History

General Van Fleet Hall

The ROTC building is named after the famous Professor of Military Science General James A. Van Fleet, The Head of the ROTC program and the Head Coach for the Gator Football team, General Van Fleet gave the Fightin’ Gator Battalion its Motto “WILL TO WIN!”

University of Florida Army ROTC History

The military program was a fundamental part of the educational curriculum of the Florida Agriculture College. Military drill was compulsory for all able-bodied male students, and it was mandatory to wear a prescribed uniform. The Board of Trustees ordered the regulations of the United States Military Academy to serve as a basis for discipline at the College. Although the college at Lake City opened in October 1884, no officer was assigned by the War Department until October 1889, when Second Lieutenant Charles G. Morton, a West Point Graduate of 1883, was assigned from the Sixth Infantry.

Attendance at drill was enforced after 1893, by making proficiency in military science a requisite for advancement and a condition for graduation. Also a spirit of competition was stimulated among the cadets, and prizes were offered the outstanding students and military companies. Upon the recommendation of Lieutenant S. A. Smoke, Cadet Command in 1894, the college began the practice of sending the cadets to a one-week camp away from the campus. The site was usually somewhere on the banks of the Suwanee River, not too far from Lake City; this summer camp rapidly became one of the most popular features of the military program.

In 1903, the Florida Agriculture College was redesignated as the University of the State of Florida, and in 1905, the Florida Legislature passes the Buckman Act which abolished all state institutions and established the University of Florida at Gainesville. In 1904, Captain James D. Taylor, Jr. of the 18th U.S. Infantry had become Commandant of Cadets; when the University of Florida was established at Gainesville in 1905, he became the first Professor of Military Science and Tactics.

Military Instruction at the University of Florida, in its early years, consisted of only two semesters. Theoretical and practical instruction in the school of the soldier, and of the company in close and extended order; company and battalion inspection; dress parades, reviews; guard mounting and the posting of sentinels; escort of the colors were taught during the first semester. The second semester consisted of theoretical and practical instruction in the school of the battalion, artillery drill, and battalion ceremonies. In 1909, under Major (later Colonel) Edgar Smith Waler, military instruction became a two year requirement.

It was not until the passage of the National Defense Act of 3 June 1916 that an effective Reserve Officers' Corps program was instituted at the University of Florida. This act, was amended on 4 June 1920, ordered graduates of the Advanced AROTC course to active duty for six months with the regular Army, at the end of which they reverted to their Reserve Officer Status.

In 1919, under the direction of Major Bloxham Ward, Infantry, an Infantry AROTC unit was established at the University. This infantry unit continued under the direction of Major (later General) James A. Van Fleet from 1922 to 1924. Under the supervision of Major Arthur C. Tipton, in 1928, an Artillery unit was added. Major James A. Van Fleet returned as Professor of Military Science and Tactics from 1930 to 1933, and was succeeded by Colonel Gilbert M. Allen, Infantry, who served from 1934 to 1936. Colonel William S. Browning became the first Artillery Officer to serve as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the University of Florida from 1937 to 1943.

World War II interrupted AROTC activities at the University of Florida, but the basic course continued to be taught during the war years. Well over 10,000 former University of Florida students served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Of this number, 76% were officers, 12% were noncommissioned officers, and 12% were privates and seamen. A total of 250 individual alumni are known to have received medals ranging from the Purple Heart to the Distinguished Service Cross. Eleven University of Florida men received the Distinguished Service Cross, one of whom, Colonel Paul D. Tibbets, piloted the aircraft from which the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

In 1946, under the supervision of Colonel E. M. Edmonson, Field Artillery, both the Infantry and Artillery ROTC units were reactivated, and an Air Corps unit was inaugurated. In 1948, a Transportation Corps unit was added to the Infantry, Artillery, and Air Corps ROTC with Colonel George S. Price as Professor of Military Science and Tactics. Subsequent to the Air Corps becoming a separate branch of service, the Air Force ROTC at the University of Florida became separate and independent in 1949.

In 1952, a General Military Science Army curriculum was adopted, replacing the Infantry, Artillery, and Transportation Corps units. This GMS curriculum has been adopted by more than half of the colleges and universities offering Senior Division ROTC. The GMS curriculum includes subjects common to all branched of the Army, and concentrates on developing basic military knowledge, command, and leadership qualities necessary for all officers. Graduates of the University of Florida's AROTC unity may be commissioned in any branch of the Army, depending on the graduate's training, background, desires, and the needs of the service.

In 1972, the Navy ROTC program began, making the University of Florida one of the few schools in the country to offer ROTC in all services.

The Fall of 1973 saw a change in the battalion as females enrolled in the program for the first time. Seven started off that August and one of them, Laura A. Witter, was the Outstanding Cadet in her class the following year and during her senior year. On 17 December 1977, the first women completed the program. Then 2LT Bonnie Provow and 2LT Joyce Fletcher were commissioned into the Ordnance and Medical Service Corps.

A year later, John and Barbara Jordan became the first married couple in the nation to be commissioned together. Today, COL John and Barbara Jordan are happily married and serving at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

At the FT Bragg Advanced Camp in 1974, UF cadets John Frketic and Dennis Fitzsimmons finished first and second (respectively) of all cadets that year. In 1980, Darrall Henderson led the way finishing as the top cadet of the year.

During the mid-seventies all Army ROTC detachments began competing at Advanced Camp for an Award called the Warrior of the Pacific. The award is given to the #1 ROTC detachment in the country based on Advanced Camp performance. UF's Army ROTC won this award in 1978, tied for 1st with the University of South Florida in 1979 and in 1981 once again finished #1 in the Nation.