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How the Civilian Conservation Corps Worked


Accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps
CCC boys work on an adobe building at Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima near Lompoc, Calif., Sept. 23, 1938. The boys go shirtless in the afternoon heat even though Army officers in charge of the camp say it's against regulations.
CCC boys work on an adobe building at Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima near Lompoc, Calif., Sept. 23, 1938. The boys go shirtless in the afternoon heat even though Army officers in charge of the camp say it's against regulations.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) boys worked every day except Sunday from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although the U.S. Army ran the CCC camps, it didn't usually handle the work projects. Once the boys arrived on the work site, another organization, such as the U.S. Forest Service, administered the project. Here's a rundown of some of the CCC's major accomplishments:

  • Approximately 125,000 miles (201,168 kilometers) of roads built
  • 46,854 bridges constructed
  • More than 3,000 lookout fire towers built
  • 318,076 check dams built for erosion control
  • More than 8 million hours of fighting fires
  • 33,087 miles (53,248.4 kilometers) of terracing implemented
  • Upwards of 3 billion trees planted
  • About 89,000 miles (143,232 kilometers) of telephone wire strung

[sources: CCC Legacy, Jackson].

In addition, CCC boys built thousands of miles of hiking trails and improved wildlife habitats. They also laid pipe and performed excavation work on canals and ditches. The CCC Legacy Web site credits the program with advancing certain fire-fighting techniques [source: CCC Legacy]. In addition to fire fighting, the CCC performed other emergency response work after floods, hurricanes and blizzards. As many as 47 CCC members died while fighting forest fires, and hundreds of veterans died when a hurricane struck their camps in the Florida Keys.

Although Congress once considered making the CCC permanent, this never happened. World War II ushered in its end. In the late 1930s when war broke out in Europe, production increased in the United States. This created more jobs, which meant that fewer young men were signing up for the CCC. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the War Department needed to divert attention to the war, and the CCC came to an official end in 1942.

In all, almost 3 million young men enrolled in the CCC, and as many as 500,000 were actively serving at its peak in the Great Depression [source: Sterling]. Aside from its more tangible accomplishments, the CCC helped improve local economies when working men and their families finally had cash to spend. Many former CCC boys claim that the regimented structure taught them the discipline they needed for serving in World War II.

Most of all, former CCC men claim to have learned skills and fostered the kind of work ethic that helped them throughout the rest of their lives. One CCC graduate, Harry Dallas, admits being irked when he sees the CCC commemorative postage stamp that depicts a figure holding a pickax improperly -- the CCC taught the boys not to hold it the way it's depicted [source: Jackson].