MMA Commemorates the Birthday of Gen. Clifton B. Cates, Class of 1910

MMA Commemorates the Birthday of Gen. Clifton B. Cates, Class of 1910

On August 31, Missouri Military Academy Corps of Cadets commemorated the birthday of one of our most accomplished alumni, Gen. Clifton B. Cates, Class of 1910. This highly respected and decorated alumnus served as the 19th Marine Corps Commandant from 1948-1951. 

Cates led a distinguished military career, serving through several through several major conflicts, including World War I, World War II and the Korean War. During his time as Marine Corps commandant, he became well known as the man who fought Congress to save the U.S. Marine Corps from possible extinction in 1951, paving the way for the USMC’s growth and prosperity. 

One of his most honorable moments came earlier in his career during World War I. In July 1918, Cates was in France leading a platoon within the 96th Company, when it was attacked — killing most of the company, including commander. Cates took over temporary command, and while wounded in the leg and shoulder, he scribbled a note to the battalion commander, which read: 

“I have only two men left out of my company and 20 out of other companies. We need support but it is almost suicidal to try to get here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant artillery barrage is upon us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold.”

During this annual event, birthday cake is traditionally cut with the sword of a Marine officer as a reminder of General Cates’s legacy. Following Academy tradition, Cadet First Lieutenant Bradley Thumbi, the battalion commander of the 135th Missouri Military Academy Corps of Cadets, cut and presented the first piece of cake to the oldest cadet present, Curt Kirtley, a member of the Class of 1974. 

Cadet Kirtley then passed the second piece of cake to the youngest cadet present — Cadet Bryan O’Dwyer-Moore, a seventh grader from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma — as a symbol of the passing of MMA traditions from one generation to the next. 

We are proud to honor Gen. Cates and share his story and example to our cadets each year. 

View more photos from the celebration here

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