The University of Washington has a long and honorable military history. The UW Army ROTC program is one of the oldest in the country, founded in 1916. However, cadets have been an integral part of campus since long before that. 


UW opens on November 4, 1861 as the Territorial University of Washington. The campus consists of a single building in what is now downtown Seattle. The school closes in 1863, 1867, and 1876 due to lack of students and funds. Military instruction at UW was technically created on January 24, 1862 when the Territorial Legislature enacted ‘An Act to Incorporate the University to the Territory of Washington’. Section 9 of the Act stated that one of the four specified departments would be a military department (along with literature, science and arts; law; and medicine). Records show that unsuccessful attempts were made during this time to activate the military department. The first UW graduate is in 1876.


In 1884, UW President Powell expressed that the Act of 1862 was mandatory and established the active military department. Captain George Kinnear, a Civil War veteran, was selected as the first Professor of Military Science (PMS) and his son, Charles Kinnear, served as the Cadet Commander. Arms were furnished by the territorial government. Civilian professors and other members of the community took turns drilling the cadet corps. 33 University cadets participated in the quelling of the Seattle anti-Chinese riots in February 1886 when rioters tried to drive Chinese laborers out of the city and martial law was declared. The cadets were presented a silk 38-star US flag by General John Gibbon of the US Army. Washington became the 42nd state in the United States on November 11th, 1889 and the University loses the Territorial part of its name. In 1892, military training became compulsory for the first time. Second Lieutenant John Hayden was the first Regular Army officer to be assigned as the Commandant of Cadets. He is the third PMS, replacing Captain E.S. Ingraham. Previously, instruction was conducted by retired military or the state militia. The university moves to its current location in 1895 with the opening of Denny Hall. The home of military departments today, Clark Hall, was the fourth building built in 1896 along with Lewis Hall and the observatory. Lewis and Clark Hall served as the male and female dorms, respectively. By 1896, the enrollment in military science was 500 students.


UW suspends the two year mandatory military training requirement in September 1902 and UW catalogs do not mention Military Science and Tactics between 1902 and 1909. The Board dispenses the services of the PMS and instructs the University President to return the arms held in custody by UW. In 1909, the State Legislature inserted a clause in its University appropriation bill to require UW “the maintenance of the course in military drill, tactics and other theoretical and practical military instruction composing at least two years for all male undergraduates”. The Board of Regents authorized UW President Kane “to negotiate for an instructor in Military Training and then proceed with the installing of the department’. The 1909-1910 and 1911-1912 UW catalogs announce that the two years of military training was required by law. US President Wilson signed the National Defense Act on June 3, 1916, which created Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs at selected colleges and universities throughout the country. The War Department took greater interest in military science programs, furnishing material support and professional military science staff. This Act established the concept of the citizen’s army as the keystone of our national defense forces. It also merged the National Guard, Army Reserves, and Regular Army into the Army of the United States. Prior to this, UW had been responsible for paying the salaries of instructors in the military department. The 1916-1917 UW Catalog mentions ROTC and that all able-bodied male students “must take two years’ work in military training”. Students are now paid by the Federal Government in their junior and senior years. The United States officially enters World War I in April 1917. Until the end of the war in November 1918, ROTC and the rest of the campus focus on supporting the war effort. UW ROTC graduate, 1LT Deming Bronson received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on September 26, 1918 during the start of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  


To be added. 

Highlights: Interwar period


To be added. 

Highlights: WWII and Korean War

1966 UW ROTC Drills and Governor's Day


To be added. 

Highlights: Vietnam War; UW Army ROTC moves from Savery Hall to Clark Hall; first female commissionee


To be added. 

Highlights: Start of Ranger Challenge; Panama; Gulf War


To be added. 

Highlights: Iraq, Afghanistan

Here's a brief overview of the 100 Years of ROTC (1916-2016):