The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) prepares college students to be commissioned officers in the United States Armed Forces. The Army ROTC, as it exists today, began with President Wilson’s signing the National Defense Act of 1916.
There are three types of ROTC programs. The first type includes programs at the six senior military colleges, such as the Virginia Military Institute. The second type of program exists at civilian colleges that grant baccalaureate or graduate degrees. The third category include programs at military junior colleges from which cadets are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Reserves or National Guard with completion of their associate’s degree and then are required to complete their bachelor’s degree at another institution.
On June 10, 2016 the U.S. Army Cadet Command inducted its first group of former ROTC Cadets into its Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Brooks Field at Fort Knox, Kentucky. General Marshall was one of the inductees.
As a cadet at VMI, Marshall was required, as current ROTC cadets are, to study military science and tactics. Without the mechanism of the ROTC, however, Marshall’s route to a commission was via the federal examination and even the opportunity to sit this was a convoluted process.
Marshall appeared on the doorstep of the White House without an appointment, with two letters of recommendation in hand, seeking the assistance of the President. One letter was from John S. Wise, the son of a former governor of Virginia and a VMI cadet that fought at New Market during the Civli War. The other was from VMI Superintendent Shipp who commanded the Corps of Cadets at New Market.
Marshall waited and watched others with appointments get admitted into President McKinley’s office. After waiting for much of the day, with no success, he finally attached himself to a tour group and gained entrance to the President’s office. The President asked Marshall what he wanted and he stated his case.
It’s not clear if this event got Marshall’s name on the list presented by Senators Penrose and Quay of Pennsylvania, but in April, Quay wrote to the Secretary of War to recommend Marshall. Senator Penrose also submitted Marshall’s name on his list of recommended candidates. It was enough to get him a nomination of one of 23 Pennsylvania candidates to be selected to be examined for commission.
Throughout his career Marshall continued to support the ROTC programs saying in 1938 that “the War Department regards the ROTC as one of the most valuable adjuncts to our personnel problem for National Defense. Everything possible should be done to give it encouragement.” During his testimony at the Truman Committee in 1941 Marshall said, “…the most valuable single measure of national defense we had available was the Reserve Corps built up by the ROTC. That has been of more positive assistance in meeting this emergency than any other single thing that has been provided by Congress.” Even after World War II, he recommended in a memorandum to President that a post-war Army include ROTC programs.