The Manly History of the Civilian Conservation Corps

The Civilian Conservation Corps was established in 1933, and it was the largest public works project of its time. It employed thousands of Americans who built trails and planted trees all over America during a time when work outside the farm laborer sector was scarce. Yet despite this great accomplishment, not many people know about what went on behind-the-scenes at CCC camps for women like Camp O’Sullivan near Yosemite National Park where teenage girls learned to be lumberjills as well as forestry technicians.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was the civilian conservation corps successful. The CCC, or “the manly history of the civilian conservation corps,” was created in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help boost the economy and provide jobs during the Great Depression.

Vintage men in group photos and working for civilization.

The CCC Men at Work and Play National Park Service (NPS)

If you’ve ever gone camping, you’ve most likely trekked on a route or slept in a lodge constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. But what was the CCC, exactly? Philip Rodney Moon outlines the origins of the New Deal program and its long-term impact on the land and the individuals who participated in it in this article. Hopefully, the next time you cross a CCC-built bridge, you’ll remember the hardworking men who left behind a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy.

When the excesses of the 1920s caught up with society, the country was thrown into the Great Depression eighty years ago. The economic boom and collapse, like the present recession, were the consequence of excessive debt spending by consumers and excessive risk taking by investors. At the height of the Great Depression, 25% of the workforce was jobless.

Many individuals throughout the nation have suffered as a result of high unemployment and huge wage cutbacks for those who still have work. Years of bad agricultural techniques in the Plains States, combined with a severe drought, resulted in huge soil erosion and the Dust Bowl, resulting in the aridification of millions of productive acres.

The depression had a particularly negative impact on young males. They had the fewest skills, as well as the lowest wages and savings, and many of them grew up during a period of heavy unemployment. They were the most vulnerable to poverty and famine. Any sociologist would tell you that restless young men with no purpose generally lead to societal unrest and high crime rates.

All of these issues were noticed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sought solutions. The Emergency Conservation Work Act (ECW), a temporary initiative that would later become the Civilian Conservation Corps, was one of his “100 Days” policies (CCC). When Roosevelt proposed the law, he explained the CCC’s objectives.

“I suggest that a civilian conservation corps be established to do basic labor that does not interfere with regular employment and is limited to forestry, soil erosion prevention, flood control, and similar projects.” I’d want to draw your attention to the fact that this kind of work has a lot of practical value, not only in terms of preventing huge financial losses in the present, but also in terms of generating future national wealth… However, the moral and spiritual worth of such effort will be more essential than the financial benefits. The vast majority of jobless Americans, who are presently sleeping on the streets and getting private or governmental assistance, would much rather be working. We can move a large number of these jobless people into healthier environments.”

“Its mission was two-fold — protection of our natural resources and the salvaging of our young men,” says the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy.

Throughout its nine-year lifespan, the program, which began with 250,000 men, would ultimately employ 3 million young men, Native Americans, and WWI veterans. The CCC would go on to leave a legacy of restored natural beauty, economic sustenance for families throughout the nation, and a generation of men who had been changed for the better as a result of their service.


Degradation of the Environment

For years, the agricultural industry in the United States has increased in production and productivity. Farmers developed more land to serve the war effort during World War I, while motorized tractors and transportation transformed the way they farmed. Unfortunately, these new techniques were both exploitative and harmful to the environment. Crop rotation, fertilizer, and soil erosion prevention strategies were unknown to most farmers. The exhausted land dried up and blew away as a major drought reached the central plains, resulting in substantial losses of topsoil and farmland. Thousands of agricultural households were affected by the “Dust Bowl.”

A dust covering the big part of land along with materials.1936, Dallas, South Dakota

Similar ecological issues arose in other parts of the nation. Land has been devastated by clear-cut logging, putting soil at danger. National parks that had been set aside for firefighting and tourist access had not yet been completely established. For years, Theodore Roosevelt’s environmental legacy has been overlooked. Franklin D. Roosevelt, his distant relative, would rise to the task of meeting America’s environmental demands while also addressing the issue of teenage unemployment.


Vintage men sitting in a tent.

Several government agencies would be engaged in the program’s administration, but the Army would have the most influence. The Army was the most capable of deploying hundreds of thousands of young men to locations spanning all 48 states and many territories, establishing and equipping camps, and carrying out the mission.

The majority of the men in the program were from the East’s metropolitan districts and were sent to the West. Few people had ever been in the woods, and many had never traveled so far from home. They agreed to six-month commitments that might be extended for up to two years.

Despite the fact that the camps were not formally military, they were administered in a similar manner to a base or boot camp. Early in the morning, the young men were roused by the reveille, roll was called, calisthenic exercises were conducted, bunks were constructed and maintained in order, and men were assigned their daily responsibilities.

Advantages for Men

Vintage men eating while sitting on desks in the forest.Camp Roosevelt, Virginia, CCC Men Eating Oregon State University is the source for this information.

The males who enlisted in the CCC were often between the ages of 17 and 25, jobless, single, and not in school. There were few exceptions for World War I veterans in need of labor, but the most majority were young males.

The remuneration was minimal, at $1 per day (in comparison, in 1914, Ford announced his generous $5 per day auto worker compensation, which was more than double the norm of $2.50). They were paid $30 every month, but $25 was deducted and given back to their family in the Philippines. This left them with $5 a month to spend in towns near their camps on themselves.

On such pay, the guys weren’t going hungry. They were given with food, shelter, clothes, and medical care in addition to their wages. In many cases, the men discovered that they were eating better in the camps than they had ever eaten before. Several males from low-income backgrounds had never had access to the high-quality meat, eggs, and fresh vegetables available in the camps. During a visit to a camp in Shenandoah National Park, Roosevelt remarked on the members’ excellent health and how they had gained an average of twelve pounds, while joking that he wished to lose twelve pounds himself.


In today’s society, when obesity is rampant, weight gain is frowned upon, while hunger among the poor was a major problem in the 1930s. Major General Lewis B. Hershey would testify before Congress that hunger and underfeeding were the cause of 40-60% of the troops conscripted in World War II being disqualified for medical reasons. The males in the camps grew healthy muscular mass, and they were healthier than they had been previously thanks to their hard work, medical attention, and outdoor employment.

Man holding hammer in his hands.

In addition to financial and health advantages, the CCC provided employees with educational opportunities. The need of ensuring that all CCC employees were literate was emphasized. During their time with the CCC, almost 40,000 men learnt to read. To meet the need for trained artisans, other labor skills such as carpentry, stone cutting, welding, truck driving, and typing were taught.

One CCC member discussed the importance of education in shaping the men’s attitude.

“We were told that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” You can improve on what you’ve done before. You have a bright future ahead of you. And we were certain of it.” -North Carolina’s Harley Jolley

Teacher giving training to students in the classroom.

The young guys gained the most satisfaction from their profession because it offered them a feeling of purpose. The guys were learning the rewards of hard labor and acquiring useful experience, rather than bumming about or hitting the trains in pursuit of petty employment.

“We’re eating normally, we’ve got clothing, they’re teaching us the ropes, and we’re learning something,” says Houston Pritchett, a Detroit resident.

Bonding with their Male Compatriots

Vintage young boys playing rugby in open area.Source: Oregon State University CCC Enlistees Play Football

It wasn’t all labor at the camps. The guys would return home after a day of working for 8-10 hours and enjoy some leisure time. Sports were a major component of camp life, in addition to educational possibilities. It aided males in bonding and, on occasion, resolving their conflicts. When the guys got into a fight, they usually settled it in the boxing ring. The boxing ring also served as a testing ground for newly recruited soldiers.

One CCC member reported his arrival at a Shenandoah National Park CCC camp as follows:

“When I walked in, there were a couple of lads practicing with boxing gloves.” “There’s a man, let’s grab him, give him those gloves,” someone remarked as I walked down through the barracks. And I had a terrific start right there… I didn’t get wounded, but I did have 4 or 5 people with me. The following day, my name was plastered all over the Camp.” – Corinth, West Virginia’s W. “Curley” Harvey

Milton Knapp, a CCC member, remarked of CCC teams competing in sports against other college and semi-pro teams:

“I used to play baseball and basketball. We had a fine baseball team, to be sure. We ended playing in the semi-pro league out in Kansas one year… Then we played basketball in other locations, and we played a lot of the fraternity brothers in the college there. We had a fairly excellent baseball team, to be sure. Our basketball squad was mediocre at best.” East Peroria, Illinois resident Milton Knapp


Vintage men giving pose for picture in bonding woods.

CCC men established connections that would last a lifetime far from home, sharing a unique experience.

Leaving an Environmental Legacy

Men trying to put out the burning fire in forest.Members of the CCC battle a fire in the Angeles National Forest in California. Oregon State University is the source for this information.

If a man is judged by the legacy he leaves behind, the men of the CCC did not disappoint. Unselfishly, the 3 million men supported 12-15 million family members who received the funds sent home. Their professional achievements left an even longer lasting impression.

Here’s an example of what they were able to accomplish:

Between 2 and 3 billion trees have been planted. Parks in the State 800 Developed 52,000 acres of public campground development Roads for miles Telephone Lines: 125,000 Miles Constructed There are 89,000 miles of foot trails strung together. Built: 13,100 Acres of Farmland 40 million acres have benefited from erosion control projects. 154 million square yards of stream and lake bank protection Range 814,000 acres of re-vegetation More than 8 million days have been spent combating fires.

CCC Legacy is the source.

Men holding shovel in hand and walking behind the trees.

The CCC’s Demise and Contribution to the War

The arm corps raising the flag.Members of the CCC raise the American flag. Oregon State University is the source for this information.

The CCC was nearing the end of its useful existence by the late 1930s. While the program remained very popular, the improving economy and military conscription reduced unemployment and the number of men joining up. The Army’s budget and resources were stretched by the necessity to prepare for war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the war’s urgent demands became clear, and the country’s militarization put a stop to the CCC.

The Civilian Conservation Corps’ advantages to the country did not cease when it was disbanded in 1941. The 3 million men who took part would be among the most eager to join the American army of 16.1 million soldiers fighting the Axis countries. CCC members found the transfer to military life to be simple since they were already used to collaboration and discipline, as well as the pressure of hard work.

W. “Curley” Harvey, a CCC member, said on how his service in the CCC helped him in the military:

“What I learnt at the CC Camp has helped me a lot…” W. “Curley” Harvey, Corinth, West Virginia – “The army understands that nearly everyone that was in the CC Camp made a heck of a lot better soldier.”

General Mark Clark, speaking at the Citadel, claimed that the CCC members were not the only ones who profited from their service. Military commanders ran the camps, giving them a unique leadership opportunity that would put their skills to the test.

“At the same time, Military Officer personnel were receiving covert leadership training. The CCC member was enlisted under a civilian Oath of Enrollment, and as a result, was not subject to the articles of war or Courts Martial processes. What a dilemma for military officials this proved to be.”

Military leaders had to either figure out how to lead troops without the use of military police and laws, or suffer the humiliation of having to depend on civilian authorities to perform the job for them. That, according to General Clark, helped differentiate the excellent commanders from the bad, resulting in a stronger Army:


“Who knows what the incompetents we weeded out could have done later in the War in positions of responsibility when men’s lives were on the line if they hadn’t been weeded out?”

The CCC’s Greatest Legacy: The Men It Left Behind

Vintage man surveying the land using triangulation.

The CCC’s greatest legacy was the men it left behind. The initiative was well-liked at the time because of its social impact. Unlike today’s fights over stimulus and employment programs, the CCC had support from both sides of the aisle and those who were ordinarily hostile to the president; 67 percent of Republicans backed it.

Several well-known guys would emerge from the program.

Chuck Yeager, a West Virginia CCC who joined the Army Air Corps during WWII and ascended through the ranks to become the first man to break the sound barrier, was the first man to do so.

Actor Robert Mitchum is known for his roles in films such as Cape Fear, Winds of War, and Night of the Hunter.

Norman Borlaug – a member of the CCC who went on to spearhead the agricultural “Green Revolution,” which saved billions of people from famine. In 1970, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

Walter Matthau — Actor and co-star in legendary male films such as The Odd Couple, The Fortune Cookie, and Grumpy Old Men alongside Jack Lemmon.

Raymond Burr is an actor best known for portraying Perry Mason in the television series Perry Mason. Was a member of the National Associations of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni, which successfully campaigned Congress to reestablish the program in 1984, against President Reagan’s veto.

CCC Legacy is the source.

General Mark Clark commended the initiative and its impact on the 1930s youth, saying:

“In my opinion, the CCC was a massive success in saving the youth of the 1930s… endowing the individual CCC enrollee with a sense of dignity, because he was giving his Country an honorable and worthwhile return for what it was doing for him and his family economically – such a stark contrast to today’s shameful, character-robbing Welfare Programs.”

The Civilian Conservation Corps accomplished its goal of conserving natural resources while also helping jobless youngsters. It enlisted the help of millions of young boys and transformed them into men. Houston Pritchett, a CCC member, says it best.

“The CCC made me a man; it taught me discipline, how to work, and how to interact with others.” – Detroit, Michigan’s Houston Pritchett


Marion James seeing memorial names on wall sheet.Marion James, a CCC alumnus, is commemorated on a plaque among the names of other men who labored at Camp 3422 in North Carolina. (Image courtesy of Lauren Carroll)

Marion James, a CCC alumnus, is commemorated on a plaque among the names of other men who labored at Camp 3422 in North Carolina. (Image courtesy of Lauren Carroll)

I suggest viewing Robert Stone’s video “The Civilian Conservation Corps,” which is part of PBS’s American Experience series, to understand more about the CCC. The remarks from Houston Pritchett and Harley Jolley in this piece are from this documentary.

Ken Burns’ documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea features the CCC.



The “civilian conservation corps quizlet” is a website that has been created to help people learn about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The site will let you test your knowledge and see how well you do. Reference: the civilian conservation corps quizlet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the main purpose of the Civilian Conservation Corps?

A: The Civilian Conservation Corps was a New Deal program that sought to employ unemployed men and women in the construction of public works projects. These included parks, trails, playgrounds and skiing facilities.

What was the CCC and what did it do?

A: The CCC was a conference created to promote, discuss and develop the use of creativity in education. It was first held at Carnegie Mellon University on April 7th-8th 2011.

When was the Civilian Conservation Corps created?

A: The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in 1933 under the New Deal.

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