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Making Citizen-Soldiers

Making Citizen-Soldiers

ROTC and the Ideology of American Military Service

Michael S. Neiberg

ISBN 9780674007154

Publication date: 09/01/2001

This book examines the Reserve Officers Training Corps program as a distinctively American expression of the social, cultural, and political meanings of military service. Since 1950, ROTC has produced nearly two out of three American active duty officers, yet there has been no comprehensive scholarly look at civilian officer education programs in nearly forty years.

While most modern military systems educate and train junior officers at insular academies like West Point, only the United States has relied heavily on the active cooperation of its civilian colleges. Michael Neiberg argues that the creation of officer education programs on civilian campuses emanates from a traditional American belief (which he traces to the colonial period) in the active participation of civilians in military affairs. Although this ideology changed shape through the twentieth century, it never disappeared. During the Cold War military buildup, ROTC came to fill two roles: it provided the military with large numbers of well-educated officers, and it provided the nation with a military comprised of citizen-soldiers. Even during the Vietnam era, officers, university administrators, and most students understood ROTC's dual role. The Vietnam War thus led to reform, not abandonment, of ROTC.

Mining diverse sources, including military and university archives, Making Citizen-Soldiers provides an in-depth look at an important, but often overlooked, connection between the civilian and military spheres.


  • Who is in charge of our military? Where did they come from? While these questions may not press daily on the minds of most Americans, Making Citizen-Soldiers does not merely ask and answer them--it convinces us that these questions are critical to American democracy. In a focused, well-researched history of the Reserve Officer's Training Corps (ROTC), Michael Neiberg discusses the development of this program from 1950 to 1980. More importantly, he sets forth a convincing argument that ROTC, which populates the officer ranks of the military with graduates of civilian colleges, brings to fruition some of the most cherished ideas Americans have about how their military ought to be...So bravo to Neiberg for his success. I do hope a sequel is forthcoming, for he ended his study too soon. As it stands, Making Citizen-Soldiers is not only a well-written history of an important program, it is also a revealing exposition of bedrock American ideals. Like all good historical works, Making Citizen-Soldiers is insightful and important.

    —David Maier, Boston Book Review


  • Michael S. Neiberg is the award-winning author of Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe, Fighting the Great War, and Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I, among other books. He is Professor of History and the inaugural Chair of War Studies at the US Army War College.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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