In November of 1916, President Woodrow Wilson sought after and won a second term in office. This was attributed, in part, to a platform that praised his ability to maintain the United States' abstention from the war in Europe. In the summer of that same year Congress, speculating that this trend would not hold through another term, approved the National Defense Act, providing for the strengthening of both the Army and the Navy. On March 4, 1917, following Germany's engagement in unrestricted submarine warfare, President Wilson asked Congress for a Declaration of War against Germany and on April 6, Congress agreed.
Following the war, in the spring of 1925, Congress amended the National Defense Act to include the initiation of the Military Reserve Officers Training Corps and subsequently, the Naval ROTC. The document provided for the establishment of six NROTC units at host universities throughout the country. Selected schools were: the University of Washington, Harvard University; Yale University; Northwestern University; the University of California; and the Georgia School of Technology. Because of its wartime efforts, U of W was the first university selected to start the NROTC program. Before this amendment, prospective naval officers at the University of Washington received their training through a program known as the College of Naval, Military, and Aeronautical Science.
In 1926 the UW campus witness the birth of the NROTC Unit. Commander Eric L. Barr, USN, became the first navy liaison to the school. CDR Barr procured all necessary equipment, space, and staff to aid in the training of young midshipmen. Using the campus observatory as its first classroom, the unit began a two-year program in naval science and tactics. In 1951, Clark Hall became the home for the University's NROTC Unit.
In the early days of the unit, many young men clamored each fall for the opportunity to be a part of the organization. In 1945, the unit actually housed all undergraduates in Austin Hall. This made NROTC life differ greatly from what midshipmen and officer candidates today have come to expect and understand . The daily regimen began with reveille at 0610 and ended at 2230 with taps. Classes, study, calisthenics, meals, phone calls, and liberty comprised a typical day for midshipmen and officer candidates . Everything had its time and place.
Throughout the United States' involvement in World War II, and following its conclusion, America showed a great deal of pride in her servicemen. Would-be naval officers in the Husky Battalion were eager to be a part of that admiration. They proved their worth by enduring the hardships imposed upon them. On the odd occasion, however, their plight was tempered by the smell of perfume and a kind word from a Corvette.
Beginning in 1957, a group of young women came together to form a society called the Corvettes. Their purpose was to aid the Compass and Charts society in social events and act as escorts for NROTC men. The Corvettes provided their support to the NROTC until the late 1980s. They escorted young men to social events, which they planned. They also cheered on the sailing team and helped to produce the Binnacle. Corvette functions were the highlights of the year. Of these affairs the most popular of all was the Ring Dance.
The Ring Dance actually came well before the time of the Corvettes. It was patterned after the dance of the same name held at the Naval Academy as a "coming of age" ceremony for the junior class. It was at this dance, amid an atmosphere of pomp and circumstance, that the junior class received their NROTC class rings. Aspiring young patriots received many such rings. Some names even strike chords of recognition in today's newest members.
One of the most highly decorated and famous members was Col. Greg "Pappy" Boyington. Col. Boyington graduated from the University of Washington in 1934 and shortly after pursued a career in Marine Corps Aviation. During WWII, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his skill in air combat against Japanese fighter planes. More familiar perhaps, was his command of the famous "Black Sheep Squadron". In addition, one more Husky Naval Battalion alumni received the Medal of Honor: Brigadier General Robert Galer, USMC. Other distinguished graduates include: Rear Admiral Robert W. Copeland, who received a Navy Cross, and Commander John M. Fluke, recognized for his invention of the voltmeter. Many other graduates went on to flag rank including Rear Admirals Elton W. Sutherling, Grover C. Heffner, and Winston H. Schleef, who were all Supply Corps Officers. However, despite all their accomplishments, not everyone honored these distinguished individuals. Tragically, Clark Hall, the building that held their history became a target of domestic terrorism.
At the height of the Vietnam Conflict, anti-war demonstrations were commonplace on the UW campus. One incident resulted in the fire-bombing of Clark Hall in 1968. A second attack on the military presence on campus came in 1971. Luckily, no one was killed in either incident; however, over one hundred thousand dollars in damage to the building and equipment resulted from the fires.
Throughout the years the NROTC Unit at the UW has succeeded in providing the Navy and Marine Corps with the finest officers in the fleet. The knowledge gained and friendships made continue to serve as the cornerstones of brilliant careers. For all of its members the battalion serves as both a learning experience and solid foundation for the leaders of the future.