Citizens' Military Training Camp

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Citizens' Military Training Camps (CMTC) were military training programs of the United States. Held annually each summer during the years 1921 to 1940, the CMTC camps differed from National Guard and Organized Reserve training in that the program allowed male citizens to obtain basic military training without an obligation to call-up for active duty. The CMTC were authorized by the National Defense Act of 1920 as a compromise that rejected universal military training. The CMTC was preceded by the Plattsburg Movement, a series of summer training camps that in 1915 and 1916 hosted some 40,000 men largely of elite social classes, the later CMTC trained some 400,000 men from 1921 to 1940.

Plattsburgh camps

The CMTC was a continuation of the "Plattsburgh camps", a volunteer pre-enlistment training program organized by private citizens before the U.S. entry into World War I. The camps were set up and funded by the Preparedness Movement, a group of influential pro-Allied Americans. They recognized that the standing U.S. Army was far too small to affect the war and would have to expand immensely if the U.S. went to war.[1] The Movement established the camps to train additional potential Army officers during the summers of 1915 and 1916. The largest and best known was near Plattsburgh, New York and had such students as Grenville Clark, Willard Straight, Robert Bacon, Mayor John Purroy Mitchel & Bishop James De Wolf Perry.[2][3][4]

40,000 men (all college graduates) attended the Plattsburgh camp and other sites. They became physically fit, learned to march and shoot, and ultimately provided the cadre of a wartime officer corps. Enlistees were required to pay their own expenses.[5] Suggestions by labor unions that talented working-class youth be invited to Plattsburgh were ignored.

These camps were formalized under the Military Training Camps Association, which in 1917 launched a monthly magazine, National Service.[6] (In 1922, the magazine was acquired by and folded into The American Army and Navy Journal, and Gazette of the Regular, National Guard and Reserve Forces.)


CMTC camps were a month in length and held at about 50 Army posts nationally. At their peak in 1928 and 1929, about 40,000 men received training, but as a whole the camps were a disappointment at their multiplicity of stated goals, but particularly in the commissioning of Organized Reserve officers. The program established that participants could receive a Reserve commission as a second lieutenant by completing four successive summer courses (titled Basic, White, Red, and Blue), but only 5,000 such commissions were awarded over the 20-year history of the CMTC. Apparently, no records exist that document total participation, but it is estimated that 400,000 men had at least one summer of training.[7]

Among known participants were Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, Robert Penn Warren, Walter S. McIlhenny, Chuck Yeager, and William Guarnere.

Camp Edwin F. Glenn located at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson, Random House, 2013, ISBN 9781400069743
  2. ^ Colonel Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, page 433, published 2010 by Random House, ISBN 9780375504877
  3. ^ Perry, Ralph Barton (4 September 2018). "The Plattsburg Movement: A Chapter of America's Participation in the World War". E.P. Dutton. Retrieved 4 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ *Clifford, J. Garry (1972). Citizen Soldiers: The Plattsburg Training Camp Movement, 1913–1920. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813112621. OCLC 493383.
  5. ^ Slotkin, Richard. "The Lost Battalions: the Great War and the crisis of American nationality"
  6. ^ "Magazine to Push National Service" (PDF). The New York Times. February 5, 1917. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  7. ^ Kington, Donald M., Forgotten Summers: The Story of the Citizens' Military Training Camps, 1921–1940, Two Decades Publishing (1995), ISBN 0-9645789-0-5
  8. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.


  • Kington, Donald M. (1995). Forgotten summers : the story of the Citizens' Military Training Camps, 1921-1940. San Francisco, CA: Two Decades Pub. ISBN 0964578905. OCLC 33986603.
  • The Plattsburger. [Wynkoop, Hallenbeck, Crawford Co.] 1917. OCLC 5527390.
  • The Red, White and Blue Manuals: ... a Text Book for the Citizens' Military Training Camp. Ohns Hopkins Press. 1921. OCLC 4785515. Other editions are available.

External links

  • The Plattsburg Movement and its Legacy, Relevance, Autumn 1997.
  • Lost battalions: the Great War and the crisis of American nationality By Richard Slotkin
  • Between the Wars: Citizens' Military Training Camp (CMTC) from the Fort George G. Meade Museum
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