The men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) exemplified a strong work ethic. Their families were in financial need, and The Great Depression of the 1930s left 25% of the work force jobless and another 29% of men, ages 15 - 24, able to find only part time jobs. The economic situation... more
- ISBN 9781563116421
- Imprint Turner
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The men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) exemplified a strong work ethic. Their families were in financial need, and The Great Depression of the 1930s left 25% of the work force jobless and another 29% of men, ages 15 - 24, able to find only part time jobs. The economic situation was compounded by depletion of forests, unwise methods of farming, and destruction of national resources which had produced a "Dust Bowl" from the Rocky Mountains to Illinois and Texas to Idaho and Nebraska.
In 1932, Presidential Candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to provide jobs for one million young men doing conservation work. Sworn into office in March 1933, on March 31, 1933, FDR signed the Emergency Conservation Corps act creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). FDR wanted 250,000 men in their camps by July 1st. Within the short span of three months, the CCC became the largest peace time work force the United States had ever had.
Who could do such a tremendous feat? The U.S. Army was given the task. With less than authorized strength, promotions frozen, bases being closed, and low morale, the Army was less than enthusiastic about being handed the monumental job of conditioning, immunizing, training, and transporting these young men in such a short span of time. The Army's responsibilities were expanded to run the camps and exercise control over all facets of the camp except technical supervision of the work itself. The Army was able to achieve this rapid mobilization because it maintained a group of flexible officers who were skilled in the art of organizing and training men. There were 73 conditioning camps throughout the United States, which was divided into nine Army Corps Administrative areas. Ultimately, there were 3,500,000 enrollments of 2,500,000 individuals, many who enrolled more than once. Over the existence of the CCC from 1933 - 1942, 4,500 CCC camps were established throughout the United States and its territories.
Different camps attacked different conservation problems. Areas of blight in forests were eradicated, and erosion was stopped. Three billion trees were planted. Sixty-thousand buildings were built. Eight-hundred national and state parks were created. Forest fires were fought; and roads and dams, built. CCC camps served as "Good Samaritans" to people in nearby communities.
Gold Medal CCC Company 1538: A Documentary contains over 440 photos and official documents on photographic quality paper, first-hand accounts given by men who served in the camp, items from a newsy camp newspaper, as well as blue prints of the camp and information from a diary kept by camp clerks. Numerous sources of information are referenced. Included is a biography of the camp's first commander who later was Marshal of The Court at the Nürnberg Trials and was inducted into the Fort Sill Artillery O.C.S. (Officers' Candidate School) Hall of Fame.
This book details the flurry of activity and work done during the two weeks of conditioning at Fort Knox, Kentucky and the establishment of the camp near Pineville in southern West Virginia. Originally, CCC enrollees were 18 - 25 years of age, single, U.S. citizens, had to be in good physical condition, had to have families on welfare or relief to whom $25 of the $30 monthly allotment would be sent, which was enough to take them off welfare. Thirty to forty of the first contingent of Company 1538 were exceptions to the relief requirement above. They were engineering students at Cincinnati University who were required to alternate classroom instruction with work. Overall in the CCC, World War I veterans comprised 10% of the CCC enrollments. As the CCC progressed, requirements and leadership were changed, and these are documented.
Although Gold Medal CCC Company 1538: A Documentary follows Company 1538 from its creation in 1933 to and beyond its premature closing in 1936, it is also a "text book" history of the CCC and the significant role the Army played in it. The tools and how they were used in the mountainous terrain of West Virginia are described. The food and supplies needed for the camp are noted as well as overall quantities for the CCC as a whole. The lifetime impact that the CCC made on young men, most of them in their teens, left vivid memories which are related here.
In 1933, Company 1538 was adjudged outstanding CCC camp in the 5th Corps Area (Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia) in spite of being located 300 miles from its source of supplies. The outstanding commanders of the nine Army Corps Areas were called to Washington, D.C. where General Douglas MacArthur pinned 14 karat gold medals on them. This medal is the only instance of a private organization's sponsoring an authorized Army award. A Chapter, "Gold Medal Camp," details how the idea of the medal was born and how Company 1538 won the outstanding camp, the categories on which they were judged, and the work they accomplished.
Training of R.O.T.C., C.M.T.C. (Citizens Military Training Camps), National Guard, and Reserves had been halted abruptly. This had to be a temporary situation. By September 1933 most of the Regular Army officers were recalled to their permanent stations and were replaced with Reserves. Before funding ceased for the CCC in 1942, the camps had been turned over to the command of civilians who had served in the Reserves with the CCC but who were no longer on active duty.
The initial "tent city" was replaced with barracks. Company 1538 built fire towers and cabins, roads and fire trails, cut and set up telephone poles and strung telephone lines. Their work and fire fighting, the kind of fires, and their causes are covered. Gold Medal CCC Company tells of the hazards the enrollees faced in doing their work. It also explains the sports that were provided - which served both as recreation and team building. The 5th Corps Area developed the prototype of educational programs which were adopted by all CCC camps.
Early photos show the evolution of the camp, the country side, the work, and the barracks. Part of the epilogue shows Pineville, West Virginia as it appeared in 1996 and the remnants of the camp itself. Most of the CCC enrollees served in the military or were engaged in defense work during World War II. The Epilogue follows more than 60 of the men after the CCC and recounts their war time service.
The story of the CCC is intriguing and fascinating. On completing the book, the reader will look at the CCC with admiration and increased appreciation of our nation. What these men have done for our country has helped to make the United States the country it is today. God bless America and the men who served in the CCC.