Princeton students are a chronically busy crowd — we love to fill our schedules with as many classes, extracurriculars, and social events as possible. And yet, there is a group of Princeton students that goes above and beyond by somehow finding time to also serve their country through ROTC. This fall, the University will welcome back Naval ROTC for the first time since the Vietnam War, partnering with Rutgers to allow students to participate in a “crosstown” training program.
The pictures above were part of a November 1959 photo essay in PAW, “A Princeton Military Training Album,” which drew on contemporary and historical images. At that point, ROTC had been part of Princetonians’ lives for 40 years. The War Department opened a field artillery unit on campus in 1919, with support from President John Grier Hibben 1882, who recognized Princeton’s “obligation to the nation.” Early in ROTC history, Princeton played a major role in adding rigor to the curriculum to ensure that students in ROTC would get the same intellectually stimulating experience in military science as they did in their other courses. In its first year, the War Department stationed 30 instructional staffers and 90 horses. ROTC quickly became a highlight of many students’ experiences with 25 percent of the undergraduate student body participating during the interwar years. Princetonians who graduated from the ROTC program during the 1920s and ’30s played a crucial role in military leadership during World War II. The Naval branch of Princeton’s ROTC program was established after the war and also became a popular fixture on campus.