The History of R.O.T.C. at EKU

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The History of R.O.T.C. at EKU

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I graduated from Eastern Kentucky State College around the first of June 1951. At the same time, I finished four years of R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. At that time, all of Eastern’s commissions were in the field artillery branch of the forces.

The Korean War was raging and I was called to active duty on August 18, 1951. I eventually ended up in the 756 Field Artillery Battalion in Fort Bragg, N.C. This was an activated reserve unit from Pittsburg. It was armed with 8-inch self propelled howitzers. In February of 1952, the entire battalion shipped out to Germany. Our purpose was to keep the Russians from sweeping through Germany into France. The Russian tank armies never came, so I guess we accomplished our mission.

All of this is a preface to explain my interest in the history of the R.O.T.C. program at Eastern. R.O.T.C. was first established in 1916, although military training at land grant colleges can be traced back to the 19th century in the United States. The local program began in 1936 while Eastern was still a teacher’s college. The first regular army head professor was Lt. Col. Charles W. Gallaher. Local C.P.A. Bill Adams claims he was Eastern’s first R.O.T.C. commissioned officer, commissioned in 1940. Other well known early R.O.T.C. graduates were Ralph and Fred Darling, William Stocker and Guy Whitehead. Sponsors for the battalion included June Jones and Reba Coy, both of Richmond.

In my time in R.O.T.C., our officers included Col. William D. Paschall, and Majors David M. Easterday and Willard A. Jones. Sergeants Clark and Coffman were on the staff. Another well known R.O.T.C. was Col. Alden O. Hatch.

During the war years of 1944-1945, with so many young men of college age already drafted or volunteered for service, R.O.T.C. was supplemented by the A.S.T.P. (Army Specialized Training Program) and the W.A.C.s (Women’s Army corps) programs on campus, both made up of non-college students. R.O.T.C. began again in 1945. Also during the war, there was a naval training program at Berea College.

During Dr. Robert R. Martin’s tenure as President, the first two years of R.O.T.C. training became compulsory for all male students, and Eastern had one of the largest units in the nation. “R.O.T.C. Day” was a major home football event, with thousands of uniformed students in the stands. The Pershing Rifles, a close order drill unit, won national prominence with their precision drill practice, and even had their own “house” on Lancaster Avenue.

Eastern’s R.O.T.C. program continues today with “the Colonel’s Battalion” making military training available to students. For many young people it is a good way to be able to afford to go to college and serve one’s country. I recommend it.

Creator

Dr. Fred Engle

Date

8/31/2010

Rights

Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.

Collection

Citation

Dr. Fred Engle, “The History of R.O.T.C. at EKU,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed October 7, 2022, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/1812.