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Iowa State University. Department of Military Science records

 Record Group — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 13/16

Scope and Content

This collection consists of materials related to the Department of Military Science. Records include news clippings, annual reports, newsletters, brochures, subject files, biographical files, Curtis-Wright Engineering Cadette Program Records, and faculty papers.


  • undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


The Department of Military Science was established in 1870 as a result of the provision in the Morrill Land Grant Act that military tactics be offered at land grant institutions. All able bodied male students were expected to participate, although neither the Morrill Act or the Federal Government required compulsory training. From 1878-1897, female students received military training on a volunteer basis. In 1916, Congress passed the National Defense Act, which provided for the establishment of the Army Reserve Officer's Training Corps (R.O.T.C.). An Iowa State R.O.T.C. unit was formed in 1919, and training took place through the Military Science Department. To house the new program, the armory was built in 1921; destroyed by fire in 1922, it was rebuilt in 1923. All early records of military training were lost in the fire. During World War II, the R.O.T.C. program was temporarily halted (1943-1946), as most male students were enlisting in the regular army. The school year 1946-1947 saw the formation of a Navy R.O.T.C. unit. The Air Force R.O.T.C. unit was organized in 1949. In 1950 Military Science, Naval Science, and Air Force Science combined to form one department; but split into individual departments again in 1957. By 1961 students on campuses across the nation, including Iowa State students, were protesting the mandatory military training requirement. In 1962, the Iowa State Board of Regents declared R.O.T.C. an elective.

During World War I, Iowa State trained soldiers for the military. Military draftees were trained as auto mechanics, blacksmiths, or machinists. They were housed under the bleachers on State Field. The instruction, mainly in practical assembly, repair and operation processes, entirely separate from collegiate work, was under the direction of Professor W. H. Meeker of the Mechanical Engineering Department. This detachment of trainees was known as the Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.). College students between ages of 18 and 21 years were also able to volunteer for induction into active service. These students combined collegiate campus and army camp, by participating in scholastic study and military drill. The students received soldier's compensation, and the College paid for their housing and subsistence. A distinct separation of the collegiate and vocational sections was maintained in organization and instruction. The collegiate companies were lodged in fraternity houses and State Gym was utilized as a mess hall.

In October 1918 influenza broke out on campus resulting in 1250 cases at one time. The wing of the college hospital, opened in April, was used exclusively for pneumonia cases. State Gym, a church basement, and dwelling houses became improved flu wards. The campus was placed under strict quarantine, and passes were required for travel between the Fourth Ward and the downtown district. All work was suspended for a week and the schedule was more or less broken the rest of the quarter by recurring outbreaks of the malady. From October 8, 1918, to November 27, 1918, 51 deaths were reported in the corps; 25 in the collegiate section, and 26 in the mechanical detachment.

The training program ended on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Veterans that were disabled as a result of their service in World War I were retrained by Iowa State from 1918 to 1928. Iowa State horticulture professor J. C. Cunningham represented agricultural interests on President Harding's Commission in the organization of the U.S. Veteran's Bureau from 1919 to 1920. He directed the work in agriculture for disabled ex-servicemen at Iowa State College from 1919 to 1928.

World War II brought both military and civilian students to Iowa State for training. The Navy personnel were trained as electricians, cooks and bakers, diesel mechanics, and amphibious firemen. The Navy education programs were conducted from June 1, 1942 to December 2, 1944. In total 13,206 men were trained for the Navy. The Army personnel were enrolled in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). The ASTP was divided into four different curriculums: Basic Phase Curriculum B-1 (Engineering), Basic Phase ASTRP (Reserve) Curriculum B-1 (Engineering), First Year Advanced ROTC curriculum (Basic or Advanced Engineering), and Advanced Phase Curriculum in Veterinary Medicine. The ASTP program was very rigorous with all work done at college level. The Basic Phase ASTRP (Reserve) Curriculum B-1 personnel were civilians under the age of 18 years and were not able to enlist due to age restrictions. All others in the ASTP program were enlisted Army personnel. The ASTP program was conducted from September 13, 1943 to May 1, 1944. The advanced Phase Curriculum in Veterinary Medicine cadets were enlisted Army personnel and assigned to the ASTP curriculum for pursuing a regular college curriculum in veterinary medicine. Upon completion they would be commissioned officers in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps. The curriculum was terminated at Army request August 26, 1944. Iowa State trained 117 cadets in the four curriculums.

The Curtiss-Wright Corporation contracted with Iowa State to conduct a program to train civilian women assistants for their engineering departments. The Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadets were trained in drafting, stress analysis, materials lab, aerodynamics, and production liaison. The cadets were not engineers, but were given adequate training so that they could assist engineers with their jobs. The company hoped their engineers would be able to accomplish more in less time with assistance of trained helpers. The courses began on February 15, 1943 with 100 cadets enrolled. When the course was completed 90 women out of the original 100 graduated, with 84 of the graduates being employed at the Curtiss-Wright Corporation Plant in St. Louis.


1 collection

Items in related collections

RS 13/16/11. James L. Geddes papers, 1878-2008 RS 13/16/13. James Rush Lincoln papers, 1863-1964 RS 13/16/51. Charles F. Tous papers, 1917-1977, undated

Processing Information

Released on 2019-03-19.

RS 13/16. Iowa State University. Department of Military Science records
December 7, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672