The ROTC, or reserve officer training corps, trains students to be officers in the United States military. The students go to school like a normal college student, but they have extra responsibilities. Certain days of the week the cadets must wear their uniform and perform in drills such as flag raising and marching practice. In the summer the cadets go off to different military bases for training on how to be an officer. Most members of the ROTC are getting their school paid for by the government, this does come with a couple of catches, however. The students will owe usually four years of service after graduation and the Army gets to pick the major the students will study.
When the land grant colleges were first established in 1862, the law stated that all of the students must attend military training as part of the school’s curriculum. Women were not allowed into the military then, but they also were not allowed into colleges, so that was not a problem. The students were, and those in the ROTC still are, very proud of their military heritage. When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 the entire senior class volunteered to go fight in France. Over 1500 Clemson alumni served in that war with twenty-five making the ultimate sacrifice. In World War II over 6500 men who went to Clemson served with three hundred and seventy giving their lives.
In the fifties Clemson wanted to become a university, and that meant discontinuing the corps of cadets where everyone who was enrolled was required to go through military training. The ROTC training was still mandatory for freshman and sophomores until 1969 when it went to voluntary only. A large reason for this was the protests about the Vietnam War. In 1971 the program was opened to women.
The ROTC program maintains Clemson’s long and proud military heritage and will continue to do so long into the future.