Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.)

Forest Conservation Stock Photo

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program for unemployed men, focused on natural resource conservation from 1933 to 1942. As part of the New Deal legislation proposed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Civilian Conservation Corps was designed first, to aid relief of unemployment stemming from the Great Depression and secondly, carry out a broad natural resource conservation program on national, state and municipal lands. The executive order to create the program was introduced by FDR to the 73rd United States Congress on March 21, 1933, and Senate Bill 5.598, the Emergency Conservation Work Act as it was known, was signed into law on March 31, 1933.

The Civilian Conservation Corps became one of the most popular New Deal programs among the general public and operated in every U.S. state and territories of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The separate Indian Division was a major relief force for Native American reservations.

By the summer of 1933 a number of Camden men had enlisted for work with the Civilian Conservation Corps, on forestry, road, and other public works projects, which included the construction of a model yacht basin along the Cooper River.

Although the Civilian Conservation Corps was probably the most popular New Deal program, it never became a permanent agency. A Gallup poll of April 18, 1936, asked “Are you in favor of the CCC camps?”; 82% of respondents said yes, including 92% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans.

The last extension passed by Congress was in 1939. The Civilian Conservation Corps program continued to be reduced in operations as the Depression waned and employment opportunities improved. Also fewer eligible young men were available after the draft commenced in 1940. Beginning in May 1940, as war raged in Europe, the program began a shift toward national defense and forest protection. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 all federal programs were now focused on the war effort. Most CCC work except for wildland firefighting, was shifted onto U.S. military bases to help with construction.

The CCC disbanded one year earlier than planned, as the 77th United States Congress ceased funding, causing it to formally conclude operations at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 1942. The end of the CCC program and closing of the camps involved arrangements to leave the incomplete work projects in the best possible shape, the separation of about 1,800 appointed employees, the transfer of CCC property to the War and Navy Departments and other agencies, and the preparation of final accountability records. Liquidation of the CCC was ordered by Congress by Labor-Federal Security Appropriation Act (56 Stat. 569) on July 2, 1942; and virtually completed on June 30, 1943. Liquidation appropriations for the CCC continued through April 20, 1948.

Some former CCC sites in good condition were reactivated from 1941 to 1947 as Civilian Public Service camps where conscientious objectors performed “work of national importance” as an alternative to military service. Other camps were used to hold Japanese internees or German prisoners of war. After the CCC disbanded, the federal agencies responsible for public lands administration went on to organize their own seasonal fire crews, roughly modeled after the CCC, which filled the firefighting role formerly filled by the CCC and provided the same sort of outdoor work experience to young people.

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