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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,

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.

OU Army ROTC Produced Leaders, MOH Recipients

OU Army ROTC artillery battery cadets at attention, 1938.

Since 1917, the University of Oklahoma’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) has produced military leaders, including two Medal of Honor recipients, who made the difference in winning battles throughout the world.

Many of these early ROTC graduates from OU would fight in World War II, both in Europe and the Pacific. Others would fight in Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan. As the nation remembers its veterans this Memorial Day, here are some who received their ROTC training at OU:

  • John Lucian Smith of Lexington and Leon Robert Vance of Enid would earn the Medal of Honor for heroic action in World War II.
  • Other OU grads including Hal Muldrow and Russell Dwight Funk would turn a potential military disaster into an Allied victory on the embattled beachhead of Salerno, Italy, in 1943.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of ROTC programs in America. The Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame will honor Oklahoma ROTC programs and alumni at its Hall of Fame banquet Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites in Norman. Because this is ROTC’s Centennial, Maj. Gen. Douglas O. Dollar, of Stillwater, and an Oklahoma State University ROTC graduate, wants as many Oklahoma ROTC alumni as possible to be recognized for their service.


OU MEDAL OF HONOR recipients, Smith and Vance

Major John L. Smith

Smith was commissioned an Army lieutenant of artillery at OU. He later resigned to accept a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps where he became a pilot. He became a Marine Corps Ace who shot down 19 Japanese planes and led his fighter squadron on many sorties, accounting for the destruction of 83 enemy aircraft. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2010.

Bob Vance
Lt. Col. R. Leon Vance

Vance entered OU and spent two years in ROTC. In his second year, one of the incoming freshmen and comrades in ROTC was Smith.  After Vance’s second year, he was accepted by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated as an infantry lieutenant. He went to flight school and was assigned to the Army Air Corps.

On June 5, 1944, Vance earned his Medal of Honor in his second and final combat mission. He flew a B-24 in an Allied attack on German positions on the French coast one day before the Normandy Invasion.

Vance’s plane was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, wounding many of his crew. Vance, whose right foot was partially severed, still managed to fly the plane. It was too heavily damaged to land in England so Vance flew over the English Channel where his crew could safely bail out and be rescued. He then landed in the water. An explosion blew him out of the plane and he clutched a life preserver until he was rescued.

Two months later he was put on a plane for evacuation to the United States. The plane disappeared between Iceland and Newfoundland and was never found. His Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously. Vance Air Force Base in Enid is named after him. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2009.


Salerno, Italy

ROTC was mandatory for most students at OU. And after college, many ROTC cadets including Hal Muldrow and Russell Dwight Funk joined the 45th Infantry Division, a National Guard Division that was organized in 1923 and would be mobilized for World War II and again for the Korean War in 1950. Funk joined the Division in 1923 and Muldrow joined it in 1928.

muldrowMuldrow, who lived in Norman, eventually would command the 45th. Funk, of Oklahoma City, would be a Colonel and would make the Army his career.

Lt. Col. Russell Funk

At Salerno, the two officers and their men would keep the Germans from winning the battle. During fighting at Salerno, Germans found a gap in the Allied forces that led to the ocean.


Intent on pushing the 45th and adjoining forces into the sea, the Germans launched a counterattack of tanks and infantry down that gap and toward the ocean. A volume of Time-Life Books World War II series said it best in crediting the 45h with saving the invasion.

“Between the German spearhead and the water stood only a handful of American infantrymen and some 105 mm guns of the 189th Field Artillery Battalion under Lt. Col. Hal Muldrow Jr. and the 158th Field Artillery Battalion under Lt. Col Russell Funk, both of the 45th Division,” Time-Life said.

The two artillery battalions fired eight rounds per minute per gun, “a rate perhaps unsurpassed by any artillery in World War II,” Time-Life said. Together, the two battalions fired 3,650 rounds, stopping the German attack and preserving the Allied beachhead.


Some additional notable OU ROTC graduates

Major General Ernest L. “Iron Mike” Massad

OU ROTC cadet Ernest L. “Iron Mike”  Massad  would join the 11th Airborne  Division as a battalion commander of artillery and fight in the Pacific.  Massad was an OU football player, basketball player and track man. He was named to several All-American football teams. He later was a Major General, commanding the Army Reserve’s 95th Division (Training). He held the three star rank when he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1970.

Bob Kalsu was a University of Oklahoma All-American tackle in 1967. Kalsu played one year for the Buffalo Bills and was named the team’s top rookie. He was an ROTC graduate and went on active duty after the 1968 football season. A Lieutenant in the artillery, Kalsu was killed in Vietnam on July 21, 1970.

In-State Tuition for All ROTC Students

Out of state residency? Not if you are in ROTC! Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signs a bill to give In-State Tuition status to anyone enrolled as an active ROTC cadet.


Oklahoma Military Appreciation legislation now authorizes in-state tuition to ANY student enrolled in ROTC in the State of Oklahoma! This means if you are from (for example) Alaska, you have been accepted by OU and are planning to enroll in Naval ROTC at OU, you qualify for in-state tuition! This is a large tuition savings of nearly $10K per year for out-of-state students enrolled full-time. This means all NROTC College Program students now enjoy in-state tuition at OU effective July 01, 2015! (Senate Bill 138, passed and signed by Governor Fallin on April 21st 2015: See Sections 3242 and 3247 of Title 70, Oklahoma Statutes, as amended in 2015).