Monday, February 17, 2014

Military Monday (February 17, 2014) -- CMTC (Citizens' Military Training Camps)



Between the world wars, the United States established a military training program for young men to provide basic military training without any obligation to serve on active duty.  This differed from the Reserves and the National Guard programs that carried with them the obligation for male citizens in the programs to serve if called upon.  The Citizens' Military Training Camps (CMTC) program was established by the National Defense Act of 1920 largely as a compromise to avoid establishing universal military training.

The CMTC program was an outgrowth of the camps that were set up by private citizens prior to the U.S. entry into World War I. The camps and the military training provided were on a voluntary basis and they were seen as a pre-enlistment program that was funded by the Preparedness Movement -- a group of American citizens that recognized the U.S. standing Army was much too small to contribute to the war should the time come.  Camps were first established by the Preparedness Movement in 1915 - 1916 as a way of quickly providing potential Army officers if the need suddenly arose. The largest camp that the Movement established was outside Plattsburgh, New York and as a result, the camps came to be generally known as "Plattsburgh Camps." Almost all the young men who attended the camps were college graduates and by the time the program was formalized into the Military Training Camps Association, some 40,000 men had attended Plattsburgh and other such camps to learn to march, shoot, and get physically fit for potential service. They did in fact later provide the nucleus for the wartime officer corps in World War I.

The CMTC camps, being voluntary with no obligation for service, did not have the same effect on the Army for World War II, but by the end of the program some 400,000 young men are believed to have been trained for at least one summer in a CMTC camp. The camps were a month long and were held at around 50 Army posts around the country.  The peak years were 1928 and 1929 when about 40,000 were trained.

Under the CMTC program, young men were able to receive a reserve commission in the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant IF they completed four consecutive summers of CMTC training, but this aspect of the program proved to be a disappointment because over the 20 years of the CMTC program (1921 - 1940) only about 5,000 reserve commissions were actually awarded. 

Among those who participated in the Plattsburgh/CMTC training programs were Chuck Yeager, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, Robert Penn Warren and . . . my father. The photo above is of my father at about age 16. It was taken during a summer at the CMTC established at Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island and was just about eight weeks before the devastating 1938 New England Hurricane drove up through Narragansett Bay.*

Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island (1936)


CMTC encampment at Fort Adams in the 1930s


CMTC Company A at Fort Adams in 1940, the last year of the CMTC program
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Photograph of Arnold G. Tew, Jr. at Fort Adams (1938) from the original in the collection of the author. 

*  See Item No. 5 in the September 28, 2013 "Saturday Serendipity" and the link provided there for more information about the Great Hurricane of 1938.  

Photographs of Fort Adams circa 1936, the CMTC encampment at Fort Adams in the 1930s, and CMTC Company A at Fort Adams in 1940 from http://www.oocities.org/jmgould39/adhistpt4.html

For more about the former Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Adams .
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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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1 comment:

  1. Your father looks young for his age, John. (I'd guess he'd be 14.) He also looks a bit uncomfortable having his photo taken. Was that the first time he ever held a rifle?

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