Alton Western Military Academy HS “Raiders”

Alton Western Military Academy Complex
Alton Military Academy School Building

The History of Alton Western Military Academy

Alton (population 30,496) is located in southwestern Illinois about 15 miles north of St. Louis, Mo.  Alton sits in the northwest corner of Madison County.  U.S. Route 67 and the Illinois Routes of 143, 111, and 3 all lead to and from Alton.  Alton is a true river town, being platted on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River.  Several railroad lines including the Southern Pacific, Burlington Northern, and Gateway Western all travel through Alton.

Alton was established in 1837 according to the town’s official website address of  According to the website address of  Alton has an incredibly historic past.  It was the site of where Lewis and Clark left for their journey to explore the west.  It was also home to Illinois’ first state penitentiary.

Alton has a great educational history as well.  Included in that history was the establishment of the Western Military Academy First known as the Wyman Institute which got its start in 1879, the school became Western Military Academy in 1895. It served as a prestigious military school in Illinois for many decades, and was located on the corner of Edwards and Seminary streets. It was in 1971 that the financial woes and dwindling enrollment took their toll and the school closed its doors; and today is home to Mississippi Valley Christian School.

Most of the barracks have been razed, but the administration building and the gymnasium are still standing proudly.

More great photos and information regarding Western Military Academy can be found at .  An very well-written history of the Academy can be read at the web address of .

To view a phenominal picture – video on Western Military Academy please check out as provided to us by our good friend Mark Castelton.

Western Military Academy Quick Facts

Year opened:                                   1895

Year closed:                                    1971

Western Academy team nickname:   the Raiders

Western Academy team colors:        Red & White

School Fight Song:                          unavailable


Like most schools of its type, Alton Western Military Academy stressed discipline, academics, and physical fitness.  In its prime Western Military Academy offfered a wide variety of sports.  IHSA success ( was achieved in swimming, golf, and wrestling.  In addition the school competed in baseball, cross country, football, golf, tennis, as well as the intra-mural sports of boxing, bowling, and fencing.  Western Military prided itself on allowing all of its students to participate regardless of size or ability.

Two great books by local author C.B. Jackson were written about the history of athletics at Western Military Academy, and can be read at the Hayner Public Library in downtown Alton: one about the history of the Thanksgiving Day Classic (2008), and “Western Military Academy Athletics, 1879-1971” (2007). Historical artifacts of WMA athletics and other activities are also on display in the Illinois Room of the Hayner Library.

Western Military Academy Football Team – 1907
A group of people in orange shirts

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Western Military Academy existed prior to the IHSA State Playoffs began.  However, the boys of WMA had some great seasons on the gridiron. One such season occurred in 1907 with the team pictured to your right going 7-1 with its only loss to the St. Louis University Undergrad team by a score of 8-7. All tolled the WMA Cadets of 1907 outscored their opponents 294-27!!

The boys are recorded as far back as 1892, taking on Smith Academy of St. Louis. In 1899, the Red Raider had a tight contest with nearby Hillsboro High which ended in a tie with a score of 5-5!! Western Military was also known for their Thanksgiving Day games against cross-town rival Alton High, which started in 1912, and rivalry contests with nearby Principia in the 1920’s where the winner received “The Flag” as a travelling trophy.

WMA was a charter member of the St. Louis Preparatory League beginning in 1925, and also held membership with the ABC Conference as well as the Interscholastic League in the early part of the 1900’s.

WMA players, pre-1900
courtesy of Don Greco from “Legends of the Gridiron” (notice the noseguards around players’ necks)

1907    7-1   Tied for 2nd in Interscholastic League

1913    6-1   Defeated Alton in annual Thanksgiving Day game

1913 Western Military Red Raiders (6-1)
A group of people posing for a photo

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Undefeated 1914 Red Raider football team

1914  8-0   Outscored opponents 304-18

                 Recorded six shutouts

1923  6-4    All wins came by shutout over college schools

1925  8-1-1 St. Louis Preparatory Champs     Coach Major Garetson

1926  7-1-1 St. Louis Preparatory Champs     Coach Major Garetson

1926 St. Louis Preparatory League Champs
1925 St. Louis Preparatory Champs
Inaugural season champions

1927           Loses to St. Louis University High in conference playoff game

1928           Joins and wins ABC Conference title

1930           2nd place in St. Louis Preparatory League

1932           ABC Conference Champs

1933  7-1     ABC Conference Champs

1935  4-4    Tied for ABC Conference championship, 2nd in Preparatory League

1937           2nd place in Preparatory League

1938  3-2-1  ABC Conference Champs

1940           ABC Conference Champs

1941           ABC Conference Champs

1944           ABC Conference Champs

1946  8-1     ABC Conference Champs       Coach Gus Pitts

1947  9-0     ABC Conference Champs       Coach Major Favre (Pappy) Gould

                     Outscored opposition 214-35

1953           Tied for 2nd place in ABC Conference

NOTE: The ABC Conference when Western Military Academy was a member was set up to players’ experience, weight, and size. Each school graded its own players based on those three criteria then assigned them to either the school’s A, B, or C teams. This practice was introduced on the West Coast.

1932 ABC Champs
#99 is Butch O’Hare, #79 is Paul Tibbets—both WWII heroes (see below)
Western Military Academy Swimming Pool


The WMA Cadets were good on land and sea for sure!  A total of FIVE medals were won at IHSA State Swim Meets, three were earned in 1943!  This effort led the team of 1942-43 to a SEVENTH PLACE overall finish! 

1940-41        Bob Barker            Diving                5TH Place

1942-43        Team Finished SEVENTH in STATE MEET Competition!!

                        Individual Medalists


                        ??  Raphael                200 Free Style             3RD Place

                        ??  Lyman                   100 Free Style             5TH Place
Relay Team
                200 Free Style             5TH Place

Final Team Standings

1)  Chicago (Lane)                                                  43

2)  Winnetka (New Trier)                                          41

3)  Oak Park (O.P.-River Forest)                              23

4)  Des Plaines (Maine)                                           10

5)  Rockford (East)                                                   9

6)  Chicago (Hyde Park)                                            8

                       7)  ALTON WESTERN MILITARY ACADEMY             6

                       7)  Rockford (West)                                                  6

7)  Danville (H.S.)                                                     6

10)  Evanston (Twp.)                                                   2

10)  Chicago (Taft)                                                      2

1951-52        William Kieck         Diving               3RD Place


One linkster earned an IHSA Medal for his efforts on the golf course. As a team Western Military had one TOP-TEN finish and three District titles in IHSA Competition!!

1949-50      Team Finished EIGHTH in STATE MEET Competition!! 

                  District Champions

                  Final Team Standings

1)  Champaign (H.S.)                                    625

2)  Des Plaines (Maine)                                 641

3)  Rockford (West)                                      646

4)  Winnetka (New Trier)                                649

5)  Peoria (H.S.)                                           666

6)  West Frankfort (Frankfort)                         669

7)  Chicago (Lane)                                        670

                  8)  ALTON WESTERN MILITARY ACADEMY 673

                  9)  Moline (H.S.)                                           676

10)  Joliet (Twp.)                                             677

1951-52     Brad Godfrey       Individual Medalist           8TH Place

1952-53     Team Qualified for State Match Play

                 District Champions

1953-54      Team Qualified for State Match Play

                  District Champions


One grappler of WMA earned a medal in State Meet Competition. Some nice team records were recorded as well in the early 1940s while the program was under the guidance of Coach Bill “Red” Schmitt.

1946-47    6 – 5                               Coach Bill “Red” Schmitt

Individual Medalist      Harry Clark     165 Lbs. Weight Class       4TH Place

1947-48    7 – 4                               Coach Bill “Red” Schmitt

1948-49    8 – 3                               Coach Bill “Red” Schmitt 


The boys played basketball as well. The only information we currently have was supplied by Mark Jurenga and is regarding two games the team played against Collinsville. In 1942-43 the team lost a first round Regional game and in 1948-49 they lost the championship game of the Regional to Collinsville. If you have any further information it would be greatly appreciated.

1948-49            2nd Place in Regional Tourney

Great Alumni

This article was submitted by Frank Hedrick about one of Western Military’s great alumni:

The source of the below article is web site of .

The text is lifted from Tibbets’ book “The Enola Gay”

Paul Warfield TibbetsJr. was born in Quincy, Illinois on February 23rd, 1915. Later his parents moved to Florida where, at the age of twelve, Paul had his first airplane ride. As part of an advertising stunt, he threw Baby Ruth candy bars, with paper parachutes attached, from a biplane flying over a crowd gathered at the Hialeah horse track near Miami. From that day on, Paul knew he had to fly.

“His teen years were spent attending Western Military Academy. Later he attended the Universities of Florida and Cincinnati in pursuit of a career in medicine, but his determination to fly was greater than that of a career both parents wanted for him. So, on February 25th, 1937, Paul enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. A year later he got his pilot wings at Kelly Field, Texas and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.

“In February 1942, Paul became the Squadron Commander of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group, destined for England. He flew 25 missions in B-17s, including the first American Flying Fortress raid against occupied Europe. In November of that year, he was in Algeria leading the first bombardment missions in support of the North African invasion.

“In March 1943, he was returned to the states to test the combat capability of Boeing’s new Super Fortress, the B-29, an airplane plagued with problems. He taught himself to fly the airplane and subsequently flew it about 400 hours in tests. This eventually gave him more experience as to the capabilities and limitations of a B-29 than any other pilot at that time.

“In September 1944, Paul was briefed on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the development of the atom bomb. It was to be his responsibility to organize and train a unit to deliver these weapons in combat operations. He would also determine and supervise the modifications necessary to make the B-29 capable of delivering the weapons, and for this, the unit had to be self-sufficient. Secrecy was paramount. The unit would support Los Alamos with flight test airplanes to establish ballistics and detonator reliability to explode the bombs. Paul was told, “You are on your own. No one knows what to tell you. Use normal channels to the extent possible. If you are denied something you need, restate your need is for “SILVERPLATE” (a codename) and your request will be honored without question.”

“Paul requisitioned 15 new B-29s and specified they be stripped of turrets and armor plating except for the tail gunner position; that fuel-injected engines and new technology reversible-pitch propellers be installed; and the bomb bay re-configured to suspend, from a single point, ten thousand pounds. Such an airplane would fly higher, faster, and above the effective range of anti-aircraft fire.

“A B-29 bombardment squadron, the 393rd, in its final stage of training, and Wendover Army Air Base located on the Utah/Nevada border were selected by Paul for “starters.” The 393rd was fully equipped and the base had a fully manned “housekeeping” group. Wendover was isolated but close enough to Los Alamos to work together. The Salton Sea was an ideal distance for bombing practice.

“Then on December 17th, 1944, formal orders were issued activating the 509th Composite Group, consisting of seven subordinate units. In March 1945, the First Ordnance Squadron, a unit designed to carry out the technical phases of the group responsibilities, became part of the 509th. The personnel count now exceeded 1500 enlisted men and some 200 officers. Then, quietly, the group started moving overseas to Tinian Island in the Marianas chain.

“On the afternoon of August 5th, 1945, President Truman gave his approval to use the weapons against Japan. By the time the plane left, it’s familiar arrowhead tail motif had been changed on both sides to the letter “R” in a circle, the standard i.d. for the Sixth bomb group. The idea behind the change was to confuse the enemy if they made contact, which they did not. At 02:45 A.M. August 6th, the Enola Gay lifted off North Field with Paul Tibbets and his crew en route to Hiroshima. At exactly 09:15 plus 15 seconds the world’s first atomic bomb exploded. The course of history and the nature of warfare was changed.”

**Lt. Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare

Lloyd Moses advises of another World War II hero that graduated from Alton Western Military Academy. That man’s name is Lt. Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare. 

Colonel O’Hare was born in St. Louis and attended Alton Western Military Academy, graduating in 1932. He then attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He eventually gained fighter pilot status and is most well known for a mission he flew in World War II. On February 20, 1942, he shot down five Japanese war planes attempting to bomb the U.S. carrier “Lexington.” He was awarded the United States highest honor for this feat, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Colonel O’Hare was killed during a bombing mission in World War II on November 27, 1943. He was considered a great man not only as a fighter pilot, but as a war hero and leader. More information can be read about Colonel Edward “Butch” O’Hare at .  

Colonel O’Hare’s  fame affected those in Chicago so much that its famous airport, and one of the busiest airports in the world, is named after him, O’Hare International Airport!

More Distinguished Alumni

*William Paley – An executive with CBS News was an alumni. Lloyd D. Moses tells us; “It was Paley that got the final graduation exercises that marked the end of the school on the CBS Evening News with Roger Mudd on June 2, 1971.”

*Thomas Hart Benton – Distinguished artist. ( )

*Sander Van Ocher – A long time reporter for NBC.

If You Have ANY Information You Can Add…

Please forward any further information regarding the successes of Alton Western Military Academy High School to  You can also write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva Ave.

Chicago, Il.   60631

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