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 Reserves 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.

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]

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.[3] 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.[4] (In 1922, the magazine was acquired by and folded into the 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 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.[5]

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


  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. Slotkin, Richard. "The Lost Battalions: the Great War and the crisis of American nationality"
  4. "Magazine to Push National Service". The New York Times. February 5, 1917. Retrieved September 10, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kington, Donald M., Forgotten Summers: The Story of the Citizens' Military Training Camps, 1921–1940, Two Decades Publishing (1995), ISBN 0-9645789-0-5


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