The Naval ROTC Unit at the University of California, Los Angeles was commissioned by the Navy Department in September 1938 with Captain H.W. Underwood, USN, as its first commanding officer. The unit was made up of 76 freshmen formed into one company for drill purposes. During the first year, the Unit’s honorary society, Conning Tower, was organized and some 40 students were taken into this group. In 1939, the Unit continued to expand by signing up nearly 100 new freshmen; and in June 1941, the Unit presented its first commissions to three students who had completed an accelerated program. At this time, students were signing up at the rate of almost 150 each year.
The first regular graduation took place in June of 1942 when 20 students were commissioned as Ensigns, USNR, and 3 as Second Lieutenants, USMCR. On 9 June 1943, members of the joint classes of 1943 and 1944 were commissioned, a move dictated by the war speed-up program. During the summer of 1944 nearly 500 Aviation Officer Candidate students were added to the Unit’s complement. As a result of the added aviation candidate population, the Navy took over fraternity and sorority houses just off campus as living quarters for its personnel. The first such house was named Riney Hall in memory of Ensign Curtis L. Riney, the first UCLA NROTC Unit graduate to give his life in the service of his country.
By 1946, nearly 2,000 students had received training under the Navy Program at UCLA. In the spring of that year, the Unit was reverted back to a peace-time establishment and the living quarters were turned back to their previous owners. During the years following World War II, the NROTC Unit had an uneven growth reflecting the tempo of the Cold War. Between 1946 and 1950 the Unit commissioned 46 officers. In the six years spanning the Korean Conflict, 1951-1956, the Unit commissioned 257 officers.
On 5 June 1970, during the early morning hours, the midshipman wardroom was totally destroyed by a time bomb planted by anti-Vietnam War terrorists. Public support for the battalion was overwhelming. The Sunset Review Dress Parade held during this time drew a crowd conservatively estimated at 3,000; the Governor of the State of California, Ronald Reagan, was the reviewing officer. The new wardroom was dedicated on 6 June 1971.
The most recent significant event in the Unit history was the formation of the Los Angeles NROTC Consortium, which was accomplished in July 1992. This consolidation, in response to the post-Cold War downsizing of all United States armed forces, brought UCLA and USC staffs under one command element. Both schools continue to maintain separate Midshipmen Battalions.
Text originally posted by Ryan Tashma, class of 2002, on Military.com 30 SEP 2003 . If you have suggestions, contributions, or corrections, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.