A 54-year-old time capsule opened for the first time on Wednesday has given rare insight into the daily life and history of UT’s Reserve Officer Training Corps during the 1940s and 1950s.
World War II veteran and UT alumnus Frank Denius removed the time capsule’s lid to reveal a treasure trove of important historical documents. Among the books and paper was a 1957 senior ROTC manual personally endorsed by former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a history of the Navy ROTC from its inception in 1940 until 1957. The book included rare photographs and a letter from the 1954 Board of Regents approving the construction of a new purpose-built ROTC building.
Also in the box was a 1956 Air Force ROTC yearbook and a brief history of the Army ROTC following its establishment in 1947.
ROTC historians have long known of the time capsule’s existence but could only plan for its retrieval following the official decommissioning in August of the now destroyed ROTC building. The copper box was purposefully placed in a cornerstone during the building’s construction in 1957, which was later renamed to Russell A. Steindam Hall in 1972.
Steindam graduated from UT in 1968 and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1971 following his death during combat in Vietnam.
Army ROTC associate professor Jose Reyes, who presented the box to the committee, said there were no indications of the capsule’s contents prior to opening.
“I expected some of the students and faculty members to have written something about that time in the ROTC, but this is a very special find,” Reyes said. “I’m sure it was meant to be a surprise to whoever opened it.”
Demand was high for ROTC graduates in the 1940s immediately following World War II, with 325 students in the Naval unit alone, according to the documents. Now, all three ROTC units are composed of only 350 students campus-wide.
Maj. Butch Neuenschwander said the capsule’s contents would allow the Naval ROTC to fill some gaps in its history during World War II and the decade following.
“We have a library where we keep older yearbooks, but this is great for us. We don’t really have a whole lot of information covering 1940-56. This is history,” Neuenschwander said. “Our reunion is in a few weeks, and I guarantee some of the attending alumni are listed here in these books.”
Neuenschwander said talks to place another time capsule in the new, six-story liberal arts building are under way. Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC will be housed together in the $95.7 million building beginning in 2013.
Both the Navy and Army ROTC are having their annual reunions on Nov. 5.
Printed on Thursday, October 20th, 2011, as: Rare relics recovered in time capsule