Book Review: Texas Aggie Go To War


by Henry C. Dethloff with John A. Adams, Jr.

College Station, Tx: Texas A&M University Press,2006. Pp. 354. Illus. $35.00. ISBN:1-28544-470-7

During almost all of the 20th Century Texas A&M University has been a major influence on the military of the United States. Students who enrolled at Texas A&M and joined the Corps of Cadets had this drummed into their minds as part of the life in the Corps dorms.

Texas A&M claims to have produced more officers for the military in World War II than any other source. There have been Texas Aggies who have had remarkable military careers. Texas Aggies Go To War is a start at examining this University and the US Military. Sadly it turned into a book in need of a good editor.

The author begins with a solid look at why A&M looked to military education as part and parcel of its mission to educate leaders for the State of Texas. He looks into the American attitude in the later part of the 19th Century toward war and how A&M took a slightly different path. We get off to a good start and begin to understand the roots of A&M’s tie to the defense of the republic. Unfortunately that path is soon lost.

Anyone who has spent much time around A&M Campus knows that Former Students (there are no Ex-Aggies) love their school and are willing to spend whatever it takes to own almost anything that has an A&M logo on it. The authors seem to feel that rather than answering some interesting questions about the connection between A&M and the military they’d prefer to boost sales by mentioning something disconnected to the discussion, but likely to prompt someone to buy the book. Thus, in the middle of a discussion of the relationship between A&M and the Military we take a detour to read lists of students and what they did. For example, Chapter 9 discusses the invasion of North Africa in World War II. The author introduces us to CPT James Hollingsworth 1940 (as he was then), who later commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam and retired as a LTG, the most decorate Aggie General. There is an interesting discussion of how while commanding a tank company, CPT Hollingsworth successfully engaged Panzer units and defeated their entrapment tactics that had been playing merry hell with US forces. But this paragraph ends with “S. Sgt. Gus Calhoun Caldwell (’41) from Lockhart, TX was another Aggie tanker who fought in North Africa before he was transferred to Italy, where he was killed in action in June, 1944.” While it’s true, it doesn’t belong in a discussion of Hollingsworth’s innovative tactics in North Africa. This sort of irrelevant aside is larded throughout the work.

A work with such promise only disappoints, leaving many questions unanswered. Just what has been the true impact of A&M on the US military? Is it as great as Aggies want to believe, and if so why? Certainly it is not membership in the Corps of Cadets, because in the chapter on the First Gulf War we are introduced to LTC Jim Sachtleben, USMC (’69) who spent his undergraduate days as a “non-reg,” an Aggie term for students who are not members of the Corps.

And he doesn’t explain why there hasn’t been an Aggie promoted to full General in the Army, though the Air Force has, and why this really doesn’t seem to be a hot button issue with Texas Aggies. Reviewer: William "Sapper" Gross   

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