Prior to World War I, several experimental, military-based training programs were established for young civilians. In 1915 and 1916, the graduates of these camps sparked the formation of the Military Training Camps Association. However, when the US entered World War I, the association suggested that any proposed civilian camps be converted for officers' training.
Following the war, the association unsuccessfully campaigned for universal military training. However, Congress passed a compromise that provided for a training program for youth. Despite the military theme, these trainings did not include any further obligation for service. Essentially, they were summer camps, packed with training, learning, and also fun.
It wasn't until 1928 that North Dakota held its first Citizens Military Training Camp. There were slots for "420 red-blooded American boys” from the North Dakota and South Dakota. About 200 from around the state had already signed up by mid-April. Lt. George Dietz, recruiting officer for the summer camp, suggested that boys from Bismarck and Mandan would not be assured spots if they did not sign up soon. And it would be easy for the boys to take part, since the camp was slated to take place at Fort Lincoln, just south of Bismarck. Previously, boys from the Dakotas were sent to the Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Snelling. With the location change, all the participants were assured a "more thorough and comprehensive military training course because of the smaller size of the encampment."
Yet space was found for more boys from a wider area; and on this date, as they started to arrive, the Bismarck Tribune noted:
"Bismarck today is the Mecca for more than 500 boys from the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska, who will don army khaki at the C.M.T.C. On foot, by flivver and sedan, and by train, the young men from seven states are trekking to North Dakota's historic fort, where they will take oath of allegiance to serve their country for one month."
'Flivver'? -- we wondered, too. That was slang for a cheap car in bad condition.
In any event, the number of participants exceeded the original expectation, and it was believed that North Dakota had set a record. Nationwide, the camps trained an estimated 400,000 youth by the time the program ended in 1940.
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
The Bismarck Tribune -
August 27, 1928, p8
August 10, 1928, p6
April 12, 1928, p3
August 12, 1928, p5
July 25, 1928, p3
February 23, 1928, p12
July 30, 1928, p1