The National Defense Act of 1916 authorized the establishment of Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs to train officers on the campuses of universities across the nation. The Army ROTC program at Western is one of the oldest in the state and traces its origin to this Act and the Spring of 1917 when the United States entered World War I. At that time male enrollment on the campus of "Western Kentucky State Normal School" was only 264 due to the great interest and participation in the war effort by the citizens and young men of Kentucky. The first military training presented on campus was given by US Army trainers to the "Student's Army Training Corps" during the Spring of 1918.
The Corps was first organized as a Junior Division unit and offered only two years of basic military training. An ROTC Rifle Team was established and brought distinction to Western and the Cadet Corps by winning the National ROTC Rifle Match sponsored by the War Department for six consecutive years, from 1928 to 1933. But the students who desired an Army officer's commission were required to transfer to another institution offering a senior ROTC program. Western's junior ROTC unit was maintained until September 1935 when a Senior Infantry Branch Oriented Division was organized and placed under the command of Major John Robeson, USA. This Infantry oriented program was directed toward the production of Infantry Lieutenants and encompassed subjects as light and heavy infantry weapons, infantry tactics, communications, transportation, physical conditioning, and leadership.
A further addition to the ROTC program occurred on 4 February 1937 when the National Society of Pershing Rifles granted a membership charter to the cadet company at "Western Kentucky State Teacher's College". The cadet company was designated Company B, 3rd Regiment, National Society of Pershing Rifles and was founded to enhance esprit de corps and promote the highest levels of proficiency in drill and ceremonies, basic leadership, and military bearing among members of the cadet corps.
Western gained further distinction in 1937 by commissioning its first Senior ROTC cadet class in May of that year. Throughout the Second World War, Western continued to produce commissioned officers, many of whom served with great distinction in both the European and Pacific Theaters. With Congressional passage of the National Security Act of 1947 the U.S. Air Force was established as a separate branch of service.
The Army ROTC program was modified the summer of 1947 to include an Air Force ROTC program on campus and the first Professor of Air Science, Major William N. Pace, Jr., was assigned to Western in late 1947. In 1949 Air Force ROTC became a separate organization and both Air Force and Army ROTC Instructor Groups produced officers for service during the Korean War period. Based on enrollment, the increasing technical complexity of Air Force equipment, and lack of an engineering college at Western, the Air Force ROTC program was terminated on 1 July 1957. During its 10 year life span the program produced over 300 Air Force officers and contributed yet another dimension to the service to the nation by "Western Kentucky State College".
In December 1953 the cadet corps petitioned the Scabbard and Blade National Honor Society for establishment of a cadet company at Western. On 16 January 1954 a formal charter was issued by the National Society and established Company C, 11th Regiment, Scabbard and Blade National Honor Society at the college. Since its origin Company C has stimulated interest in the Profession of Arms, recognized and developed qualities of leadership, honor, and academic achievement, and created a better understanding of the military profession among the advanced course cadets eligible for membership.
A major change in the ROTC program at Western occurred in 1954 when the Infantry Branch Program was converted to the General Military Science Program. This new program was designed to prepare senior division cadets for commissioning in any of the Combat, Combat Support, or Combat Service Support branches of the Army. The program enabled qualified cadets to enter the service branch of their choice. ROTC cadets received another benefit in February 1962 when the members of the Committee on Curriculum and Instruction and the Board of Regents approved the awarding of an academic minor in Military Science for completion of the ROTC program.
See UA1C.11.79 ROTC Photo Collection for additional information.
Military Science Department Heads:
- 1919 - Lt. Ellsworth, Jan. 27
- 1919-1922 - Capt. Wilford Twyman
- 1923-1925 - Maj. Thomas E. Cathers
- 1925-1932 Lt. Col. Thomas Rothwell
- 1933 - Capt. W.H. Williamson
- 1933-1938 - Lt. Col. John A. Robenson
- 1938-1942 - Lt. Col. E. Blake Crabill
- 1942-1943 - Col. Gordon R. Catts
- 1944 - Maj. D.C. Carpenter
- 1945 - Capt. A.J. McGuire
- 1946-1948 Col. Richard Agnew
- 1949-1951 - Lt. Col. Glenn A. Sikes
- 1952-1955 - Lt. Col. George H. Sibbald
- 1955-1958 - Col. Alfred E. Calhoun
- 1959-1962 - Lt. Col. James F. Marquis
- 1962-1966 - Lt. Col. Grover G. Smith
Western Kentucky University, Health & Physical Education Building (WKU), Margie Helm Library (WKU), ROTC