Jayhawk Battalion History

A composite of model representing 1LT Alfred C. Alford standing next to Professor Jimmy Green. Note Alford's combat leggings. Photo by R. Steve Dick, KU University Relations

Military training has a rich history at the University of Kansas, dating back to the Spanish-American War. During this conflict, 75 KU students and graduates joined the 20th and 22nd Kansas Volunteers Regiments. The 20th's battle cry was "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawks!" and sadly, the first KU casualty occurred during the war: 1LT Alfred C. Alford, KU Class of 1896. A former KU student, COL Frederick N. Funston, also received the Medal of Honor for his service in the war.

In the years following the Spanish-American War and leading up to World War I, Chancellor Strong was against formal military instruction as part of university activities. However, when the US entered the war, he reversed his decision, and in 1918, the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) was established as the forerunner of ROTC. MAJ B.T. Scher served as Commandant. SATC was created as an emergency measure to facilitate training draftees, and in order to commission, students had to complete an additional three weeks of training following SATC instruction. However, SATC was quickly disbanded in December 1918 due to logistical and pay issues, as well as difficulties integrating with academic classes. This setback delayed the formation of ROTC on campus until the fall of 1919.

McCook Field
University of Kansas Induction Ceremonies of S.A.T.C. held at McCook Field. Photo courtesy of the Spencer Research Library.

In July 2, 1918, the War Department issued Bulletin 34, officially authorizing the formation of an Infantry unit of ROTC at the University of Kansas. However, this unit was withdrawn on November 30, 1920, for failing to meet the required strength under Section III of War Department Bulletin 40, which was issued in 1920.

Later on, in 1921, the War Department issued Bulletin 22, Section XIII, which authorized the creation of a Coastal Artillery Unit and an Engineer Unit at the University of Kansas. It is worth noting that these units were already formed at the University of Kansas, with the Engineer unit being established on September 1, 1919, and the Coastal Artillery unit on September 23, 1919.

Bailey Hall
Pass and review in front of Bailey Hall, 1920s. Photo courtesy of Spencer Research Library

Lieutenant Colonel Burdick, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, was the first Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the University of Kansas. However, he faced two major obstacles in establishing the ROTC program. Firstly, he had to persuade the faculty senate to approve the formation of ROTC, which was initially defeated in the first vote. However, after Colonel Burdick delivered an impassioned speech, it was approved during a second vote on February 17, 1919. Secondly, he had to ensure that the enrollment reached the minimum of 100 cadets required to sustain the program. To achieve this, Colonel Burdick went so far as to advertise "free vacations" (summer camps) to attract students to join the program. Ultimately, his efforts were successful, and the Army ROTC program at KU became a reality.

The first graduate of the University of Kansas Army ROTC program was W. L. McPherson, who received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Coastal Artillery Reserve Corps in February 1922.

Summer Training
Coastal Artillery Training during 1928 Summer Training. Photo courtesy of Spencer Research Library.

During the 1920s and early 1930s 'everyone who was anyone' on campus was a member of ROTC. Fraternity presidents, sports team captains and student government members were all part of ROTC. Approximately 300 of the 1500 male students were enrolled in the ROTC program. During this time cadets enrolled in either the coastal artillery company or the corps of engineers company. In 1935, the engineer company was replaced by the infantry branch.  Each company was affiliated with a branch and cadets would be commissioned into that branch. The first offices for the Army ROTC program were in the Old Robinson Gym.  In 1923, classes and offices were moved in what is now the School of Journalism's building then called Fowler Hall.

During the mid 1930s a movement swept across campus claiming that disarmament was the key to world peace. This movement appeared on KU and several peace demonstrations were held. However the administration supported ROTC and the advent of World War II in Europe caused demonstrations to stop and enrollment to grow.

Military Science Building
The program continued to grow and in 1943 the military science building was completed. Also in 1943 the ROTC program was disbanded and replaced by a temporary program to commission officers for all three services. KU became a mini officer academy with man
Jayhawk blvd marching
Army Cadets marching to class on Jayhawk Blvd in 1943. Photo courtesy of Spencer Research Library.

After the end of World War II, Army ROTC at KU was reestablished, and it was soon joined by Navy and Air Force ROTC. Because of the draft, ROTC enrollment at KU consisted of over half of the male students on campus. This trend continued until the late 1960s, when the Vietnam War led to a significant decrease in enrollment in ROTC programs nationwide. At KU, protests against the war and ROTC were common, and the ROTC program was temporarily suspended in 1970. However, it was reinstated in 1972 and has been an integral part of the university ever since. Today, the KU ROTC Battalion is composed of cadets from KU, Haskell Indian Nations University, and several other area colleges and universities.

Story from KU Army ROTC scrapbook archives.
Story from KU Army ROTC scrapbook archives.

The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Kansas (KU) has a proud and longstanding history, dating back to its establishment in 1918 in the aftermath of World War I. Today, KU's ROTC program is one of the top in the country and includes representation from all branches of the military. Since its founding, the program has commissioned over 2,000 second lieutenants.

Over the years, ten partner schools have worked with KU to provide cadets, although some of these partnerships have since ended. These schools include *Emporia State University (October 1973), Kansas City, Kansas Community College (August 1975), *Park College (January 1980), *Rockhurst (February 1980), Washburn University (December 1982), Johnson County Community College (March 1983), *Mid-America Nazarene College (January 1984), Baker University (March 1985), University of St. Mary (November 1993), and Haskell Indian Nation University (November 1993).

However, the Vietnam War and its unpopularity caused a peace movement to gain momentum on campus, leading to serious disturbances and challenges to ROTC's presence. In 1970, the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences voted to remove ROTC's academic credit, but ROTC was eventually able to regain this status in 1975. Since then, ROTC has remained a vital source of commissioning for the Active Component, US Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard.

                        * denotes discontinued partnership agreements

Cadets boarding a Chinook during Fall Field Training Exercise, 1980's.

Timeline of Significant Events

1916                            National Defense Act of 1916 authorizes creation of ROTC

1918                            War Department Bulletin 34 authorizes ROTC to be formed at the University of Kansas

August 1918                First candidates for SATC meet at McCook Stadium

17 February 1918        KU Student Senate approves KU Army ROTC classes

1 October 1918            Induction ceremony for first SATC class at KU

September 1919          First KU Army ROTC class meets at Old Robinson Gym

February 1922             First KU Army ROTC Commissionee, W. L. McPherson

1923                            ROTC offices and classes moved to Fowler Shops

September, 1935         Infantry Branch replaces Engineer Branch at KU Army ROTC

10 August 1943           Army Specialized Training Program established at KU

10 December 1943      Military Science Building dedicated and opened

30 March 1944            First ASTP commissionees shipped out

30 April 1965               KU Army ROTC Unit Crest unveiled (Jayhawk, Sunflower, Lamp of knowledge)

21 February 1969       MSB firebombed, minor damage by protesters

29 April 1969               Student protest at ROTC awards ceremony

Fall, 1969                    ROTC accreditation challenged

Fall, 1974                    First females admitted to KU Army ROTC

Fall, 1975                    First female Army ROTC cadets admitted into Company E-7 Pershing Rifles

1 September 1988      First female Jayhawk Battalion Commander, C/LTC Janette Favreau

Fall 1991                     KU Army ROTC accreditation again challenged due to Army’s homosexuality policy

Cadets marching in Homecoming Parade, 11 October 1991.
Cadets marching in Homecoming Parade, 11 October 1991.