History of Northwestern University Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC):
The NROTC came into existence in 1926, after Northwestern President Walter Dill Scott requested of the United States Bureau of Navigation that the unit be established. The founding of Northwestern’s NROTC coincided with the creation of branches at five other universities (Harvard, Yale, Georgia Tech, the University of California, and the University of Washington). The first graduating class in 1930 consisted of twelve midshipmen who, upon graduation, were commissioned in the United States Naval Reserve. The number of students enrolled was as high as 1000 during World War II and now averages around 100.
Northwestern was an important training site for the Navy during World War II. In addition to the 1000 midshipmen then undergoing training, there were over 6000 aspiring radio operators studying at the University’s Naval Radio School. By the end of the war, the United States had become the leading naval power in the world, with a growing need for new career officers. As a result, the role of the NROTC was greatly expanded, beginning in 1946, with the new Holloway Program, instituted to double the number of well-trained officers already being turned out by the Naval Academy. Northwestern was one of fifty-two universities that participated in this program.
In addition to training future members of the United States Marine Corps and Navy, Northwestern’s NROTC issued three publications and sponsored a number of activities and programs, including drill and sailing competitions, mess nights, annual balls, and an annual Women’s Career Night.
Despite its constructive record in bolstering national security, the mission and indeed the very existence of the NROTC unit on campus have been questioned by various groups since the 1930s. Pacifists attempted to disrupt an NROTC parade in the mid-1930s, protesting both the existence of a military component of a civilian university and militarism in general. The late 1960s saw the emergence of widespread anti-NROTC sentiment, as opposition to the war in Vietnam erupted on college campuses. Led primarily by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Student Revolutionary Movement, numerous student strikes and sit-ins were organized in an unsuccessful attempt to rid the University of its ties to the military.
The NROTC was again the target of protest in the late 1980s and 1990s. One of these anti-NROTC movements accused the Navy of prejudice against homosexuals. It sought to abolish the program on the grounds that the resulting policies contravened Northwestern’s anti-discrimination policies. The NROTC also encountered opposition during the Gulf War and during NATO’s bombing of Kosovo.
Description of the Series:
The Records of the Northwestern University NROTC consist of four boxes, spanning the dates 1918 to 2001. The records have been organized into four subseries: Historical Materials, Events, Personnel, and Subject Files.
Materials that document the history of Northwestern's NROTC unit include unit and command histories, newspaper clippings, a list of “famous grads,” and a 1982 memoir by Vincent Oberholtzer about Northwestern NROTC personnel who perished during World War II.
The second subseries, events, spans the years 1931-2000 and contains records of annual and occasional events sponsored by the unit. Significant annual events include the Naval Ball, the Commissioning Ceremony, and Mess Night; while occasional events (reflected in the Special Events folder) include activities such as the unit's cruise aboard the U.S.S. Arkansas battleship in 1931, the fundraising Volleyball Marathon in 1975, and various speeches and lectures delivered under the unit's auspices. The special events folder also has brochures and flyers related to several less prominent annual events.
The third subseries, personnel, contains varied records that yield information about student and staff members of the Northwestern NROTC during the years 1942-1994. Among such records are those of unit alumni who donated funds to Northwestern in 1988 and 1990; battalion rosters from 1961 to 1995; subscribers to the publication, the Crow's Nest; press releases reporting on recruits from the early 1980s; and staff directories and reports.
The subject files, which make up the last subseries of these records, present a range of topics representative of NROTC activities through the years. Of special interest are general folders of clippings, correspondence, and press releases. Also notable are three folders concerning anti-NROTC movements that have crystallized at various moments in Northwestern University history. These include issues of alternative campus publications such as Potemkin and Albatross. Finally, there is a folder concerning NROTC's curriculum.