Skip to main content
World War II

World War II


The air was filled with uneasiness as World War II was growing more intense during the final months of 1941.  Many people believed that the United States would soon become involved in the conflict.  In Albuquerque, New Mexico, men had started training to be leaders of the country’s military force before the declaration of war.  The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) has been established to help train those who enlisted to become officers.  The Navy first began its Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program in 1926 on six college campuses: California, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Northwestern, Washington, and Yale.  The NROTC increased in size steadily from being based at six universities in 1926 to twenty-seven colleges in 1941 and then to fifty-two in 1946.

“On 10 May 1941, Dr. J.F. Zimmerman, the President of the University of New Mexico, has just been by the Honorable Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, that the University had been selected as the location for one of the new units of the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.”  The new unit began with the open enrollment of students at UNM during the summer session that same year.  During the first registration week for the NROTC at UNM, a Board of Naval Medical Examiners met in the stadium on campus to conduct physical examinations of all candidates for enrollment in the NROTC Unit.  Over 145 students applied for the course and underwent physical examinations by medical examiners.  Of the 145 students, ninety-three met the requirements and enrolled in the program.  However, as most know, no one enters the Navy without having been properly vaccinated by the department of health.  In addition to vaccinations, the men will be introduced to the Navy’s outstanding physical training (PT) program done by Naval instructors.  “P.E. was never easy, and featured calisthenics, the obstacle course, running and swimming.  The Chief Athletic Specialists devised several diabolical experiences to keep people alert.”

The formal declaration of war brought many changes to New Mexico.  “As the need for officers increased with the demands of war, the NROTC Unit was placed on active duty status.  One big event in the life of the Navy men from the University of New Mexico was called the ‘first summer cruise.’  “All hands (literally) shoved off for San Diego for a look at the briny deep; many of these sons of the desert seeing saltwater for the first time.”  The session of 1942-1943 began with the announcement from UNM that the quota of trainees for the NROTC will increased to one hundred and eighty-eight.  This brought many new men into the Unit for training as Naval Officers.  “In Spite of the highly structured life, there was an overall awareness of the progressing war, especially after the 6 June 1944, landing in France.” 

The University of New Mexico Naval ROTC Unit has supplied over two thousand officers to the United States Navy and Marine Corps.  “When the unit was formed in 1941, most of its members were from New Mexico, many had grown up in Albuquerque.” (Armstrong 1992)  The Naval ROTC program was dissolved not long after its ten-year anniversary in April 1951 because officers were no longer needed by the American Navy and Government after the end of World War II.

Corey H. Price, History, 2021

Works Cited

Armstrong, Paul A. 1992. "Univeristy of New Meixco Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit History." In University of New Mexico Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit History, by Paul A. Armstrong, Randy A. Dossey, Brian J. Malloy, David G. Saville, James L. Stanley and Peter C. Wilson, 1-38.