OSU’s Army ROTC First in State

ROTC100logo2The Reserve Officer Training Corps was created nationally in 1916 and Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) wasted little time establishing an Army ROTC program in the same year on the Stillwater, Ok., campus.

Before ROTC, many colleges organized under the 1862 land grant federal legislation, including Oklahoma A&M, had some military instruction, but the National Defense Act of 1916 that created ROTC nationally was more widespread. It also expanded the Army and National Guard, and created an Officers’ and Enlisted Reserve Corps, as well as ROTC.

In the past 100 years of ROTC, OSU has produced many notable officers including many who are in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1999. ROTC graduates include OSU President Burns Hargis, who was in Air Force and Army ROTC while a student at OSU.

Hargis was in ROTC from 1963-67. He was commissioned in 1970 and served as an Army Finance Officer in the 95th Division (Training) and reached the rank of Captain. His service ended in 1976.

“I appreciate my time in ROTC. My service helped to shape me and prepare me for a rewarding career that has crossed many fields, Hargis said. “ROTC instills the attributes of duty, loyalty, teamwork, honor and service.

“Those are the values one learns through ROTC and have served me throughout my life.”

This year the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, founded in 1999 by Stillwater’s Maj. Gen. Douglas O. Dollar, will honor Oklahoma ROTC programs and alumni at its Hall of Fame banquet Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites in Norman. Because this is the ROTC Centennial, Dollar, an ROTC graduate from OSU, wants to honor as many Oklahoma ROTC alumni as possible. Dollar has set up a website for the event, http:www.okrotc2016.org.

Also this year Hargis and Dollar were selected for induction into the Army’s ROTC National Hall of Fame at Fort Knox, KY.

Henry Bellmon while serving as Oklahoma Governor

Another notable Oklahoman—former Gov. Henry Bellmon—attended OSU when students had to attend the mandatory two-year ROTC program. Upon graduation in 1942, Bellmon, who would be Oklahoma’s governor twice and a U.S. Senator, volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served in the Pacific during the war and was awarded the Silver Star for Valor during the battle for Iwo Jima, probably the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history.

Lt. Gen. George Price Hays

A Medal of Honor recipient, Price Hays attended then Oklahoma A&M from 1914 to 1917 and participated in the Student Army Training Corps. After graduation Hays joined the Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant. While serving as an artillery officer in France in World War I, he earned the Medal of Honor. On July 14, 1918, Germany artillery fire destroyed American communication lines. Hays rode on horseback between his unit, the command post and two French artillery batteries the rest of that day and the next. Seven horses were shot out from under him in the battle and he was severely wounded. His efforts stopped the German advance, his Medal of Honor citation said.

He served again in World War II in Europe, and organized and was the first commanding general of the Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division, and retired later as a Lieutenant General.

Bellmon and Hays, along with 15 other OSU ROTC alumni, are in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.

Another OSU graduate who played baseball for the Cowboys is Lieutenant General Jerry Max Bunyard, a native of Altus. He was commander of the Army’s 1st Aerial Rocket Battalion in Vietnam. Commissioned in 1968 as a second lieutenant in field artillery at OSU, Randal Rigby eventually became the Army’s chief of artillery and ultimately retired as a lieutenant general. It is estimated that more than 90 OSU graduates have attained the rank of general officer.

Col. William A. Ahrberg, a member of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, not only attended ROTC but came back from the Korean War and taught ROTC at OSU.

Oklahoma Military Academy, a Storied History

Oklahoma Military Academy Claremore
The Oklahoma Military Academy, Claremore

In its storied history, Oklahoma Military Academy’s Reserve Officer Training Program produced thousands of military leaders including one who led the last horse cavalry charge in U.S. Army history and another who was awarded a battlefield promotion to major by the legendary Gen. George S. Patton.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) nationwide, and the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame will recognize state ROTC programs and their alumni at an Oct. 21 banquet at the Embassy Suites in Norman, said Maj. Gen. Douglas O. Dollar, founder of the Hall of Fame.

Dollar, who lives in Stillwater, is an Oklahoma State University ROTC graduate and founder of the Military Hall of Fame. ROTC alumni are encouraged to find further information and register to be recognized for their service on a web site set up especially for the event, https://okhonorscampaigns.org.

Since ROTC was established nationally in 1916, many ROTC cadets have fought in the nation’s wars including World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Oklahoma Military Academy (OMA), located in Claremore, was founded in 1919 and closed in 1971. Its alumni association meets annually and will hold this year’s Alumni Reunion on June 10 and 11 at Rogers State University, the former site of OMA at Claremore.

During the 52 years of its existence, OMA trained more than 10,000 ROTC cadets with approximately 80 percent serving in wartime, said Phil Goldfarb, an OMA alumnus, historian and President of the OMA Alumni Association.

Lt. Col. Edwin Price Ramsey, an OMA graduate, led a horse cavalry charge in the Philippines shortly after World War II began.bLt. Gen. William E. Potts, the highest ranking graduate of OMA, entered World War II as a second lieutenant and became the youngest field grade officer to lead a battalion in the European theater of World War II.

In 1932, OMA received an Honor School rating for its ROTC program. It received that Honor designation each year until it close in 1971.

lieutenant-colonel-edwin-price-ramseyLt. Col. Edwin Price Ramsey

On Jan. 16, 1942, American and Philippine soldiers were fighting to repel invading Japanese forces in the Philippines on Bataan. As some of the Japanese forces neared the American and Philippine lines, Ramsey and his horse cavalry unit charged the Japanese soldiers, driving them off.

Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, commander of forces in the Philippines, awarded Ramsey the Silver Star for gallantry for leading the horse cavalry charge, the last in U.S. Army history. When Bataan and the rest of the Philippines fell to the Japanese, Ramsey escaped and formed a guerilla unit that fought the Japanese until the war ended.

Ramsey, who died in 2013, wrote a book about his adventures, Lieutenant Ramsey’s War.


Lt. Gen. William E. Potts

Potts fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. A native of Heavener, Potts was only 22 when Patton promoted him to major in recognition of his leadership as a battalion commander. He commanded an armored cavalry unit.

lieutenant-general-william-e-pottsWhile at OMA, Potts was named a Distinguished Honor Graduate of OMA and the outstanding ROTC graduate by the U.S. Reserve Officer’s Association.

Seven countries, including France, the Republic of China and the United States have honored him with 51 decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Potts died in 2005. He and Ramsey are in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. Potts was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2009, and Ramsey was inducted in 2010.

Originally when OMA was established at Claremore in 1919, it was a high school. It was the first high school in Oklahoma to have Junior ROTC. By 1923, OMA was a six-year institution including four years of high school and two years of junior college.

In 1930, OMA had 289 cadets enrolled and established a senior ROTC Cavalry program. The federal government sent 60 horses and 11 enlisted men to OMA for training.

OMA closed in 1971 because of declining enrollment. Rogers State University now sits where OMA trained young soldiers.