USAF OCS Class 62-A
A Little Bit of OCS History
Presented as part of the Banquet Program of the
first reunion of Air Force OCS Class 61-C
commemorating the 42nd anniversary
of their graduation and
What was this OCS that had so much influence on our lives? When and where did it start? How long did it last? What did it do for America? What did it do for us?
OCS has sometimes been referred to as a "knothole in the wall" that allowed us to slip through. I think: there's a lot of truth to that, especially for those of us who were not very "college educated" when we started our military careers. For those of us who were the sons of plumbers, carpenters, and farmers, and grew up in families where a college education was not high on the family agenda, OCS opened the door to a whole new world.
When and where did OCS start? It surprised me, and it may surprise you, that in a brief article called "Philadelphia Firsts" published in November of 1999, it is mentioned that during the civil war the first military "Officers Candidate School" was located on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia!
The Marines apparently got into the OCS business first. Before World War I, most Marine Corps officers either came fiom Annapolis or the enlisted ranks. The first welldocumented "Officer Candidate" type school was established by the Marines in 1891. It was the first formal "resident school" for Marine officers, called the "School of Application" at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C.
The idea for the modern style Officer Candidate School was conceived in 1938 by BG Asa Singleton at Ft Benning, GA, but did not go into effect until July of 1941. At that time it was called the Infantry, Field Artillery, and Coast Artillery Officer Candidate School. The man credited with establishing the format, discipline, and honor code still used today was General of the Army Omar Bradley. In the early years, 1941 thru 1947, the graduation rates averaged about 67%.
The first Army Air Force OCS was started in 1942 by MG Walter Weaver at the direction of then AAF Commander, LG Hap Arnold. The first location was at several Miami Beach resort hotels! Initially, officer candidates were fiom three categories: former aviation cadets eliminated for flying or medical deficiencies, warrant officers, and enlisted men. The initial course duration was 12 weeks; hence the term: 90 Day Wonder!
In June of 1944, OCS was moved fiom Miami Beach to San Antonio. In June of 1945, it was moved again, this time to Maxwell Field, AL, but it was temporarily suspended after just two months. After the war, OCS stayed closed for a short while, then resumed a 16 week course in September of 1945.
In February of 1946 OCS was moved back to San Antonio, but this time only warrant officers and enlisted men were eligible. For the remainder of 1946, ten months, only a total of 33 officers graduated in two different classes. Instructors were in such short supply that some Officer Candidates taught classes to each other!
In the late 1950' s, the Air Force shifted the mission of OCS away ITom producing primarily administrative and other nonrated officers. Since the Air Force needed more aircrew members, OCS started sending about half its graduates to preflight school. OCS officers did very well.
In an Air Force study of Undergraduate Pilot Training attrition for 1962, (sound like a familiar year?) OCS trained officers maintained academic, flying, and military grades equal to Air Force Academy graduates and superior to those of aviation cadets or officers from OTS or ROTC. Overall, the attrition rate in UPT for OTS officers was twice that for OCS officers. Attrition for all reasons, including self-initiated elimination and flying deficiencies, was: OTS - 43%, OCS - 22%!
In order to increase the number of college trained officers, the Air Force established Officer Training School in 1959, and thus began the demise of OCS. With OTS already in operation, in 1960 the Air Force started the Airman Education and Commissioning Program (AECP). This allowed qualified enlisted men to gain their degrees while on active duty and then attend OTS to gain their commissions.
The final class in this relatively short history of AFOCS graduated on 21 June 1963 and commissioned 119 new Second Lieutenants. For over 21 years, AFOCS had provided a way for talented, dedicated enlisted men without college degrees to earn an Air Force commission, but no more; the program was finished!
Several of our 61-C graduates, Ed DeVries, Dan Diebler, Bob Legere, me, and maybe some others, took part in the final OCS graduation parade. We acted as Squadron Commanders and led squadrons of basic trainees in the parade honoring the graduation of the FINAL class, 63-D.
Although all other U.S. military services still have OCS programs, the AFOCS program officially closed its doors on 1 July 1963. During its 21 years, over 41,000 officers were commissioned, including 27 who attained general officer rank. There were four LG's, one of whom was Trevor Hammond, a member of our second class, 61-D. Another was my wife, Judy's, cousin, Donald Aldridge, who graduated in 1958. There were two generals who graduated with the final class, 63-D: MG Charles D Link and BG Lawrence A Mitchell.
In our particular group, 61-C, we started with some very diverse candidates. Some of our people were very well educated, with degrees from Princeton, for instance. Some came from National Guard units and excelled here, e.g., our top graduate, Aubrey Hall from the Oklahoma Guard, received a Regular Air Force commission for his achievement. Some were Sergeants; experienced enlisted men who were already well trained in the mission and customs of the Air Force. Ultimately, we cooperated and graduated; we were molded into a band of brothers dedicated to the service of our Country.
So what has Air Force OCS done for America? I believe that now, you know the answer to that question. With retention rates of OCS officers approaching 95%, and the sort of statistics mentioned above, I have no doubt the Air Force OCS program was of great value to America.
And what did OCS do for us, the graduates? For us, OCS opened that magic door which would change our lives forever! And as a result each one of you has your very own personal success story!
GENTLEMEN OF 61-C: WELL DONE! I SALUTE YOU ALL!
James Roland Brown April 5, 2003