The Cowboy Battalion

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Wyoming (UW). While ROTC was established on campus in October 1916, military training at the university is a tradition almost as old as UW itself. Opened through the Morrill Act of 1862, UW was required to include military training in its curriculum along with classes dealing with agriculture, mechanic arts, and other topics. Military training was implemented in 1891, a year after Wyoming became a state.

The early years of the cadet corps at the university saw the establishment of a “School of Military Tactics” by the University Board of Trustees along with marching drills and classes. Cadets were to supply their own uniforms and drill equipment, including rifles, was not available. The first year there were 55 cadets who were organized into a battalion of two companies. Some of these early cadets served in the Spanish-American War.

As a new gym was built and more equipment became available, the battalion drilled more and came to be led by 1st Lt. Beverly. C. Daly in 1911. Under Daly, the cadet corps expanded and eventually became an ROTC unit before being replaced by the Students’ Army Training Corps during World War I. After the war ended in 1918, ROTC was reestablished.

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Cadets drilling in front of Old Main, March 1893 (B.C. Buffum collection)

Between the two world wars, the ROTC program greatly expanded and occupied facilities in the new Half Acre Gym. Advanced students were allowed to wear officer type uniforms and an Army staff supplemented the university staff.

With World War II in progress, changes to the military training that took place on campus were rampant. A summer Pilot Training Program was created in 1940. The College of Engineering was authorized to institute defense training courses in 1941. In 1942, the Army and Navy preliminary ground school and flight training program was initiated. 1943 saw the approval of the U.S. Cadet Nurse training program.

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Cadets performing artillery drills, undated (B.C. Buffum collection)

The ROTC program was discontinued in 1943 in favor of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Members of the ASTP arrived in June 1943 and campus served as a training center for basic phase students and for advanced engineers. During the war, UW hosted many Army and Navy Air Corps trainees. ROTC was reinstated in 1946.

Other than students, nearly 7,000 faculty, staff, and alumni of UW served during World War II. Of those nearly 7,000 men and women that served, over 400 received decorations. In 1949, shortly after the Air Force was established, the university’s ROTC program split into two entities: Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC.

Military training at the University of Wyoming continued to change from the 1950s forward. The 1960s saw the removal of mandatory military training for all able-bodied males. Curriculum changed and for the last four decades, the Cowboy Battalion (Army ROTC) have continued the traditions that were set in place in the early years of the program and the Department of Military Science. The battalion has gained recognition throughout the United States as well as from the U.S. Army and continues to succeed.

Recently, the AHC processed the papers of both the Department of Military Science and 1st Lt. Beverly C. Daly. The Department of Military Science records cover the history of military training, ROTC, and the ASTP from 1892 to 1945, covering the early records of the cadets corps, the ending of World War II, and the removal of the ASTP from campus. The collection includes materials documenting the early days of military training on campus (1893 to 1907), records of the ASTP and the Specialized Training Assignment and Reclassification Unit (1942 to 1943), correspondence, reports, and other general UW materials such as commencement programs. Also in this collection is a short history of the Cowboy Battalion.

Beverly C. Daly was a retired Army officer that became the professor of military science at the University of Wyoming in 1911. During his tenure at Wyoming, he was the commander of cadets as well as the dean of men at the university. His collection includes correspondence, teaching materials, photographs, and manuscripts from his time as the commander for ROTC and the dean of men as well as printed material on the controversies involving military education in schools.

In addition to the Department of Military Science records and the Daly papers, other AHC collections that cover the history of military training at UW include the University of Wyoming President’s Office records, University of Wyoming War Activities Council records, and the University of Wyoming College of Engineering records.

Katey Myers, AHC Intern

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