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Full text of "The Citizens' Military Training Camp at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, July 7 to August 5, 1937 / John Douglas Custer."

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In casting about for a subject upon wMch to write this 
non-technical thesis my interest quite naturally turned to some 
current topic, in these days of our national emergency, with 
our recent selective service act, the interest of the entire 
country is nov- upon civilian military training . ^ecause of ray 
own interest In military training and because this subject is so 
current, j. have chosen this topic for my thesis. 

civilian military training is the process of taking 
civilians from private life and giving them military training in 
the army for a certain predetermined period and then returning 
them to their private life. xhe onjeet of this training is to 
form a nucleus of men in private industry with military training 
who may, if the emergency occurs, form the basis of an enlarged 
standing army. This training is not to make: soldiers of ell of 
our male citizens but to make citizens of all of our males, 
.these citizens are thus prepared to defend our country and its 
ideals If the ocoasion should warrant. 

citizens* military training camps, v.M.T.C, h'-ive been 
abolished under the new selective service act^ but the training 
received in the u.M.T.C. corresponds, to a certain extent, to 
that received by the present drafted men, ihus, ± will try to 
give in this thesis some experiences as received by a person 
during six weeks training under the civilien military training 

This thesis is written to show the type of training 
received by a trainee under the civilian military training 
program. ,.hile the training as described in this paper is not 
the same as that received under the present selective service 
act, it will , j. am sure, closely correspond to the present 
type of training, xhis paper deals with the training under 
the citizens 4 Military j. raining uamps program. 

xhe theme illustrates the activities of the trainee 
from the first day of camp until his final test. j.hat test 
consists of the application of all the principles learned during 
the camp period, in the case of the coastal artillery camp, 
this test consists of the actual firing of the 155- m il Ureter 
field guns at a moving target six miles av/ay, j.he theme follows 
the trainee through the work and play that he receives during 
a typical dey at camp. 

ihis thesis, in general, is a non-technical history 
of the oitizens* military i raining uamp at j?ort iwonroe, Virginia, 
from july 7 to august 5, 1937* 



jtuly 7 TO AUuUtoT 5, 1937 

While a student in the nigh oohool oadet Corps, i first 
became interested in the study of military science as a profes- 
sion. In my senior year of high school, while a cadet lieutenant 
in the corps of cadets, my interest in military training reached 
a new peak, xhus it was only naturtl upon graduation from high 
school, that I began to look about for further experience and 
knowledge in military training. ±t was at this time that the 
oitizens ; Military .training oamps program was first brought to 

my attention, j. immediately made application for ooast artillery 
training at jort Monroe, Virginia. My application was accepted, 

and i received orders to report for training in the second 
year course at jiort Monroe on the morning of july 7» 

un the evening of July b, a went aboard the jNorfork- 
«ashington steamer to start my journey to camp, jifter a plea sent 
trip down the xotomac niver and across the ohesapeake ^ay during 
the night, at which time ± met many of the boys who were to be 
future trainees like myself, I arrived at ^ort Monroe at six 
o'olock the next morning, iwy first impression of xort Monroe 
was its beauty. 


rort Monroe, Virginia, is situated on the ohesapeak cay 
and commands the entrance to hampton Koads, l*he fort was 
named after James Monroe, who was r resident of the united states 

when it was commenced, uuring the uivil ,.ar, the rost was 
garrisoned by one regiment of heavy artillery which participated 
in and witnessed the fight between the ''Monitor" and the 
"Merrimac". A he jort itself is built in the shape of a hexagon 
surrounded by a moat, xort ivuonroe is today, without exception, 
the most beautiful army post in the united States. 

After this initial birds-eye view of the fortress, I 
left the steamer, xtt the dock, the trainees were met by our 
future officjters and placed, with pur lugjage, in army trucks, 
xhe trucks transported us to our camp. Immediately upon our 
arrival at camp, we were told to go to the mess-hall, nere we 


,\our first taste of army food in the form of breakfast. n.t this 
time let me state that although the army expects and gets hard 
work from its men, it feeds the men well at all tines, curing 
my stay at xort monroe and als enuring my training at the 
K.O.l'.U. oamp at i-ort weade, Maryland, i have yet to find the 
time that x was not given more food than i could eat. v.hile I 

1- jrom "information negarding u.M.T.C. in the xhird 
i^orps Area* 1937 . 


cannot say that every meal received in an army mess-hall was 
excellent, because a f e*. , although only a few, were bad; there 
v;as always more than enough to satisfy everyone, anyone that 
is stationed at an army camp under peace time conditions will, 
i believe, find himself well fed and well clothed. 

iifter breekfast, the men were told to report to the 
commanding officer and present their credentials. ,,hen these 
formalities were completed, we were sent to the infirmary for a 
physical examination, jtll those who were found to be physically 

fit were assigned to their barracks. and told to draw their 
bedding, clothing, and equipment. There were two hundred and 
twenty-five men received at oamp and a picture of the barracks 
that housed these men is shown below. 


xhe equipment issued to the trainees consisted of the 


Three woolen snirts, olive drab 

Two pairs of breeches, olive drab 

une pair of woolen trousers, olive drab 

oix pair of woolen sox 

two pair of service shoes 

une pair of woolen wrap legglns 

une denim jumper 

une pair of denim trousers 

une denim hat 

une campaign hat with u.m.t.G. cord 

une raincoat 

une black necktie 

une web waistbelt 

two sheets and one pillow case 

Two blankets iwool) 

One meat oan 

une canteen and one aluminum canteen cup 

une canteen cover 

une knife, one fork, anc one spoon 

une cartridge belt 

une first aid pouch 

une field pac<t: with shelter tent equipment 

one opringf ield 30-cal. , model 1903 service rifle 

.& picture showing the drill 
uniform witnout the field 
equipment is shown at right. 


nftev the equipment had been issued, the men returned 

to the barracks. jL.he bedstyere made up and the barracks were 

policed. ihen all cililian clothes vere turned in and placed 

under lock and key. ..hen the cililian clothes had once been 

turned in, they could not be drev.n again until the next week-end 

leave. , the soldiers were forced to remain in uniform 

at all times while they h within the camp area. 

jjy the time these duties had been performed, the morning 

was over. *t 12:1s dinner was served in the mess hall, "phe 

afternoon was spent cleaning rifles for inspection at the 

retreat formation that evening. ,.-hen all the assigned work was 

completed, the men were permitted to loaf about or explore the 

lost. «fter supper and the retreat formation werelgver that 

evening, a xired grotty of men retired to the barracks to either 

go to sleep or enter whole-heartedly in one of the many bull 

sessions or card games in progress, .this completed the first 

day of camp. 

xhe remainder of the first week of camp was spent in 
lectures, simple drill instruction, and\the general accustoming 
of the men to the standardjcamp routine. 

saving given an account of the trainees' first day in 
camp, j. will next try to give a description of a typical day at 
camp. j.he men were awakened at 5 ; 4S in the morning by the sound 


or the bugle, .at six o'clock the companies v^ere formed to stand 
the reveille formation, -after reveille, the companies were 
marched to the drill ground by the sea-wall for the morning 
exercised. .hen these mass exercises were over, the men were 
marched back to the barracks to prepare themselves for breakfast. 

Breakfast formation was held at 0:30. ^fter breakfast the 
barracks and cemp area were policed up. ^t 7^30 drill call was 
sounded, the companies were formed, and the men marched to the 
parade ground for close order drill. A his close order infantry- 
drill was held from 7*3^ ^° ^:15» whereon the men were taken to 
the baseball stands to listen to lectures, i'rom 8: IS to 8:45 
the officers of the camp gave lectures to the men seated in the 
stands, xhese leotures varied from day to day. xhe topics 
covered were; first aid, hygiene, citizenship, military and civil 

courtesy, and ..merican history and government. 

jit 8:45 "the infantry drill uas resumed, Brill, this 
time, lasted until 9i^0 t when the companies were marohed back to 
the barracks. j.he men, then, changed from their drill uniforms 
into the blue denims, un a bugle call at 10;00 a.m. the 
companies again formed in the "company street". ^ train nick- 
n .med the "general xershing" then steamed up the street, and the 
men boarded the train. ^he train took the companies to the upper 
end of the Post where the field guns were located. These field 


guns t.iat were used by the wM.t.u. were 155 -mi 11 ime tor, mobile 
field artillery pieces set in place with their spades fastened 
to concrete footings. ±n this manner they were considered 
stationary coastal guns. j.wo pictures of these 155-millimeter 
guns are shown below. 


ithi le at the guns we v<ere given instruction and 
experience in their use. xhe instruction on the 155 * s W6S 
divided into two sections, ^attery V would receive theoretical 
instruction about the guns while ^ttery V was having drill with 
dummy ammunition. j.he theoretical instruction consisted of the 
nomenclature of the piece, the fire power and rate of fire, 
principles of operation, and range finding and spotting principles 
and execution, i.e. all data pertaining to the use and operation 
of the gun. ±he drill with dummy ammunition consisted of practice 
in the art of loading and firing the piece. *.fter forty-five 
minutes the two batteries would exchange instruction, ^.t 1?;00 
noon all men would return to t^e barracks to prepare for mess. 

mess call was sounded at 12. 15. ,-ifter dinner, the after- 
noon program was varied from day to day. Some days the afternoon 
was devoted to supervised athletics, such as, swimming, boxing 
and wrestling, baseball, volley-ball, track, and tennis, ^ther 
days field trips were taken. Some of these trips were taken to; 
iorktown, to view the historical points of interest; .Langley 
xield, to see the air force in operation and iti= planes and shops; 
Newport mews ohipbuilding and ^rydock xards, to see the construc- 
tion and maintenance of large naval and private ships, un 
several afternoon^ trips were made to the nearby beaches for 
amusement and pleasure or fishing trips were made on the bay. 


In order to show that all afternoons were not made for play, the 
men were required to work on some of the afternoon periods. This 
work consisted of demonstration and instruction in chemieel 
warfare Service, signal ^orps , urdnance, transportation, and 
other divisions of the united states military service. 

Retreat formation and inspection concluded the actual 
work for the day. ahen supper wa&. over, the men could do as they 
pleased around the j-o&t. j^and concerts, movies, letter writting, 
table tennis, pool, and just plain relaxation constituted the 
principal forms of amusement indulged in by the boys during the 
evenings, .every ^riday night, a dance wt?s held for the trainees, 

to which girls from the surrounding sections were invited, 
Dinally, heavy sleep completed the day-s activity. 

naving given a report of the activities of a trainee 
in the u.m.t.u. at j?ort Monroe for a typical day, I will add 
that the greatest thrill at camp occured when we firedjthe 155" 
millimeter guns. The trainees were permitted to fire live 
ammunition with the guns, .these men, with their officers, col- 
lected, computed and posted all fire deta. ± will not attempt 
to explain how the range and elevation were obtained. A de- 
scription of the operation of the base end stations to find two 
angles and a known distance so that the exact position of the 
target may be plotted, would require too much s^ace for this 
theme, j. will state that from the data received from the base 


end stations the position of the target was plotted in the plot- 
ting car. Here the range and deflection were determined to the 
position that the target would occupy at the time the shell 
was fired and reached its objective. A he factors taken into con- 
sideration were; wind velocity, speed of target, rotation of the 
earth, deflection caused by the spinning of the projectile, and 
the size of powder charge used. j.he elevation and deflection 
datae{were phoned to. the firing point five seconds before the 
signal to fire. j.he sights were set and the command to fire was 
given on the all clear signal. ±he projectile was sent on its 
journey six miles across the bay toward the target, ^attery "A" 
received the distinguished honor of having four "hits" out of 
six rounds, j.hus, it may be seen that a well coordinated gun 
crew may be put together, and with about a months training it 
is prepared to render acceptible service to our country if needed, 

a picture is shown on the next page of a gun crew in 
action during the aotual firing of the 155~mi].liEi e ter guns. 
j.he picture was taken Just as the breech was opened after the 
firing of one round of ammunition. 

xt has been the purpose of this paper to give the 
civilian in private life a small insight into army life, ihus , 
he may, if called into active service under the selective service 
act, have a slight knowledge of what to expect from the army and 
what the army may expect from him. I have tried to show that 




m * j i %t i ,>.» * 2&*^i 


a civilian if given the proper training can be of just as much 
value to his country in its defense as the so-called professional 
soldier, .^stly, x have tried to develop within the civilian 
a keener and more profound interest in the military service. It 
is not my desire to cause everyone to take some type of military 
training, but to give him a higher opinion of those men who 
receive this training, x hope that this theme will in some 
small way accomplish these purposes. 

J.HE UlxlWiUMb* Mli^LxAKI JNU- <uASAF 
AT JfOtt'i'ilKfaa MOWKuii;, VlitUXNlii. 

jui,x 7 lo Auuuia-i- 5, 1937 

November 2d, 1940 

xHJS QlTHUmS' Mi.i.lxJittl xHAllMUNu oARP 
AT IfUKXiUibt! MO^tfUii, VlitbrlWXA 
JUi-X 7 ^ AUuUisX 5> !937 

jmov ember 2d, 1940