Columbia NROTC Midshipmen drill on
116th Street in 1947


Columbia Midshipmen visit the USS Albany at Navy Pier 26 in 1953

250 Years of Service...

Columbia has a long and storied history of partnership with the nation's armed forces. Reminders around Columbia's campus speak silently of a proud tradition of military service. The helmeted bust of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of war, a patron Columbia shares with the U.S. Military Academy, stands prominently in the foyer of Low Memorial Library. Colonel Alexander Hamilton's statue stands guard in front of Hamilton Hall. The portrait of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, graduate and former university president, looks down the main stairwell in Butler Library. Outside Butler Library, a plaque commemorates the 23,000 Navy midshipmen who trained at Columbia and served in World War II. A memorial to Columbia graduate John Mitchell, a combat pilot who died in World War I, rests on the outside wall of Hamilton Hall. All of this reflects Columbia's long standing tradition of service and leadership.

Columbia University was involved with ROTC in its very beginnings in 1916, forming one of the first Navy ROTC detachments in the nation. ROTC students, known as midshipmen, drilled on College Walk, took part in Naval Science classes, worked and studied on ships and submarines in New York's harbors, and provided community service in Manhattan and the Morningside area. Each year the University held a Military Review during Armed Forces Week to present awards to outstanding midshipmen and to showcase the Corps of Midshipmen to the campus and the city. In the many years of its existence Columbia's NROTC program graduated thousands of students to become officers in the United States Navy. At its high point, Columbia's Corps of Midshipmen rivaled even the Naval Academy itself in size. The program was dissolved in 1969.

Today many students still partake in the Reserve Officers Training Corps through U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force programs offered at Fordham University and Manhattan College respectively. Some also join the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class, a summer training program designed to prepare students to be commissioned as officers in the Unites States Marine Corps.