In 1926 the Department of the Navy authorized the establishment of Reserve Officer Training Corps units at six colleges in order to “afford systematic instruction and training to qualify students for appointments as ensigns in the naval reserve upon graduation.” The Georgia School of Technology was one of six chosen to have a unit. The other five were Harvard, Yale, Northwestern University, University of California at Berkley, and the University of Washington . On 10 September 1926, Commander J.J. London and his staff began interviewing 175 applicants for the unit, which was set up in a building on North Avenue. Membership was limited to 60 freshmen who were United States Citizens, at least 14 years of age, and mentally and physically qualified for military duty.
The initial courses consisted of training in navigation, gunnery, and seamanship, supplemented by drill conducted aboard three 24-ft. whaleboats on Piedmont Lake. They also conducted exercises on a simulated ship’s bridge and operated a 4-in. naval gun located at the unit. When a new Naval Armory was completed in 1935, the facilities expanded to include an elaborate ship’s bridge with a complete communications system, an operational ship’s boiler, a lifeboat with davits, a flagbag, and signal lights. Midshipmen from all six units trained together on summer cruises aboard battleships such as the USS Florida, USS New York, USS Arkansas, USS Mississippi, and USS Wyoming.
During the first ten years, membership varied between 200 and 270 Midshipmen. As a result of the limited emergency proclaimed on September 8, 1939, a Naval Reserve Indoctrination School was set up at the unit during summer months to provide ten weeks of instruction in naval subjects to newly commissioned ensigns from colleges across the nation. On July 1, 1943, the V-12 program went into effect at Tech to give experienced enlistees the opportunity to complete college degrees and earn commissions in the Navy. The program increased enrollment to 1040 trainees, which was gradually reduced as V-12 was phased out after World War II. Since its founding, the unit has commissioned over 3,000 officers.
In 1980, the original Naval Armory was torn down to make way for the Edge Athletic Center building, and the NROTC Unit moved to the then ceramic engineering building on the corner of Bobby Dodd Way and Fowler Street. In 2007 the unit moved again into the 2nd floor of the O’Keefe building, which also currently houses the Army and Air Force ROTC units. The new building contains many artifacts from the old facility including an eagle figurehead from the bow of the battleship USS Georgia (circa 1910), her ship’s bell and various items from her bridge, the 4-in. gun earlier used for training, a ship’s wheel from the USS St. Louis, and timber from the USS Constitution, the Navy’s oldest currently commissioned vessel.
President Jimmy Carter
President Jimmy Carter (Georgia Tech 1942-1943, USNA Class of 1946) was a Georgia Tech student before being elected Governor of Georgia, President of the United States or Nobel Peace Prize laureate. President Carter attended Georgia Tech before appointment to the United States Naval Academy to graduate with the Class of 1946. In later years, Carter commented, “Tech was much more difficult academically than I thought it would be. I’ve been to four universities and Tech was the most difficult.” After graduation, he became a submariner often saying that Admiral Rickover was one of the greatest influences on his life. Carter later used Admiral Rickover’s questioning during his interview as a prospective submariner as a title for his first book Why Not the Best. After leaving the Navy in 1953 as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of USS Seawolf, SSN 575, Carter returned home to Plains, Georgia. In 1970 he was elected Governor of Georgia becoming the first state-wide office holder in the Deep South to publicly espouse desegregation leading to the mostly peaceful desegregation of the State. In 1976, Carter became the 39th President of the United States. As President, Carter mediated the Camp David Accords, reorganized and streamlined much of the Federal Government, opened full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, negotiated the Panama Canal Treaties and the SALT II Treaty, though the Iranian Hostage Crisis marred the end of his Presidency. After leaving Washington, Carter took on the role of elder statesman promoting peace and democracy around the world traveling to places such as North Korea and Cuba. His humanitarian work is also widespread within the United States and around the world. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 as the third of four US Presidents to be so awarded (Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson preceded Carter, and Barrack Obama followed in 2009). President Carter lives with his wife Roslyn in Plains, GA. USS Jimmy Carter, SSN 23 is named in his honor.
General Raymond G. Davis, USMC
General Raymond G. Davis, USMC (Georgia Tech class of 1939) graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, and was a highly decorated officer in the United States Marine Corps. He served in three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam . During World War II he fought at the landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi. He earned the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his fighting at Peleiu in September of 1944. However, his most noted distinction would come during the Korean War, where he would earn the Medal of Honor for his daring rescue of a rifle company from annihilation at Chosin Reservoir and opened a mountain pass allowing two Marine regiments to escape. The award was conferred by Harry S. Truman on November 24, 1952. During the Korean War he also twice earned the Silver Star for facing heavy enemy fire while leading his men against strong enemy opposition; he also received the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”. Later he would also earn the Bronze Star with Combat “V”. During the Vietnam conflict he served as Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Division from 22 May, 1968 to 14 April, 1969, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in this capacity. Throughout his career he earned numerous medals and awards for his outstanding service in the United States Marine Corps. General Davis passed away at the age of 88 on 3 September 2003 from a heart attack and was interred at Forestlawn Memorial Gardens in College Park, Georgia.
Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Retired)
Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Retired) (Georgia Tech NROTC class of 1959) also received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering degree and became a successful Naval Aviator and test pilot. Truly entered the space program as part of the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory Project and later entered the NASA astronaut corps. He served as pilot during the approach and landing evaluations of the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise, as pilot on the second mission of Columbia, and commanded and additional flight. Admiral Truly eventually became Director for Manned Spaceflight and NASA administrator during the Bush administration. As agency administrator, Truly engineered the triumphant return of America to space after the Challenger accident. Admiral Truly also served as the Vice President of the School and Director of the Georgia Tech Research Institute from 1992 through 1997.
Captain John W. Young, USN (Retired)
Captain John W. Young, USN (Retired) (Georgia Tech NROTC class of 1952) graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering Magna Cum Laude. He went on to a highly successful career as a Naval Aviator and test pilot. Young was chosen in the Gemini group of NASA astronauts. During his years with NASA, Captain Young became the world’s most experienced space traveler with two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions, and two Space Shuttle missions. During Apollo X, the dress rehearsal for the Apollo XI landing, Captain Young piloted the command module as his two crewmates took their lunar lander within a few thousand feet of the lunar surface. During Apollo XV, Captain Young served as mission commander, becoming the seventh human to walk on the moon. His excursion of the area around the Descartes Crater was the first use of a lunar rover vehicle. Following the Apollo Program, Captain Young became NASA chief astronaut and commanded the Space ShuttleColumbia on her maiden voyage. Captain Young also commanded Space Shuttle Mission 9, the first flight of the joint U.S.—European Space Agency Spacelab project.
Captain David McCampbell, USN
Captain David McCampbell, USN (Georgia Tech 1928-1929, USNA Class of 1933) attended Georgia Tech (then known as The Georgia School of Technology) before being appointed to the USNA, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering with the Class of 1933. Captain McCampbell is the Navy’s top “Ace” of all time with 34 aerial victories. In October 1944, he and his wingman attacked a Japanese force of 60 aircraft. During the mission, Captain McCampbell shot down nine enemy planes, setting a single mission aerial combat record. When he landed his Grumman F6F Hellcat, his six machine guns had two rounds remaining and the plane had only enough fuel to keep it aloft for 10 more minutes. Captain McCampbell received the Medal of Honor for that action, becoming the only fast carrier task force pilot to do so. From September 1943 to September 1944 McCampbell was commander of Air Group 15, in charge of fighters, bombers, and torpedo bombers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex. From April to November 1944, his group saw six months of continuous combat and participated in two major air-sea battles, the First and Second Battles of the Philippine Sea. During the more than 20,000 hours of air combat operations before it returned to the United States for a rest period, Air Group 15 destroyed more enemy planes (315 airborne and 348 on the ground) and sank more enemy shipping than any other Air Group in the Pacific War. For his brilliant record in command of Air Group 15, McCampbell was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars, and the Air Medal. Captain McCampbell retired from active duty in 1964. He died in 1996 and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery. USS McCampbell, DDG 85 is named in his honor.