Vanderbilt has been involved with ROTC in some form since the program’s inception in the National Defense Act of 1916, and continues to be so today. Chancellor James H. Kirkland, Vanderbilt’s chief executive from 1893 to 1937, was a big proponent of bringing military training to campus as the First World War loomed ever closer. He believed ROTC would be beneficial to the discipline and citizenship of Vanderbilt’s students, as well as provide a way for the university to support the war effort. He petitioned the Army for a unit in 1917 but was denied due to the Army’s inability to spare any officers or soldiers. It was not until December 1918, just over a month after the signing of the armistice, that Vanderbilt received notification that an ROTC unit of the Coast Artillery Corps was coming to its campus. For the first year of its existence, ROTC would be compulsory for all males except seniors. The ROTC program was short lived among undergraduates, coming to an end in 1920 as a result of a climactic and controversial student revolt over what students believed should be voluntary training. However, the program was soon continued at the School of Medicine and steadily generated officers for the Army’s hospitals. Many Vanderbilt doctors would later go on to serve overseas in the locally renowned “Fighting 300th” General Hospital Unit during the Second World War.
Following the war, the United States needed all the soldiers it could get in order to man the massive peacetime army that occupied territory all over the globe. During the 1951-52 school year the program expanded with the institution of Chemical Corps and Corps of Engineering branch-specific curricula. Companies A through D were affiliated with the Chemical Corps and Companies E and F were affiliated with the Corps of Engineers. These were phased out in 1953-54 by the present day general studies Military Science program. Chancellor Alexander Heard (1963-82) was even appointed the Campus Adviser to President Nixon, aiding the president in dealing with colleges across the country. Vanderbilt ROTC continues to produce officers for the Army to the present day.For photos of Vanderbilt ROTC over the years, visit The History of Go Gold Album.