Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) (1933)

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The CCC was created on March 31, 1933 by the Emergency Conservation Work Act [1] and put into action by President Roosevelt with Executive Order No. 6101 on April 5, 1933 [2].

The CCC was designed to put jobless young men to work on public land projects, including “the prevention of forest fires…plant pest and disease control, the construction, maintenance and repair of paths, trails and fire-lanes in the national parks and national forests and such other work…as the President may determine to be desirable” [3].  In what is described by Dr. Robert Leighninger, Jr., as the “largest peacetime mobilization in U.S. history,” 275,000 young men between the ages of 18 and 25 enrolled in the CCC during the first three months of the program. Many of these men had been roaming the country in a desperate search for jobs.  The enrollees were supervised by Army Reserve Officers, “often themselves unemployed” [4].

The CCC was primarily geared towards the employment of young men in America’s forests and parks.  The CCC ‘boys’, as they were called, received training, education, shelter, health care, food, and a monthly pay of $30 – $25 of which was required to be sent home to support their families.  More than 3,000,000 men were enrolled in the CCC between 1933 and 1942 [5].  This enrollment included jobless World War I veterans and the employment of Indians on reservation land.  CCC boys sometimes worked alongside WPA workers, as can be seen at Prince William Forest Park in Virginia and Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland.

The National Park Service describes, in part, what was achieved by the CCC program: “Nationwide, the CCC operated 4,500 camps in national parks and forests, as well as state and community parks, planting three billion trees, protecting 20 million acres from soil erosion, and aiding in the establishment of 800 state parks.  The CCC advanced natural resource conservation in this country by decades…” [6].

Other accomplishments of the CCC included the restoration of 4,000 historic structures, the construction of 3,100 fire lookout rowers, the building of 1,500 cabins, the installation of 5,000 miles of water lines, the creation of 4,600 fish rearing ponds, the improvement of 3,400 beaches, and 6.5 million man-days devoted to firefighting [7].

Robert Fechner was the director of the CCC program from 1933 until his death in 1939.  James J. McEntee was the second director and led the CCC until its end in 1942.  Though the CCC was never formally terminated, Congress had, by June 30, 1942, ended the program’s funding and set aside money for its liquidation [8].  During its nine-year lifespan the CCC had invested $3 billion in America’s young men and the forests and parks they worked in [9].

Sources: (1) “CCC Brief History,” CCC Legacy, http://www.ccclegacy.org/CCC_Brief_History.html, accessed February 14, 2015.  (2) The American Presidency Project, 32 – Executive Order 6101, Starting the Civilian Conservation Corps, April 5, 1933, University of California Santa Barbara, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14609, accessed February 14, 2015.  (3) A full text of the Emergency Conservation Work Act is contained in Roosevelt’s Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, by Perry H. Merrill, 1981, p. 197.  (4) Robert D. Leighninger, Jr., Long-Range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2007, p. 13.  (5) “The Civilian Conservation Corps at Platt National Park,” National Park Service, Chickasaw National Recreation Area, http://www.nps.gov/chic/historyculture/ccc.htm, accessed February 14, 2015.  For other estimates of the number of CCC enrollees, see Federal Security Agency, Final Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps, April 1933 through June 1942, 1943, p. 109; and Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt’s Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, p. 196  (6) Ibid.  (7) See note 3 at p. 196 and note 4 at p. 27.  (8) See note 1 and note 4 at p. 26.  (9) See note 3 at p. 196.

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