On-line Book
cover to 
The CCC and the NPS
Cover Page




     Brief History

    National Park Service Role

    NPS Camps


    Overall Accomplishments



The Civilian Conservation Corps and
the National Park Service, 1933-1942:

An Administrative History
Chapter One:
A Brief History of the Civilian Conservation Corps
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World events in 1940 had a dramatic impact on the CCC. World War II had begun in Europe and President Roosevelt and the Congress began planning for the defense of the United States. The reserve military officers in charge of the CCC camps were gradually withdrawn and placed on active military duty. In the House of Representatives, two resolutions were introduced to require that eight hours a week of military tactics and drill be given to CCC enrollees. Opposition to these measures prevented their passage. Director McEntee, along with army authorities, revamped the CCC training and education program to meet some of the needs of national defense, however. The new program emphasized courses in shop mathematics, blueprint reading, basic engineering, and other skills considered vital to national defense. After the fall of France, in June 1940, President Roosevelt proclaimed a limited national emergency, thus opening the way for the establishment of CCC camps on military bases. The enrollees were to work on constructing airfields, obstacle courses, and artillery ranges, clearing land for military training exercises, and erecting military structures. The traditional CCC program, which emphasized physical fitness, hard work, obedience to orders, and communal living, helped to prepare American youth for the rigors of military life. [53]

By 1941 the national defense program had dramatically affected the CCC program. It became increasingly difficult to recruit young men for the CCC as they were lured away by higher paying national defense jobs. The labor shortage and national defense preparation forced a further reduction in CCC camps beginning on April 1, 1941--from 1,500 to 1,100. The Park Service's portion of the reduction amounted to 23 percent of existing camps. As the NPS camps were closed down, many were transferred to military reservations specifically to do national defense work. Once these CCC camps were transferred, the only control the Park Service retained was technical supervision of the work projects. A number of the few remaining NPS-controlled camps were assigned the task of constructing inexpensive rest camps for use by military men on leave. These camps were usually constructed near population centers and contained barracks and recreation facilities. [54]

Military training in the CCC continued to take more and more of the work time of the enrollees. The "5-hour-10-hour" program, adopted in January 1941, allowed youths in selected camps to be excused from work for five hours a week to take national defense training provided they would devote 10 hours a week of their own free time to this training. On August 16, 1941, rules were adopted to drill all CCC enrollees in simple military formations, but no guns were issued. Twenty hours a week were to be devoted to general defense training, and of this time eight hours could be done during regular work hours. After the completion of this basic training, the most promising enrollees would be directed into full-time defense work such as cooking, first aid, demolition, road and bridge construction, radio operations, and signal communication. [55]

As the number of youths enlisting in the CCC continued to decline in 1941, the Park Service began to terminate all CCC camps that could not maintain 165 men per camp to avoid excessive overhead expenses. In September 1941 the corps was further reduced to a total of 900 camps which decreased the number of camps allocated to the National Park Service by an additional 20 percent. At the same time, new camps were to be established first in areas with national defense projects and next in national park and monument areas. The majority of the national defense projects were on military installations away from NPS areas. The National Park Service lost 133 CCC camps between September and November 1941, and the ability to carry out any park development programs was seriously impaired. Superintendents at Lassen Volcanic National Park and Death Valley National Monument, among other parks, complained that the loss of CCC camps severely curtailed park development and maintenance. They were, however, were prepared to make this sacrifice if necessary for the national defense program and if the cuts could not be made in other parks. [56]

NEXT> The War Years and The Conclusion of the CCC


Last Modified: Tues, Apr 4 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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