CCC Uniforms 1939-1942

The Final Years


The later 1930s saw significant changes to the structure and purpose of the CCC.

Prior to 1937 the Corps was a temporary program, an expedient to address the national unemployment crisis. Even its name was unofficial: the words "Civilian Conservation Corps" appeared nowhere in legislation, but were simply the 'brand name' of what was legally the Emergency Conservation Work program.

With the passage of Public Law No. 163, 75th Congress, effective July 1, 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps was legally established by name as an independent Federal program. Funding was extended for three more years, to 1940. The focus of the program also changed. The eligibility criteria no longer required that enrollees be on public relief; now, they need simply be "not regularly in attendance at school, or possessing full-time employment." Each camp was further mandated to afford enrollees a minimum of 10 hours per week of vocational and academic training. "The new emphasis," historian Alfred Emile Cornebise concludes, "was therefore away from relieving distress and poverty and placed upon providing work experience and training."

The CCC's independence proved to be short lived. Seeking to consolidate the unwieldy sprawl of New Deal agencies, in 1939 Roosevelt and Congress folded the Corps into the newly-formed Federal Security Agency, a headquarters organization for a grab bag of New Deal domestic programs. Under the same reorganization the Army formally withdrew from providing reserve officers as CCC camp commandants. In practice, most CCC commandants continued to hold military reserve commissions, but their CCC appointments no longer represented active duty and their camp rank was no longer a military rank.

This demilitarizaton of the CCC would be symbolized by the adoption in 1939 of a new, purpose-designed CCC dress uniform which decisively broke from Army patterns.

Paradoxically, administrative demilitarization of the CCC in 1939 was followed by a pragmatic re-militarization of the program to meet the needs of national defense in the face of the worsening world crisis. In the final Congressional reauthorization of the program in 1940, the number of camps was reduced to free up manpower for direct military service. The education component of the remaining CCC camps was overhauled yet again to train enrollees in industrial skills needed for national defense such as shop mathematics, automotive maintenance, blueprint reading, basic engineering, cooking, and first aid. Under the "5-hour-10-hour" program, adopted in January 1941, youths in selected camps were 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.

After the attack at Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the war, the remaining CCC camps were reoriented from conservation to direct support of the war effort. The majority were physically relocated to military bases where the enrollees constructed new barracks and military training facilities. Reduced in numbers and tucked away out of sight working at military bases, the CCC was now a shadow of its former self. In summer 1942, on June 30, the last day of the Federal fiscal year, the Corps quietly closed up shop for good.