Civilian Conservation Corps CCCs CCC's Great Depression Franklin Delano Roosevelt History 1930's
JAMES F. JUSTIN CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS MUSEUM
An Online Museum of Histories, Items, Stories, Links and Photographs Regarding the CCCs
justinmuseum/ccchistory Mirror Site
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Greetings and Welcome, this page and those attached, are a collection of original pages as well as links regarding the Civilian Conservation Corps, commonly referred to as the CCCs, which was an organization formed as part of Roosevelt's New Deal as an attempt to counter the rampant unemployment and economic despair resulting from the Great Depression.
Formed by act of Congress and upon the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps was an organization unique in American History. The CCCs was a group of men, mostly youths but also World War One Veterans or Skilled Laborers in their own companies, formed across the country and utilized for a wide range of skilled and unskilled labor in the American Wilderness. Hundreds of Thousands, and eventually Millions, of these men were gathered under government auspices and pay to perform civil engineering projects in a hitherto unforeseen scale. Yet, despite its name, the Civilian Conservation Corps was in many ways a military organization. They would enlist in a military fashion and be subject to military discipline. Their group medical physicals would be military procedures complete with inoculations. Upon obtaining acceptance for admission, the men would be transported to Army training camps, such as Fort Dix, where they would undergo five days of basic training style physical training and orientation conducted by military personnel. Men would be assigned and transferred to a Company which in turn reported to a Sub-District which reported to a District Headquarters. These Districts were associated with Army Corps commands, and would be led by High Ranking Regular Military Officers. CCC equipment was military in origin - a typical CCC image is the young men driving to and fro to projects in the backs of open bed Army trucks, donned in Army uniforms and accoutrements. Their living quarters were military style open bay barracks. Its officers too were either regular and later reserve military men on active duty - Colonels, Majors, Captains and Lieutenants who had fought the last war and who would fight the next. These men would be of all branches, Army, Navy or Marine, though Army seems to have been most prevalent. Medical services would be provided usually by military medical officers and religious services by military Chaplains. Discipline was military too, with barracks, lights out, marching, formations, and KP duty - all those military minutae which servicemen claim to hate but which later are the subjects of fond recollections. Doubtless many a young man would wonder soon into his enlistment if he had not in fact mistakenly joined the Army.
Yet despite these military aspects, the CCCs was still an organization mostly made up of young men, boys really, of sixteen or seventeen years age. They therefore were given civilian leaders to augment the military leadership to provide tutoring and ministering. Also, from among their own ranks, leaders and assistant leaders would be selected. These men would serve in a way as non-commissioned officers. Others of these men would serve in headquarters as typists, others as cooks or medical attendants, assisting the staff. Works Project Administration personnel as well as qualified Army and even Enrollee (one official term for CCC Men) instructors would teach the men a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects. Technical Foremen, men employed by the Federal Agency responsible for the camp such as Agriculture, Forestry or Interior, would provide assistance, supervision and training into the skilled aspects of the work to be performed. Thus while the men were led in some ways as soldiers they were also mentored as students. Such leadership was no doubt needed by the young men who were far from home for probably the first time.
The CCC man would indeed be away from home for some time. An enlistment was six months in length and could be renewed three times for a total service limit of two years. Many men chose to stay for another or all four terms. Some men would leave earlier, not taking to the Army discipline or being subject to the misfortune of a bad officer or personal situation. Some of these would soon miss the service and opt to re-enlist, going through the entire entrance procedure anew.
Conditions were not always perfect. Though many men were fond of the food, other camps suffered from bad cooks or staff who would skimp on supplies and pocket the money saved. Living quarters were also spartan, being open bay barracks the central feature of which would be a large pot bellied stove. Cold weather would be hard felt as would the heat of the summer months. Beyond the barracks, Camps would also feature a mess hall, motor pool, infirmary, headquarters and officers and staff facilities and usually a recreational hall and Classroom buildings. Facilities, too, were naturally primitive so far in the wild as most camps were. These buildings would be built either by WPA men or the CCC men themselves. Where the men themselves were creating the camp, tents would serve until work was done, adding to the discomfort of daily living. Camps were constantly being built as Companies would complete their work and move on. On average 1,643 camps were working each year, with 4,500 Camps being built overall.
While in Camp the men would learn new skills, the type dependent upon the work done by the camp and the Technical Personnel present to supervise that work. Furthermore each military District would have an Education Superintendent whose staff would oversee the education of the CCC men in academic areas. Typing, Reading & Writing, Social Courtesy, First Aid, Citizenship, motor-mechanics, radio, printing, woodworking, cabinet making, metalcraft and leather craft were among the subjects taught by the camp faculties, which would include Work Projects Administration personnel as well as qualified military men, staff and enrollees. An overwhelming number of men volunteered to take these courses, one cited rate being 79 percent in District Number 2, Third Corps, in Pennsylvania. Given the CCC mission to benefit the enrollees as well as the nation's outdoors, this rate of class attendance is not surprising. Furthermore, one can only imagine that the classroom study provided a source of entertainment to some extent, given the limited distractions to be found in the primitive and isolated camps.
While the CCC man may not have been living the life of Reilly he was neither living like a Monk. His camp would usually feature a recreation hall and perhaps some sort of gymnastic facility. Pool, Ping Pong, Boxing and other sports would be available for his diversion. Theaters and plays also provided a source of entertainment and enlightenment for the audience and the CCC cast members. Many men engaged in crafts, singing, guitar playing and other hobbies of various sorts as well. On occassion excursions could be made to town. Vaudeville Halls, such as the Trocadero in Philadelphia, taverns (where age could be overcome), movie theaters, or local beaches all provided weekend entertainments. Local women, those unwilling to listen to parents warnings about "those CCC boys", would provide romantic opportunities as well. Some men would find wives in the small towns near their camps. Longer leaves also provided some opportunities to visit home, especially to those men who had scrimped and pooled their resources to buy an old jalopy. And of course there was the entertainment young men make when thrown together, the sort of camaraderie building banter that can make a mundane time seem grand.
The single most salient aspect of CCC life, however, was the work. Each day the men would go forth from their camp to the local project on which they were working, often with songs ringing from the beds of the trucks. From this relatively universal scene the experiences of the various CCC companies would diverge. Each camp was assigned to a Federal Department, such as Interior, War, Labor and Agriculture, and within that structure to an agency, one of 25 such as Forestry or Grazing. Their work would be based upon the desires of that department and their location. Many, most perhaps, were devoted to Soil Conservation (Camps with SC designation) or Forestry (F designations). These men gave rise to the nickname, Roosevelt's Tree Army. Their work would vary from fire prevention, saving standing trees by clearing underbrush and cutting firebreaks, to re-forestation where new trees would be planted to hold soil from erosion. Other camps would be assigned to mosquito control (MC designation), draining wetlands to prevent insect borne disease. Other camps would build roads, cut trails, build or repair bridges and dams and so on. In each case the men would spend their day in back breaking physical labor, giving rise to another nickname for the CCCs, "Colossal College of Calluses". This scene was repeated over and over again, each work day from 1933 through 1942 in camps across the country as well as in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by 3,463,766 men, supervised by 263,755 personnel, of which 7,793 of these men would die in the Corps. Some 2.5 Billion trees were planted, 248,000 acres of swamp drained, 814,000 acres of grazing land replanted, 972 Million fish restocked, 154 Million square yards of banks protected from erosion as well as 40 Million acres of farmland, 125,000 miles of road and 13,100 of trails were built, 89,000 Miles of telephone line strung, 52,000 acres of campgrounds would be created, 800 state parks begun and nearly 4,000 Historic Buildings renovated. In all the projects directly employed or economically benefitted over 17 million people, created some two billion 1942 dollars of infrastructure and provided 7.135 Million days of Environmental Conservation Labor.
The Contributions of the CCCs and the men who formed it were and remain a National Treasure. Hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands were planted and preserved by their labor. The CCCs also served as disaster aid, fighting fires and stemming floods, many giving their lives in the process. Firebreaks, Trails, Buildings, Swamp Drainage, Roads, Dams, Bridges, and many other public facilities were surveyed and crafted for the benefit not just of the people of those times but for all posterity. Most of these structures and facilities remain, including the popular Skyline Drive in Virgina, the Pacific Crest Trail and the great Appalachian Trail to name a few. Virtually every National and State Park would be a shadow of it's current self without the sacrifices of the CCC men who preserved them and made them accessible to the public, who in essence created them.
More than preserving our wildernesses, the CCCs preserved a generation of young men, the core of our modern America, from the despair and destitution of the Great Depression. These young men would have otherwise been unemployed and thrown by that misfortune into the pitfalls of poverty, with all that entails. Many would have fallen to lives of crime, alcohol, ignorance or malaise as the desperately poor so often do. Instead, given the opportunity to learn, to work and to better themselves, these Men learned self-respect, trades, skills and discipline while earning money for themselves and their families. Of all of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's accomplishments this was perhaps his most effective tool in shaping the future of America. Veterans of the CCCs would in the years to come take the skills and discipline they learned and use it to win the wars against Fascism and Communism while at the same time building the great country that America has become. Moreover, these lessons, have been passed onto the children of the CCC generation. As they pass on their father's values to the grandchildren and great grandchildren, the Corps concepts of discipline, sacrifice, hard work, responsibility and self-improvement remain alive in a society through the memories of these men's work and the people whose live's they touched. These values will lead and amply serve America into the next Century and beyond.
Today, though many of the places built by the CCC remain, the camps themselves are mostly gone and the Public Recognition of these fine men and their grand organization have faded in time, lost perhaps in the tumult of World War II. This page is placed here to rectify that loss and to honor the men and the organization which, however subtly, so greatly shaped modern America. Please read on and learn of their works and deeds.
And when next you stand in the beauty of our woodlands, be it state park or national forest, think for a moment of the men who blazed the road which brought you there, who carved the path you stand on, and who planted or preserved the trees before your gaze. Close your eyes for a moment and hear again the sound of the pick and the shovel, the sighs and the songs, and the youthful laughter of the boys of the CCCs.
The following pages provide more detail as to various aspects of CCC life. The contents of some pages hold my father's stories and some original information I have gathered. However the bulk of the pages must rely upon submissions by visitors who are willing to share their stories and photographs or those of their loved ones. Please email me if you have any information on the CCCs. Thank you and enjoy.
"THE ADMIRATION OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY", 1936 Message from the President of the United States to members of the CCC
CCC HISTORY - History of the CCC and its times
CCC ANECDOTES EXHIBIT - submissions with stories, jokes and songs about the CCCs
CCC BIOGRAPHIES COLLECTION - biographies of CCC men
COMPANY ROSTERS AND COMPANY, CAMP AND PROJECT HISTORIES COLLECTION - units rosters and official and unofficial histories of companies, camps and projects of the CCCs
DOCUMENTS EXHIBIT - documents of the CCCs
CCC GOVERNMENT RECORDS COLLECTION- Where to write or call for CCC records and information
CCC Library - Books on the CCCs
CCC LINKS - other pages related to the CCCs, these are not part of the Museum you will have to use your back button to return
LOOKING FOR INFORMATION - people looking for answers to CCC related questions, answer em or add your own! (updated constantly via guestbook)
MUSEUMS AND ALUMNI GROUPS - Snail and E Mail addresses for Alumni Groups or Camp Museums (Members add your group here!!!)
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE EXHIBIT - Contemporary Articles on the CCCs
PHOTOGRAPHS EXHIBIT - photos of the CCCs in action
HOW TO RESEARCH THE CCCs
CCC the Work What the CCC men actually did
Justin Information Booth - Information on How To Submit Your CCC Stories To These Pages
JAMES F. JUSTIN ART COLLECTION - Art of the Man to whom this page is dedicated
JUSTIN ORAL HISTORY CENTER - If you have any stories at all about anything check this site and share em with the world!
JAMES F. JUSTIN FAMILY TREE SERVICES - A genealogy research service run by curator
Briefing Room, A Chat Room To Talk With Other Visitors
California Conservation Corps, Modern Organization's website
Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920, History and photos etc, Library of Congress Site
THE REGIMENTAL - A Site devoted to the American Revolution
The Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project - A Page on Environmental Study regarding the Florida Everglades
Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!
Visitors to this mirror site since June 24, 2002.
The page is a mirror site to one started on June 6, 1998 at www.justinmuseum.com/famjustin/ccchis.html. That site is the main page and may be updated more consistently than this one. However the sites linked here from are the same as those linked from the main page.
This Page and Its Contents and all original pages linked thereto Are the Property of John Justin @ Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002. All Rights Reserved
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