The Early Years, 1936-1940
The senior ROTC program made its first appearance on the St. Norbert College campus in the fall of 1936. However, this was not the first time the familiar ROTC uniform was seen.
St. Norbert High School, which at that time occupied Boyle Hall, had received the junior ROTC program in 1935. The high school ROTC unit had created a very favorable climate for the ROTC program at St. Norbert College and the surrounding area. On Nov. 11, 1935, the high school unit staged an impressive Armistice Day ceremony, the first in the history of the school. Major C.P. Evers, the commander of the 6th sector, Wisconsin Reserve District, gave an address which honored St. Norbert High School in its establishment of an ROTC unit. This ceremony was only one of several such events at which the ROTC unit distinguished itself.
Armistice Day 1936 featured the blessing of national and regimental colors of the senior ROTC unit at the annual College Benefactors’ Mass. New uniforms had recently arrived and were put on public display. The uniforms were snappy forest green outfits that included overseas caps with gold trim and black garrison belts. The ROTC band, also formed in 1936, sported additional finery including gold cross belts and burnished gold helmets.
From 1936 to 1942, the senior ROTC program was fundamentally unchanged. The unit was organized in a battalion formation consisting of battalion headquarters and three companies. A fourth company, Company D, was added in 1940. During this period, cadets took courses in map reading, first aid, close order drill, the manual of arms and organization of an infantry company. Second-year cadets studied the elements of scouting and patrolling, musketry, automatic rifles, auxiliary weapons of the infantry, methods of attack and defense. The advanced ROTC course was not made available until 1938 when 18 cadets registered for the commissioning course. Each advanced course year was worth 16 credits. The first textbook used in the advanced course was “Military Science and Tactics,” by Colonel P.S. Bond, U.S.A.
Accompanying the growth of the ROTC program was the formation of ROTC-related organizations. The ROTC band provided musical entertainment for a wide variety of college and civic activities. Under the direction of the Rev. R.A. Sromovsky, O.Praem., the band participated in events such as the Navy Day Parade, the Citizenship Day Parade and Memorial Day, provided musical setting for collegiate players’ productions, entertained between halves of both home and away football games and played for the annual Commencement program.
The ROTC Rifle Team, also formed in 1936, posted a highly respectable 21-9 record in its first three years of competition. This record is even more outstanding when taking into consideration that the rifle team was firing in interscholastic matches against such schools as the universities of Illinois, Michigan, Idaho and Wisconsin, as well as participating in state ROA meets and the National ROTC Rifle competition for the William Randolph Hearst trophy.
Whenever a fraternal spirit exists or where there is a common background of training and habits, a club will be formed. Such was the case in 1938 when the advanced students in the course of military science and tactics banded together to form the Infantry Club. This group met at regular intervals and sponsored several social events during the years. Early in January, a party was held, at which time new members were welcomed into the club. The highlight of the club’s activities came in the spring of the year when it sponsored the annual military ball for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Those advanced corps students were given the responsibility for some of the training of the basic course cadets.
In October 1941, the Lancers — an organization unique to the campus of St. Norbert College — made its first appearance. Functioning primarily as a competitive drill organization, the Lancers originally consisted of a drill master, assistants to the drill master in the form of commissioned officers, a squad of 12 men and a competitive platoon of 35-40 men. The purposes of the Lancers were to raise the standards of military education at St. Norbert College, to develop better officers and men insofar as leadership, self discipline, initiative, courage and patriotism were concerned, and to encourage, preserve and further the highest ideals of the military profession.
The material on this page is drawn from a St. Norbert College ROTC history book compiled by ROTC alumnus and former military science professor Mike Egan.