History of the National War College

In October 1945 Admiral Harry W. Hill was appointed as the first Commandant of the National War College and tasked with establishing a College for the postwar joint education of the armed forces. According to Lieutenant General Leonard T. Gerow, President of the Board which recommended its formation, “The College is concerned with grand strategy and the utilization of resources necessary to implement that strategy...Its graduates will exercise a great influence on the formulation of national and foreign policy in both peace and war...”This theme was underscored with the participation of the State Department and, eventually, other government agency representatives into the faculty and student body. 

The National War College mission is to prepare future leaders of the Armed Forces, State Department, and other civilian agencies for high-level policy, command, and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior-level course of study in national security strategy and national security policy. In furtherance of this mission, the College curriculum focuses on grand strategy – the integration of all elements of national power – as well as the theory and practice of war, fundamentals of strategic thinking for national security matters, the global security arena, the inter-agency decision-making process, contemporary military strategy, and joint and combined warfare. A fundamental strength of the College is its joint environment and approach. Students and faculty are drawn from all armed services and from civilian departments and agencies concerned with national security policies. The College program stresses “jointness” in military planning and operations and the interrelationship of domestic, foreign, and defense policies. 

The National War College has occupied Roosevelt Hall since the founding of the College, except for 1998-99 during the Hall’s renovation. The College was incorporated into the National Defense University in 1976 when the latter was created as the country’s pre-eminent joint professional military education center. In commemoration of the 70th anniversary, on September 29, 2016, the College dedicated the west wing of Roosevelt Hall as the “General Colin L. Powell” Wing. Additionally, in April of 2016, the College reunited all living former Commandants and Distinguished Alumni. 

Dedication of the General Colin L. Powell Wing 

Colin Powell Wing DedicationConstruction of Roosevelt Hall commenced on February 21,1903 and was completed in 1907. The design of the building moves out from the central rotunda with two wings extending to the east and west. These wings are116 feet long and lighted at each end by arched windows. The West Wing holds unobstructed views of the three-story west wall. It was originally established as the Army War College library with cast iron shelving established on the first floor. Over the years, the collection grew and the stacks increased in height to 5 levels accessed by nearly vertical cast iron stairs that reached the 3rd story floor of the building. 

With the establishment of National Defense University in 1976-77, the libraries of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the National War College were consolidated into the NDU Library. The collections remained in the two colleges until the summer of 1991 when the books and periodicals were moved to NDU, Marshall Hall. From 1991 until 1998 the cast iron stacks remained in the West Wing for additional library storage space. 

The 1998 reconstruction of the building resulted in a new look for the West Wing. Four offices were established for the 4 military service chairs, and the original cast iron stacks were used to accent furniture that modeled the wing as a grand study wing and event hall. The new General Colin L. Powell Wing will display awards from the General’s illustrious career in both the military and federal government.