MMA Corps Celebrates Alumnus Gen. Clifton B. Cates Day

Celebrating one of MMA's most accomplished graduates, the Missouri Military Academy Corps of Cadets took time during lunch on 31 August 2021 to remember MMA alumnus Gen. Clifton B. Cates (August 31, 1893 – June 4, 1970) on his birthday.

Following a tradition began at the Academy in 2016, cadet Battalion Commander Michael Machary-Pagan carved out the first pieces of birthday cake with a saber, and as the academy's oldest cadet present, Chris Schafer '89 enjoyed the first bite. The second bite was taken by the youngest cadet present, 7th grader Hayden James from Streamwood, Illinois.

Gen. Clifton Bledsoe Cates (August 31, 1893 – June 4, 1970) attended Missouri Military Academy and graduated in 1910. Cates was an honor student and four-letter athlete. As a college student at the University of Tennessee, he joined the United States Marine Corps during World War I. Cates led a distinguished military career, serving through several major conflicts, including World War I, World War II and the Korean War. He eventually became the 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps and is 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 the 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.” 

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