The tradition of military instruction on college campuses in America began in 1819 with the establishment of Norwich University. The idea soon spread to other institutions, including the Virginia Military Institute, the University of Tennessee and The Citadel. The Land Grant Act of 1862 (Morrill Act) reinforced this tradition by specifying that courses in military tactics should be offered at the colleges and universities that were established as a result of the Land Grant Act.

By the turn of the century, 105 colleges and universities offered military instruction. The college military instruction program changed in 1916 by virtue of the National Defense Act, which turned away from the idea of an expandable Regular Army and firmly established the traditional American concept of a citizens' army as the keystone of our nation's defense. It merged the National Guard, the Army Reserve, and the Regular Army into the Army of the United States. Future officers for this expanded citizens' army were to be given military instruction in colleges and universities under a Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Army ROTC was thus firmly established.

It was not until 1917 following the National Defense Act of 1916 that military training was formally instituted at The University of Michigan. Eighteen hundred students enrolled in the program in the fall of 1917. The ROTC program established in 1917 continued for a short time as the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) with 2700 students participating in 1918. Finally, in 1919, a permanent ROTC unit was established. The first Professor of Military Science was Lieutenant Colonel John Porter Lucas. The number of students enrolled at that time is unknown. Earliest enrollment records available are for Fall 1920 when 180 cadets were enrolled.

By the beginning of World War I, Army ROTC had placed some 90,000 officers in the Reserve pool. The majority of these officers were eventually called to active duty during the War.

More than 56,000 Army ROTC officers were called to active duty within a six-month period at the outbreak of World War II. By the end of the War more than 100,000 had served.

Almost a half-million officers have received commissions through Army ROTC since 1920, including three who rose to the position of Chief of Staff of the Army.

Throughout the 70's and 80's, Army ROTC has remained dedicated to commissioning high quality officers into the Army. In the 80's, the ROTC program implemented the Ranger Challenge team and the Raiders program. These events helped shape cadets into top notch professionals and fostered Army/University pride. Enrollment began to rise somewhat, hovering between 60 and 100 cadets.

The 1990's brought a new decade, and along with it, a commitment to "leadership excellence." The Army ROTC program improved its training of cadets both mentally and physically, making Wolverine cadets better prepared as commissioned officers. The Ranger Challenge team was expanded into the Ranger program, and in 1993, Pershing Rifles was added. In 1993 the University of Michigan Army ROTC program was recognized as a "top achiever" in training excellence by the Second ROTC Region. Finally, 1997 fostered continued success as our Wolverine cadets' average Advanced Camp scores far exceeded the national camp averages.