Bronco Battalion History


The Early Years:

Although Santa Clara University was established for educational purposes in the arts and sciences, she had a heritage of asceticism and self-denial that could not be destroyed. The Jesuits who founded her were conditioned by the spiritual exercises of their soldier founder, Ignatius of Loyola. Hence, one year after the school was chartered, 1856, Santa Clara University initiated a military oriented training program.

Due to the outbreak of the Civil War, an official organization of the basic military unit was established in 1861. The unit was known as the Senior Company of Cadets. As with the rest of the nation, the Civil War brought on strong feelings for the students and their families. As a result, parents who sympathized with the Confederacy withdrew their sons from school, while other young men left Santa Clara to join the Union forces. By 26 November 1862, the Junior Company of Cadets, consisting of younger classmen, was established. However, the Junior Division was short lived.

Meanwhile, on 10 September 1863, Leland Stanford, the Governor of California at the time, presented the Corps of Cadets with forty Springfield rifles, Model 1839. In return for his generosity, an armory was built in his honor. In 1936, the armory was located southwest of the athletic field with the pistol range located below the stage of the auditorium. Today, the rifles are preserved in the University Museum.

The presence of an armory and pistol range present on campus as early as 1863 confirms that military training was taken seriously. The Senior and Junior Divisions were headed by Captains Joseph Wiley and James Hayward, respectively. The Corps of Cadets enjoyed much popularity during the Civil War years and continued to prosper until 1867.

By 1867, since the Civil Was was over, the Junior Division disappeared due to lack of participation. The Senior Division still continued to function under Captain Ignacio Malaria.


The Spanish-American War:

The recorded military activities at Santa Clara from 1874 to 1904 are sketchy. Hence, little information regarding Santa Clara’s participation in the Spanish American War is known. However, it is known that two Jesuits from Santa Clara, Reverends W. D. McKinnon and J. P. McQuaide volunteered as Chaplains in the Spanish-American War. Both men were part of the American Expeditionary Force that was with Theodore Roosevelt when he made his attack at San Juan Hill on 1 July 1898.


World War I:

The Military Science program at Santa Clara was revived at the outbreak of World War I. By 1917, the entire campus took on a martial atmosphere. On 13 April 1917, Father Thornton, the President of Santa Clara University, on behalf of the President and Board of Trustees, wrote to the Adjutant General of the Army in San Francisco to offer the War Department the free use of Santa Clara’s halls, classrooms, and laboratories, and grounds for the purpose of training any units of Army Officers of the Reserve Corps. Shortly before the 13 April 1917, four companies of unarmed, uninformed students conducted military drill under Captain (Retired) J. L. Donovan.

During the World War I era, drill was conducted twice a day, once from 1300 to 1400 then from 1535 to 1645. Four companies were formed, which were led by students with previous military experience. The Government looked very favorably on the letter Father Thornton wrote, which resulted in uniforms and arms immediately supplied, along with strong consideration for Santa Clara to become an Officers’ Reserve School. The Government strongly considered plans to have Santa Clara be conducted on the lines of West Point as early as the following semester.  

Since the students lived on campus, it appeared that the plan was workable. Soon after, the plan was adopted.

On 11 September 1917, the program gained Army recognition. Santa Clara was to gain the military distinction of being selected as an Infantry Unit, Senior Division Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. At the time, Santa Clara was the only institution of learning in the west that was granted an Officers’ Reserve Training Corps. In 1917, Captain Donovan was selected as the first Professor of Military Science and Training and subsequently promoted to Colonel. In 1918, Colonel Donovan was commended for managing the only institution on the West Coast to have cadets live in barracks and under constant military discipline, such as that found in cadets from military institutes on the East Coast, such as Virginia Military Institute and the United States Military Academy. He was recognized for his achievements in putting together a "good" Students’ Army Training Corps despite lack of equipment from the War Department.


Post-World War I:

After World War I, the Military Department at Santa Clara became almost non-existent. Since the war was over, the demand for reserve officers was not high. However, the program was reestablished by Reverend James J. Lyons, S.J. when he became President of Santa Clara. Upon being invited by the Army to apply for the establishment of a Motorized Field Artillery Unit of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the University of Santa Clara, Reverend Lyons gladly accepted the invitation. Hence, ROTC as it is known today at Santa Clara had its beginnings in April 1935. By 16 January 1936, Santa Clara gained final War Department approval for establishment of a Motorized Field Artillery Unit. The Unit was established at the beginning of the 1936-1937 school year. The War Department provided the Military Department at Santa Clara with three officers and eight enlisted men to train the cadets. Major Ernest T. Barco, Field Artillery was recommended for the position of Professor of Military Science and Tactics in order to establish the Unit.

Major Barco reported to the University on 10 March 1936 and immediately set to work.

At the time, Kenna Hall and the Adobe Lodge, in their currently location, were reserved exclusively for Military Science instruction. Drill was conducted on Stanton Field, which at the time, was located West of Campbell Avenue and North of Bellomy Street. Stanton Field was an adjacent field to the area that now contains the flagpole, which at the time, was used as a place to assemble the corps.


World War II:

The Declaration of War by President Roosevelt in December 1941 caused a significant outflow of university students into the Army and Navy. By January 1942 the draft called for more men. Hence, all of Santa Clara’s four classes were represented in every branch of the service. The senior class had the most number of draftees, all of whom were regular students at Santa Clara. However, by the new semester on 4 February 1942, there was only a nine- percent drop in enrollment.

The war greatly affected university life. Detached soldiers on their way to the Pacific were camped in and around the town of Santa Clara, as well as on campus.

A nationwide civil defense was established, which included the town of Santa Clara. About ten students were appointed as special air-raid wardens to control public conduct during the military authorized blackouts. Not only were the students called to arms, but also seven of the Jesuits teaching at Santa Clara. The Jesuits volunteered to become chaplains in the service.

In 1941, at Santa Clara, the ordinary academic courses were arranged so that ninety- percent of the students were engaged in some type of Military Science curriculum throughout the war. Eighty-one percent took part in the Basic and Advanced Course of instruction under Colonel Barco and his staff.

On 2 March 1942, in cooperation with the Department of Education, the university opened up a third session of training. The program of instruction was open to men and women under Dean George Sullivan, head of the College of Engineering. The courses included machine design and other essential subjects related to the war effort.

By 1942, a draft deferment program was established to allow men to finish their college studies prior to serving in the armed forces. The training requirement was then an hour of military training five days a week.

The caliber of instruction at Santa Clara was superb. From November 1950 to January 1951, as many as twenty-two officers were interviewed for one instructor vacancy. This practice of screening instructors paid off in the training of the finished product, the Commissioned Officer. Santa Clara cadets made a tremendous positive impression wherever they went in military circles. The summer camp training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1951, brought forty-five cadets from Santa Clara. Fifty-two schools, including the Citadel, Texas A&M, Virginia Military Institute, etc., were represented with a total of 1800 cadets present. When the final evaluations were completed, Santa Clara came in with the best ratings, to take first place.  

Korean War:

As a result of the Korean War, universal military training, conscription, was made into law by Congress and was largely responsible for the rapid increase in enrollment. Students studying Military Science were not subjected to the draft, if maintaining a "C" average or above. As a result, the Military Science Department enjoyed a great degree of popularity.\  

Post-Korean War:

In 1954 a General Military Science curriculum replaced the Field Artillery ROTC program. For freshman and sophomore men, participation in ROTC was mandatory. However, as an upper classmen, ROTC was optional.

By the 1964-1965 school year, the University of Santa Clara adopted the "Santa Clara Plan," which allowed lower division students to receive four term courses per term and upper division students to receive three term courses per term. Academic credit for Military Science was given only for one lower division (freshmen) term course and one upper division (senior) term course. These two term courses were accepted as part of the forty-two courses required for graduation. One year of Military Science for all physically and otherwise qualified students was also a requirement for graduation. However, by 1968, ROTC was optional for everyone.

In 1973, Santa Clara ROTC admitted women to its program by Congressional decree. Then, in February 1974, the University Academic Curriculum committee voted unanimously to grant full academic credit, applicable toward fulfillment of graduation requirements, for all courses offered by the Department of Military Science.


Declining Years (1960s-1970s):

The first collective outward sign of anti-war movements began in the early fall of 1967, when a group of committed and determined activists in Boston organized a rally for 16 October 1967. They declared that on "that day a few thousand young men across the country will make a complete break with the draft system. . . . From that day on, they will work to disrupt the operation of the Selective Service and the armed forces until the United States withdraws from Vietnam. . . . The Resistance begins on October 16. It will not stop until the war is over." The Boston rally attracted more than 200 men who were willing to risk five years in prison by burning or turning in their draft credentials. In New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and dozens of other cities across the country held similar and simultaneous demonstrations as that organized in Boston. A total of a thousand draft cards were collected and returned to the Justice Department, while hundreds went up in flames.

The initial rally on 16 October launched a movement that ultimately drew 4000 draft-age men into open revolt against a system that had provided soldiers for several previous wars. The movement's aim was to cripple the military conscription for the Vietnam War through public renunciation of the draft system. Potential draftees were encouraged to not register for Selective Service and to publicly return or destroy the draft cards.

Although the movement was well organized and had a strong self justifying ideology, as well as a collective sense of purpose, it was short lived. Following the protests in October 1967, similar demonstrations were orchestrated every few months across the country through the spring of 1968, when the movement began to falter. By the end of 1968, the resistance movement had declined so much that draft card collections had ceased in many areas and a number of resistance offices had closed. However, the number of individuals refusing induction were increasing at a steady rate, and later events connected with the Vietnam conflict, such as the 1970 invasion of Cambodia by the United States, brought sporadic outbreaks of collective attacks on the draft.

Public declarations of resistance to conscription were the most visible part of the movement. Local resistance organizations took this opportunity to increase membership and to undermine the war effort. Their recruitment and undermining tactics included: demonstrations, draft counseling, sanctuaries for deserters and AWOL soldiers, direct action against induction centers and draft boards, establishment of anti draft unions, and educational forums.

Santa Clara, like the rest of nation, was not immune to the student unrest and campus disruptions. However, the students never reached the level of intensity that it did elsewhere. United States intervention in Cambodia in the spring of 1970 received the greatest number of protests at Santa Clara. Demonstrations on campus took the form of class boycotts, teach-ins, and anti-war rallies. Santa Clara indirectly shut its doors when Governor Ronald Reagan ordered the closure of colleges and universities of the state for two days to ease tensions. By shutting down the university, Santa Clara administrators sought to avoid confrontation when students from nearby state schools planned to demonstrate at Santa Clara to force its closure.

When classes resumed, tension mounted again. The focus this time was on the president's annual review and award ceremony for ROTC. About 75 student and faculty demonstrators carried placards declaring, "Off ROTC", "Stop the War Machine," and "Get Out of Southeast Asia," while a group of about twenty protesters walked onto Stanton Field and lay down in the path of the parading cadets. This event was highly publicized. The photographs of the parading cadets stepping over prone students was publicized all over the world, from West Berlin to Bangkok and from New Zealand to New England.

A few weeks later, James Alberson, the academic vice-president, announced the spring term would end a week early to "minimize tensions for students and faculty." The dissent among the student body also led to the first time in which commissioning was not a part of commencement at Santa Clara.

Meanwhile, a faculty poll was taken on two ROTC related issues. Out of 190 members, 106 to 52 voted in favor of keeping ROTC on campus, while 98 to 49 voted to retain academic credit currently granted to military science courses. However, 117 to 36 voted to discontinue commissioning at commencement.

Beyond anti military sentiments, the issue of keeping ROTC on campus and of granting academic credit for military science courses were also highly debated at the time. Critics feared that the existence of ROTC on campus would undercut the independence and sovereignty of a free university. However, supporters pointed out that banishment of ROTC undercut the freedom of choice of students interested in participating in ROTC. In 1969, although faculty members of Stanford University had already voted to end academic credit for military training and education, there was still some debate. In the mean time, Santa Clara and other schools across the nation, like Harvard and Yale had not yet finalized their decision.

On April 28, 1969, in an attempt to placate some of the demands of militant students and dissatisfied faculties, the Pentagon announced three compromises to the ROTC programs across the nation. The compromises altered military courses to make them more compatible to the regular academic curriculum. The goal of the changes was to remove academic objections to the military science curriculum. The three compromises included: (1) shifting some of the military training from the campus to summer encampments at military installations; (2) employing more civilian instructors as opposed to military officers in ROTC courses, while up-grading the caliber of the military instructors; and (3) eliminating some technical courses, while making others more general by removing the emphasis on military matters. However, the compromises were not meant to alter the opinions of those who opposed the Vietnam War or the military in general.

At the time of the debates in 1969, 25,727 officers were newly commissioned into the Army, with 16, 415 from ROTC programs across the nation. Regardless of the demonstrations, nationwide, the number of newly Army commissioned officers in 1969 exceeded the numbers from 1968, 14,176, and from 1967, 10,727. However, during the five years following 1969, the number of institutions with compulsory ROTC courses decreased from 132 to 95 and the total enrollment dropped from 159,849 to 150,982. The drop in enrollment was due to the decreased number of schools with compulsory ROTC programs. At Santa Clara, in September of 1969, there were 280 cadets including 70 freshmen and in January of 1970, there were 244 enrolled cadets. In October 1970, there were only 24 newly enrolled freshman, which fell short of the standard minimum of 25 graduating officers each year at Santa Clara.

In 1971, student election results showed that out of 1352 votes, 911 students voted to retain ROTC at Santa Clara, while 927 students voted for the continuation of giving academic credit for military science courses that already granted credit. With the aforementioned statistic, students tended to favor ROTC. In an example where Stanford faculty voted to abolish credit for military courses without allowing student input, students demanded that administrators retain voluntary ROTC courses, as well as retaining some credit value to the courses. This was the first student referendum in the nation concerning the issue of dissolving ROTC academic courses.

Since the 1980s, public attitudes about ROTC have turned around. ROTC programs have regained respect. More students are enrolled and completing the programs as standards have risen. ROTC enrollment peaked at about 181,000 cadets in 1962-63 as students sought to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam as enlisted men. By 1974, ROTC enrollment plummeted to 39,346 as the United States withdrew from Vietnam and the Selective Service draft ended. However, resurgence began in 1976 when women were first commissioned as officers in the Army as opposed to the Women Army Corp. Despite higher standards, enrollment in ROTC increased steadily in the early 1980s with increased scholarship funds. By 1988-89 academic year, there were 63,000 cadets.

In an effort to spread the word about the improvements in ROTC, the Army hired the New York-based firms of Young & Rubicam and Burson-Marsteller to develop a two-year advertising and publicity campaign. The results were substantial. A Burson-Marsteller survey in 1989 showed that 6,000 corporate managers showed positive ratings for ROTC by more than 90% of respondents. Fox-Morris Associates, Inc., and employment consulting firm, says corporate requests for ROTC graduates have risen 15% from 1988 to 1989. The trend seen at the end of the 1980s continues favorable in the 1990s. Most companies feel that ROTC graduates make better hiring prospects than the average college graduate. The consensus is that cadets are generally brighter, better disciplined, more mature, and tend to advance faster in corporate careers. Therefore, although ROTC is still opposed by anti military activists and those who feel that ROTC is contrary to academic institutions’ stance on homosexuality, ROTC is still seen in a more positive light today than in the 1960s and 1970s.