Civilian Conservation Corps

The 1920's were the years of jazz, gangsters, 'flappers', speakeasies, and good times. Stock prices climbed without limit, Prohibition was easy to sneak past, and wages soared. In the fall of 1929 the good times came to an end with the Wall Street crash marking the start of the Great Depression.

Wages had risen 33% in the previous ten years, now unemployment rose almost that amount. Farm prices and manufacturing were half what they'd been previously.

The Great Depression effected the whole world. In Italy the Fascists counteracted the depression with massive road-building and public works. In Germany the National Socialists pumped up the economy by rearmament and the autobahns. Both countries reduced youth unemployment with paramilitary organizations to occupy the idle hands.

In America, Communists were claiming the economy showed the end of free markets; Washington D. C. first saw a three-thousand strong Communist hunger strike. Then almost 20,000 unemployed veterans camped out on the Mall, demanding an advance on the bonus promised for WWI service. Refusing to disperse until paid, they were broken up by the Army. Farmers started banding together to forcibly resist bank foreclosures for non-payment.

When President F. D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, along with a new Democrat party majority in both Houses of Congress, he immediately began programs to reduce unemployment and occupy idle workers with public works. Calling an emergency session of Congress, his bill passed in four days. Of all the New Deal programs, his CCC program is the best remembered.

Though technically under the Army, it was run as an independent agency: men stayed in barracks, learned military discipline, and performed conservation work of all sorts. Enrollment periods were short, but some re-enrollment was allowed.

The first CCC camp in the nation, Camp Roosevelt NF-1, was opened in April 1933 on the mountain east of Edinburg in Shenandoah County. Shortly afterward NF-7 in the Wolf Gap along the state line was manned by 'coloreds' of Company 333. Four years later the Company moved to the Wilderness near Fredericksburg, and in 1937 moved to Cabin John, Maryland where they restored the C & O Canal. Camp Roosevelt remained in operation until the CCC itself was ended by the full employment of WWII.

In retrospect Roosevelt's policies had little -if any- effect on relieving the Depression. But to a nation frightened by social instability and the unemployed population that enrolled in the CCC, it was a beacon of hope from the human depression that accompanied the economic poverty. Millions of young men got a head-start on good work habits; most of them remember their experience as some of their best days.

Unlike European policies, the CCC's work was mostly in parklands and forests, the 'Conservation' part of their title. Much of their work is still intact. From the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, to thousands of campgrounds, picnic shelters, rural roads and improved hiking trails; the "CCC boys" legacy is still with us.

In Shenandoah County Camp Roosevelt and Wolf Gap recreational areas are CCC legacies; as is the spectacular view from Woodstock fire tower overlooking the Seven Bends area of the Shenandoah River. The few living CCC alumni are all very old now. If you visit and use these facilities, say a "Thank you" to the millions of men who made it possible.

CCC Links

Camp Roosevelt CCC Legacy Foundation

James F. Justin CCC Museum

National Association of CCC Alumni

African Americans in the CCC

Related Links:
GW National Forest Lee Ranger District

Bonus Army Pictures

More Bonus Army Photos