BERKELEY - Few would guess that the military has been
an integral part of UC Berkeley's history since the university's
birth. In fact, military training was compulsory here from 1870
The University of California came into being in 1868 as a merger
between the cash-strapped College of California (a private institution
incorporated in 1855) and the Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical
Arts College (a public institution formed in 1866). The latter
was created by the state legislature after it took advantage
of the federal Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, which offered
states a grant of public land if they would establish a public
college teaching agriculture, mechanical arts, and military
And thus the precursor to the army's Reserve Officer Training
Corps was born. In exchange for California's share of 150,000
acres, the first male undergraduates at the new University of
California were required to serve two hours per week for four
years being trained in tactics, dismounted drill, marksmanship,
camp duty, military engineering, and fortifications. North Hall,
which no longer exists, housed an armory.
The university president's report from 1902 states that "The
University Cadets from last year numbered no less than 866.
Appointments as second lieutenants in the regular army have
been conferred upon several men who have distinguished themselves
as officers in the University Cadets. It is very much to be
hoped that the War Department will establish permanently the
policy of offering such appointments to the graduates of each
year who show the highest ability in military pursuits."
In 1904, the service requirement was dropped to two years, and
in 1917, Cal's ROTC was established more or less as it exists
During World War II, the military beefed up its presence on
campus to churn out recruits from the officer training corps.
The army program took over Bowles Hall, a dormitory, and the
naval program took over the International House and several
fraternities for its trainees. By 1944, more than 1,000 navy
personnel were studying at Cal, roughly one out of every four
male Berkeley students.
With the end of the war and then the later rise of student activism,
the California Board of Regents succumbed to pressure from the
student government and ended compulsory military training at
Berkeley in 1962.
Former secretary of defense Robert McNamara and former Army
chief of staff Frederick
Weyand are both graduates of Cal's ROTC program. To learn
more about ROTC's history at UC Berkeley, visit Hearst Gymnasium's
first-floor exhibits, which showcase historical photographs
and memorabilia — including ship's wheels and antique