Military Education was added to the curriculum in 1892 to fulfill the terms of the Morrill land-grant fund, which had been received in 1863. Lieutenant William J. Pardee was professor of military tactics from 1892 to 1895, and was succeeded by Lieutenant John Baxter in 1895-96 and Captain Cunliffe H. Murray from 1896 to 1898. After Murray’s departure to serve in Manila, instruction in military science was suspended. The subject of military training came up again in 1916. At this time it was decided not to provide military training on the campus. Students were encouraged to take part in the summer camps of the Rhode Island military companies. Twenty-six students enrolled in Battery A of the Rhode Island National Guard.
During the first World War the University adopted a wartime curriculum in accordance with the directives of the War and Navy Departments. The University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps was recognized by the War Department in 1917, and the entire student body was inducted into the Student Army Training Corps or the Naval Training Unit in October 1918. The Naval Training Unit trained ashore, as its members learned navigation in the laboratories of Wilson Hall, used their sextants on the steps of Arnold Laboratory, and in bad weather worked in the rigging loft on the top floor of University Hall. The Student Army Training Corps was disbanded in December 1918. When the Naval Training Unit was demobilized in 1918, the Department of Naval Science remained with its title changed to the Department of Nautical Science and new headquarters on the third floor of Maxcy Hall.
First steps toward establishing a unit for air training under the Civil Aeronautics Authority began in 1939. Participation in the CAA program was an extra-curricular activity, with a fee of forty dollars, which led President Wriston to observe that participation in the program was “a privilege for those who can best afford it instead of an attempt to get those who are best qualified.” In 1940 a quota of 30 students signed up for training with a technical instructor from M.I.T. and flying instruction by E. W. Wiggins Airways, Inc.
A Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps unit was established at Brown in the fall of 1940 with 110 members. Capt. Chester H. J. Keppler became executive officer of the ROTC and chairman of the Department of Naval Science and Tactics with headquarters in the basement of Maxcy Hall. Students who were admitted to the Corps under peace-time conditions before March 1943 took a four-year course in naval science and tactics which, together with a summer cruise, entitled them to a degree and a commission as Ensign in the Volunteer Naval Reserve or Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve. Students in the Corps in March 1943 completed their program as Naval students, Class V-12, in the Naval Reserve. Keppler was followed by Capt. George H. Bowdey in 1941-42, Capt. Henry M. Briggs from 1942 to 1944, and Capt. Emanuel A. Lofquist in 1944-45,
After the war there were three types of officer-candidates: 1) regular NROTC students who were midshipmen in the Naval Reserve, were educated at government expense, and were required to serve on active duty after graduation; 2) contract students who as civilians entered a contract with the Navy, paid for their own education while receiving uniforms and a commuted ration (65 cents a day in 1946), and were required to accept a commission in the Naval or Marine Corps Reserve; 3) naval science students in excess of the quota of the NROTC unit, who were permitted to take naval science courses for credit and were eligible for the NROTC when vacancies occurred. Post-war officers in charge of the NROTC were Capt. Carl G. Gesen in 1945-46, Capt. Francis D. McCorkle from 1946 to 1948, Capt. Edward R. Durgin from 1948 to 1952, when he retired and became dean of students at Brown, Capt. Frederick W. Laing from 1952 to 1955, Capt. Charles M. Lyons from 1955 to 1959, Capt. Norman D. Johnson from 1959 to 1961, Col. William F. Lantz, USMC, from 1961 to 1963, Capt. Robert Brent from 1963 to 1969, and Capt. John P. Kane from 1969 until the end of the ROTC program in 1972.
Air Force ROTC units were established at Brown and 61 other institutions on July 1, 1951. President Wriston received the Brown unit hospitably, “Under the current circumstances, it is a public service the University can render, and I am delighted that the Air Force has given Brown this opportunity.” In September 1950 freshmen arrived for indoctrination under Colonel Bryan B. Harper, who was named Chairman of the Department of Air Science and Tactics. Fifty juniors and twenty sophomores who joined the unit had to contract to finish their four years of training by enrolling at a graduate school where they could continue as cadets. Graduates who completed the Air Force courses and attended one summer camp session were commissioned upon graduation as Second Lieutenants in the Air Force Reserve. Other officers who headed the Air Science Department were Col. Gilbert E. Goodman from 1955 to 1957, Lt. Col. George W. Hutcheson from 1958 to 1960, Major Arthur E. Allen from 1960 to 1961, Lt. Col. William J. Grundmann from 1962 to 1966, Major Robert G. Liotta from 1966 to 1969, and Capt. Richard J. Manning from 1969 until the end of thr program. In connection with the AFROTC unit Brown had a squadron of the Arnold Air Society, a national organization of Air Force cadets named for General H.H. (Hap) Arnold, which began at the University of Cincinnati in 1947.
A long-term debate on the future of ROTC began in 1967, when 35 members of the Brown Committee to abolish ROTC picketed the annual ROTC spring review at Meehan Auditorium. In November 1967 the Cammarian Club passed a resolution stating that the ROTC program was not compatible with the academic integrity of the University. The Brown Chapter of the American Association of University Professors concurred. The annual review was picketed again in 1968. In 1968 the commissioning ceremony of the ROTC had been separated from the Commencement exercises and held later in Sayles Hall, where an unscheduled appearance was made by Bob Hope, who had received an honorary degree at the Commencement exercises. The next year the commissioning ceremony was moved to Sunday preceding Commencement. In March 1969 the faculty rejected by a vote of 115 to 55 a resolution calling for the end of all military education, but recommended that the ROTC units should not have departmental status, that instruction by these units should not earn academic credit, that their officers should not have faculty status, and that the programs should be considered extracurricular activities. The University entered into new agreements for phase-out periods for the two ROTC programs, which applied only to students enrolled as of July 1, 1969. Negotiations were reopened in 1971, and, since the stipulations of March 1969 were not being met, the faculty affirmed its action and ended the presence of the ROTC at Brown in 1971 for the Air Force unit and in 1972 for the Naval unit.