Military History at Fordham University
The history of military training at Fordham actually can be traced to the late 1840s when twelve muskets were provided for the defense of the campus against members of the Know Nothing Movement, who had threatened to burn Catholic churches. In the early 1850s 40 students formed their own unit known as the College Cadets and conducted drills. Many alumni, faculty and students served on both sides during the Civil War and at least three were awarded the Medal of Honor. Formal military instruction under the supervision of a US Army officer at St. John’s College, Fordham goes back to October 10, 1885. On that day Second Lieutenant Herbert G. Squiers of the 7th US Cavalry arrived as the first Professor of Military Science and Tactics (PMS&T). Squiers trained a cadre of 12 upperclassmen as cadet officers and a cadet unit was formed with an initial enrollment of 50 students. This rapidly grew to over 150. In 1890 2LT Clarence R. Edwards became the next PMS&T. The cadet battalion again grew and was acknowledged as second only to West Point. Cadets provided honor guards at College and public ceremonies and conducted tactical training on campus and in Bronx Park. During his time here the contributions of the program to the prestige of Fordham were great. A plaque on Dealy Hall honors Major General Edwards and his memory lives on as students enjoy the beauty of Edwards’ Parade Ground, the center of the Rose Hill Campus.
By 1905 neglect on the part of the War Department and the establishment of Fordham as a University influenced the gradual demise of the cadet battalion. Military training resumed in 1917 with the organization of the Fordham Ambulance Corps and later a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) unit was formed incident to World War I. Following the war the Memorial Gate on Fordham Road, designed by architect alumnus Major William F. Deegan, was dedicated to the memory of Fordham’s veterans.
Although on campus training again ceased after the war, Father Duffy of the Fighting 69th encouraged students to participate in the state’s cadet program. A company of the 69th Regiment was then known as Fordham Company. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was organized at Fordham on September 20, 1926. It was initially formed to train Coast Artillery Officers and anti-aircraft guns for training were kept on campus. In 1929 the first of many future thousands of commissioned officers graduated the program. During World War II Fordham also served as a site for the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Following the war Fordham’s ROTC grew by 1948 to an unprecedented strength of 925 cadets, a record still unsurpassed. During the 1950’s the Army program became general, training officers for all branches of service. In addition, the Air Force program split off from the Army.
Fordham has influenced and trained many officers who have distinguished themselves in both military and civilian pursuits. They have served with honor in every American conflict since the Civil War. These include Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry; Sixth Corps Chief of Staff and Medal of Honor recipient Major General Martin T. McMahon and his two brothers Colonels James and John McMahon; Medal of Honor recipient Major General James R. O’Beirne, who as Provost Marshall in Washington D.C. helped track down Lincoln’s assassins and was instrumental in the establishment of military training at his alma mater; BG James McQuade of the 14th Brooklyn; and Jesuit Chaplains Michael Nash, Thomas Ouellet and Pierre Tissot; H.G. Squiers, allied Chief of Staff during the Boxer Rebellion, first Minister to Cuba and later Panama; Major General Clarence R. Edwards, commander of the 26th Division in World War I; Major Alford Williams, an aviation pioneer and the Navy’s first test pilot; Major William F. Deegan, architect and politician; MG Charles J. Timmes, Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) airborne battalion commander during Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge and insurgency expert and key advisor during Korea and Vietnam; Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno and Robert C. Murray, Vietnam DSC recipient Christopher J. O’Sullivan; AFC recipient Vincent J. Hickman, BG William Fiorentino, who managed the original Star Wars project; Hon. John R. Countryman, former Ambassador to Oman; Admiral Thomas A. Brooks, former Chief of Naval Intelligence, Joseph J. Sponholz, former Vice Chairman, Chase Bank; LTG Vincent Russo, former Commander of the Defense Logistics Agency; New York Supreme Court Justice Andrew P. O’Rourke MG Richard S. Colt, commander of the 77th Regional Readiness Command, MG Thomas P. Maguire, the Adjutant General of the State of New York, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen John M. Keane, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a graduate of the City College of New York program of NYC ROTC.
Today, New York City Army ROTC at Fordham University continues to contribute quality officers and leaders to the US Army. Its prestige and influence on campus, in New York City and within Cadet Command and the US Army also continues to grow.