

During the years of the Civil War, classes diminished to the point where Chancellor Lipscomb had to close the University in 1864. Students felt a duty to the South in that they believed they represented the best leadership in the state. Units such as the Mell Rifles and Lipscomb Volunteers were organized in 1863. Those who marched off to war were called the "Rock Boys from Athens." Even the students who were declared incapable of bearing arms organized themselves into a unit called the Mitchell Thunderbolts. Although they were not under direct Confederate command, the Thunderbolts drilled three days a week and guarded prisoners of war during the War Between the States.
In 1904 the first Cadets were sent to a summer camp. Army ROTC became official at Georgia on June 30, 1919 by Chancellor David Barrow. On October 8, 1919 a cavalry unit was established which lasted until World War II.

After war was declared on Germany in April, 1917, that year's senior class volunteered en masse, and they received their degrees before actual work completion by special action of the Board of Trustees. In perhaps the most dramatic graduation ceremony the seniors received their diplomas wearing khaki uniforms instead of the traditional cap and gown. A khaki-colored cover dedicated to the students in the armed forces bound the 1918 Pandora, the University yearbook.

Army ROTC during the World War Era

During the two years of American participation in World War I, the University was organized with military overtones and greater emphasis was placed on military rather than academic education. There were 3152 Georgia graduates who participated in World War I, almost half of whom were officers, and of that number 46 were killed.

Memorial Hall was built with funds which Georgia alumni raised following the war. It was dedicated in 1924 to those who had given their lives during World War I.

Although there was some dissent with military training following the war due to the impositions posed upon students during the conflict, Cadets still drilled twice a week in their blue uniforms called either bellhop or cowboy uniforms.

And they drilled well. In 1924 Georgia was placed on the War Department's list of distinguished colleges. A portion of text from the 1931 Pandora stated that, "ROTC is for military defense, developing character, leadership, and good citizenship, which is the proper aim of all education."

In 1932, two years of ROTC became mandatory for students if physical fitness and aptitude tests were passed. Entrance into the advanced program was controlled to a large degree by the amount of money appropriated each year by Congress. According to the 1956 Pandora, for a Cadet to enter the senior program he had to go before a board, pass a physical, have good morals and possess the abilities and potential of a leader.

Those who were lucky enough to be selected for the advanced program attended summer camp training in one of two places: the cavalry training was conducted at Fort Oglethorpe, Tennessee, and Infantry at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

The student body outgrew the capacity of the military department to give advanced training, although over a thousand students were commissioned from 1918 to 1940.

With the coming of the Third Reich and increased concerns of another war became evident, the University again readied to come to the country's aid. ROTC graduates, starting with the Class of 1940, began entering the service immediately after receiving their commissions.

In June of 1943 the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) was activated at the University Medical School. The ASTP was designed to prepare students for military service after graduation. Upon completion of Medical School and the ASTP, the student received a commission as a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps and entered active duty following a nine month internship in a civilian hospital. A similar program was established in September of 1943 for the Navy.

In 1944 Cavalry and Infantry regiments were combined into a basic training program for the duration of the war due to war department requests. This action, in retrospect, was to signal the end of the cavalry at Georgia. A total of 8863 University of Georgia graduates participated in World War II, of which 288 never returned.

Following World War II the Air Force was established in 1947, and a separate unit was formed at the University in 1950. And once again, during the Korean Conflict 3421 University graduates went to war and 17 were killed in action.

Army ROTC at UGA coming into the future

Prior to ROTC becoming optional in 1969, military training was a prominent part of life for the male student at Georgia. Many graduates went on to lead distinguished careers and some attained general officer rank. In fact there were 13 Georgia graduates who became generals in the Confederate Army. Presently there are several general officers on active duty who graduated from UGA.

At one time there were three separate branches of military training conducted at Georgia, cavalry, infantry, and Motor Transport. Cavalry evolved into Armor after World War II but in 1953 the branch differentiation’s were dropped and curriculum was organized under the category General Military Science.

The cavalry was the most popular and prestigious branch invoking the image of the dashing cavalier which was so much a part of the South's cultural history. Stables were located at the present Georgia Center facility and students of the Veterinary School and enlisted men cared for the horses. Riding was conducted every day on a rotation method during the early 1920's. Cavalry Cadets drilled and played polo on the field between Old College and Candler Hall, as well as a field behind the military building where the book store and its parking lot are now located. There was even a trick riding club known as the Monkey Drill Team which performed throughout the area. Even then students preferred riding to walking.

Scabbard and Blade, the national military honor society, was established at the University in 1920, and except for the period between 1930 and 1935, has been an active and contributing part to ROTC life at Georgia. The Air Force counterpart, Arnold Air Society was formed in 1951.

When the late Dean Emeritus William Tate was in ROTC at Georgia in the 1920's, Cadets in the senior program received 18 dollars per month for drilling. This was known as commutation of rations and stood for the amount of money the government spent per month to feed a private. That commutation has increased to 150.00 dollars. Scholarship opportunities are afforded Cadets today to help pay for their college education.

The University of Georgia Military Science Department has seen much change over the years. It has been an integral part of the University since its beginning. With the many advances in technology and the changing world situation, there is continually the need for leaders to be trained in the military profession. Throughout the University's history Army ROTC graduates have gone on to become, not only military leaders, but state and national leaders as well. The continuance of studies in Military Science is definitely a part of the University’s future.