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Voluntary military training for the purpose of good citizenship and national defense goes back in the memory of the present generation to the camps, which were organized in the United States just prior to the World War. In 1913 under the direction of Major General Leonard Wood two vacation camps were held for students from educational in­stitutions, one at Monterey, California, and the other at Gettysburg, Pa., the men paying their own expenses. Four camps were held in the following year at Monterey, Ludington, Mich., Asheville, N. C., and Burlington, Vt. In his address to Congress on December 8, 1914, President Wilson said: “We must depend in every time of national peril, in the future as in the past, not upon a standing army, nor yet upon a reserve army, but upon a citizenry trained and accustomed to arms. We should encourage such training and make it a means of discipline, which our young men will learn to value.”

In 1915 similar camps were held at Plattsburg, San Francisco American Lake, Ludington and Fort Sheridan, in the same year for business and professional men training was offered in two camps at Plattsburg Barracks and also at Fort Sheridan, Ill., the Presidio of San Francisco and American Lake.

Thus was launched what afterwards became known as “The Plattsburg Movement”, fully described in an admirable volume by Professor Ralph Barton Perry of Harvard University. The graduates of these camps formed the Military Training Camps Association, which helped to insert section in the National Defense Act, June 3, 1916, authorizing voluntary summer camps at the expense of the Government. Under this provision 12 camps were held in 1916 and the Association effected a far-reaching and vigorous organization, which was placed at the service of the War Department in the emergency of 1917. It suggested to the Secretary of War that the civilian camps proposed for that year be converted into officers’ training camps. The suggestion was adopted and representatives of the Association were appointed Civilian Aides to the Adjutant General, thus placing it on an official basis as an adjunct to the Government in the prosecution of the War. This was done because it appeared “the logical organization to represent the War Service Exchange thruout the country”. Its facilities made possible later the recruiting of over a quarter of a million of specialists for different branches of the Army and the Navy, including the enrollment in Chicago alone of over 7,000 skilled mechanics for Ordnance regiments within three weeks. Similar help was given to the Aviation Section, Balloon Service, Tank, Signal and Motor Transport Corps and the Association received formal thanks from the Secretary of War, from high Officers of the Staff and from Department and Camp Commanders thruout the country. In 1918 the War Department made the Military Training Camps Association the official agency for the preliminary examination of candidates for commissions and this plan produced remarkable results in securing the right man for the right place without loss of time and at a minimum expense. It was, perhaps, the most striking illustration of the value of civilian cooperation thru­out the War.

After the Armistice the Plattsburg Movement was continued in the fostering of a plan for voluntary camps, which was suggested to the War Department in a letter from the Military Training Camps Association on August 29, 1920. Secretary John W. Weeks promptly approved the idea and the War Department included an appropriate item in its annual budget. In this connection President Harding declared: “I hope every young man, who can arrange it, will attend one of the Citizens’ Military Training Camps conducted by the War Department in each of the nine Corps Areas. In this way he will increase his worth to the nation and obtain individual benefits of priceless value to himself and to the community in which he lives. I hope to see established, during my administration, a comprehensive system of voluntary military training for at least 100,000 men each year”. The first camps were opened in 1921 with provisions for 11,000 young men. That this was considered merely a beginning was indicated by Secretary Weeks when he said: “I hope that the time is not far distant when every young man in the country will look forward, seriously and expectantly, to his attendance at this institution for the molding of men.”

Universal public approval immediately stamped the new policy. Applications for training in 1921 were four times greater than the capacity of the camps. In 5922 training was given to more than 20,000 young men; the following year 25,000 were enrolled and in 5924 the number exceeded 33,000. With the unqualified endorsement of President Coolidge and the support of patriotic men and women thruout the United States the future of voluntary training is assured.

The primary aim of the Citizens’ Military Training Camps is good citizenship and health, physical, mental and moral. Instruction is given in a sequence of four years, the Basic, the Red, the White and the Blue. Young men are admitted to the beginning course between the ages of 17 and 24, provided they he of good character, intelligence and physical condition. The Government pays all expenses, including transportation, uniforms, food, quarters and medical care. There is no service obligation, except with the fourth or Blue Course, but it is expected that the men who enroll will be inclined thereafter to join the National Guard or the Organized Reserve.

The camp schedule calls for elementary infantry drill in the beginning and later for special training in the different branches of the Service. Physical health and development are especially emphasized. Army surgeons examine each candidate carefully on his admission to camp: corrective exercises are prescribed when necessary; a record is made of each man’s progress during the month of training and, when it is deemed desirable, suggestions are given to the candidate for the later consideration of parents and physicians at home. A large part of the day is given to a variety of athletic sports under expert supervision and every young man is encouraged to develop a habit of life which will lead to physical health and vigor. Social and recreational features of camp life are carried on under the direction of men and women qualified and experienced. The moral and religious life during the month of training is in the care of Army Chaplains of different faiths. A high morale is the primary aim of the Camp Staff.

The experience of four years has shown, that these are essentially civilian camps. Every effort is made to keep them true to the best ideals of American citizenship. In young men is instilled a devotion to country, a sense of civic responsibility, an ideal of individual development toward greater physical, mental and moral excellence. They gain an elementary training, which prepares them for greater usefulness in life. Under military discipline and the instruction of competent and sympathetic officers they learn the important lessons of self-control, self-direction and respect for the principles of a well-ordered society. Every student who enrolls takes a solemn obligation to bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America and during his training period to obey those in authority and to observe all rules and regulations to the best of his ability. The Citizens’ Military Training Camps represent concretely the thought of patriotism and all that makes for clean, healthy, vigorous American man­hood. Theodore Roosevelt declared “that the pup tent where boys sleep side by side will rank next to the public school among the great agents of democracy”, and General Pershing has noted that the men of the CMTC “grow more aggressive, more confident; they get the spirit of leadership and initi­ative and in every way become better able to meet the prob­lems of everyday life”.

In the enrollment of men for voluntary training the War Department has had the cordial co-operation of the pulpit and the press, of commercial, industrial and banking groups, lawyers, physicians and farmers, employers and workingmen, women’s clubs and patriotic societies, Foremost is the Military Training Camps Association, officially recognized by the Government thru the appointment, from its membership and on its nomination, of Civilian Aides to the Secretary of War. The Chief Civilian Aide is the President of the Association, Charles B. Pike, Chicago; the Corps Area Civilian Aides include: Charles S. Mott, Michigan.

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