“Rice Institute–Naval ROTC,” 1941

As regular readers can probably tell, I’ve been very interested lately in the World War II era at Rice. A little while ago a researcher was working in the papers of Congressman Albert Thomas (’20) and so I too went through those boxes. In them I found the genesis of the Navy’s presence at the Institute–and the genesis of some long-gone buildings on campus, including the rifle range that we searched for a little while ago.

It was largely Thomas’s lobbying that got us this unit, the beginning of a huge boon that kept classrooms full for the entire duration of the war. This is a “note to file” from the spring of 1941. (As an aside, I got a chuckle out of this: “Uniforms worn only on drill days which are twice a week.” Thomas, of course, was a veteran of the Great Rice ROTC Uprising of 1918, which centered on student objections to inappropriate military discipline on campus, prominently including uniform regulations.)

AT Naval institute note 1941

What I’m really interested in here is the last sentence: “Rice agreed to construct some buildings for their use.” We find this expanded on in a newspaper clipping from later that summer, also in Thomas’s papers:

Naval Building 1941 AT papersTemporary quarters would be in Room 208 of the Chemistry Building (Oh, how I love the specificity!) while workers rushed to complete the $18,000, single story, “modernistic” permanent facility. I was most surprised to learn that the building had been designed by William Ward Watkin. I did a quick search through his papers and found no reference to it, but there are quite a few other places to check.

Here it is:

Naval ROTC building 1941NROTC Building 1942

I think the top one is the front but I really don’t know that.

Bonus: Faithful reader owlcop “took advantage of of contractors with a lift to take pictures of the tiny owl carved into the covered walk way between Lovett and Herzstein.”

photo[1]photo[2]

I am a strong believer in taking this sort of advantage every time you can. Much appreciated, owlcop!

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11 Responses to “Rice Institute–Naval ROTC,” 1941

  1. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

    Melissa,
    It occurred to me — I’ve had the flu and could be hallucinating, though– that it would be nice to have “hyperlinks” to various references in your postings, e.g., the “rifle range” you mentioned in this poasting.
    If that’s an easy and inexpensive thing to do.
    If not, just mark it up to febrile encephalopathy.

    BTW, what happened to that NROTC building?

  2. quinmarti says:

    Melissa, I don’t remember a lot of details, but do remember that my uncle, Clinton Quin, Jr. was in the NROTC in the early 40s, maybe one of the first, and was sent to the South Pacific to serve on an LST, being commissioned a 2nd Lt. and then came back to Rice to graduate in a class later than he would have if not for the war. I believe his original class was ’45. At the time he was at Rice, I lived on Bolsover just across Rice Blvd. from the campus and I remember walking over and watching him drill with the NROTC students before being sent away to serve.

  3. Wow, that NROTC building is indeed modernistic. Not much like that on the Rice campus now. Old Abercrombie, old Architecture, and old Fondren come the closest, and they’re not as swoopy as that.

    I’m thinking that Melissa does hyperlink to older posts at times, usually by using the word “here.” Remember, there’s a search box at the top right of the page which makes quick work of finding references to keywords.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      Marty, I tried the Search Box.
      On the second try I did get transferred to the ‘Rifle Range’ discussion. Not much there.

      However, the first attempt landed me in a folder with this for the “Rifle Range”:
      “The Best Shut-Up Line Ever
      “For those who don’t know him, Major General Peter Cosgrove is an ‘Australian treasure’!
      “General Cosgrove was interviewed on the radio recently.

      “Read his reply to the lady who interviewed him concerning guns and children.

      “Regardless of how you feel about gun laws you gotta love this!

      “This is one of the best comeback lines of all time.
      “It is a portion of an ABC radio interview between a female broadcaster and General “Cosgrove who was about to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop visiting his military Headquarters.
      “FEMALE INTERVIEWER:So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?
      “GENERAL COSGROVE:We’re going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery and shooting.

      “FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Shooting! That’s a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?
      “GENERAL COSGROVE:I don’t see why, they’ll be properly supervised on the rifle range.
      “FEMALE INTERVIEWER:Don’t you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?
      “GENERAL COSGROVE:I don’t see how.. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.
      “FEMALE INTERVIEWER:But you’re equipping them to become violent killers.
      “GENERAL COSGROVE:Well, Ma’am, you’re equipped to be a prostitute, but you’re not one, are you?
      “The radiocast went silent for 46 seconds and when it returned, the interview was over.

      .

      Subject: The Best Shut-Up Line Ever

      The Best Shut-Up Line Ever
      For those who don’t know him, Major General Peter Cosgrove is an ‘Australian treasure!’
      Description: cid:2A1A90DD-6D1F-43AB-9900-95D9EB16ABEC
      General Cosgrove was interviewed on the radio recently.

      Read his reply to the lady who interviewed him concerning guns and children.

      Regardless of how you feel about gun laws you gotta love this!

      This is one of the best comeback lines of all time.

      It is a portion of an ABC radio interview between a female broadcaster and General Cosgrove who was about to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop visiting his military Headquarters.
      FEMALE INTERVIEWER:So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to teach these young boys when they visit your base?
      GENERAL COSGROVE:We’re going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery and shooting.

      FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Shooting! That’s a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?
      GENERAL COSGROVE:I don’t see why, they’ll be properly supervised on the rifle range.
      FEMALE INTERVIEWER:Don’t you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?
      GENERAL COSGROVE:I don’t see how.. We will be teaching them proper rifle discipline before they even touch a firearm.
      FEMALE INTERVIEWER:But you’re equipping them to become violent killers.
      GENERAL COSGROVE:Well, Ma’am, you’re equipped to be a prostitute, but you’re not one, are you?
      The radiocast went silent for 46 seconds and when it returned, the interview was over.
      [I had unwittingly clicked only one of my e-mail failures on “Gun Control”.]

  4. hughconnie says:

    The Naval Rotc helped Rice become a basketball power in 1944 and 194back to back SWC championships,with Murray Mendenhall and Dick Weir,both transferred to Rice for the NROTC program,becoming All-SWC and helping All-American center Bill Henry win those 2 championships.The 1945 team was 12-0 in Conference,20-1 for the season,only losing to enentual national champ Oklahoma A&M in NCAA playoffs.

  5. Wayne Collins says:

    I was one of the 200 to apply for the first NROTC class at Rice Institute in the fall of 1941. Applications were accepted from the freshman class and the members of the Sophomore class that would agree to complete the 4 year course. As I recall the NROTC building was complete when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1941. The shooting range was near where the south gate is on West University. After the physical which many more passed than the 110 available slots the powers that be felt sure the test we were to take would cut the numbers down to 110. To their surprise none were eliminated so we were run back through the physical. I was eliminated for overbite. After the Mid-term test and the famous washout of freshman there were openings in the first class of NROTC. I applied and this time passed the physical which turned into another story later in the spring when the Bureau of Medicine questioned why I was fit in February 1942 and not in September of 1941. Captain Dupree, the first C.O. of Rice NROTC solved the problem and I remained in the unit, called to active duty with the unit July 1, 1943 and remained at Rice for my junior year. As a member of the Drum and Bugle Corp, with 3 others I shared to top floor of the Faculty Tower. Members of the first year Rice NROTC were commissioned with the rank of Ensign USNR at the end of their 3rd year in February 1944. At least one a Second Lt. in the Marines, the rest to various assignments in the Pacific and Atlantic serving on Surface Ships, Amphibious Forces, Underwater Demolition [forerunner of Navy Seals] Submarines, and Naval Aviation. A large number of this class returned to Rice in 1946 and graduated in the classes of ’47 and ’48. Rice being Rice I was told when I attempted to register as a senior I did not have BA 200 and EE 300. When I said I completed Navy Navigation instead of BA200 and Naval Gunnery and Ordinance instead of EE 300 I was told “Mr Collins the war was over”. I picked up a couple of electives and had two great years joining the class of ’48.

  6. Pingback: “Rice and the Navy” | Rice History Corner

  7. Pingback: Wayne Collins, ’48 | Rice History Corner

  8. Pingback: Inside the Navy ROTC Building | Rice History Corner

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