- Texas Aggie Medals of Honor
During World War II, seven Texas Aggies earned the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest honor for gallant service in combat. Their actions, on and beyond the battlefield, stretched the globe from the air war over China, to the invasion of Iwo Jima, to bombing raids over the German-held Romanian Ploesti oilfields, to the battlefields of the Italian peninsula and northern Europe. Save for two of the seven, tragically, their heroism was commemorated posthumously; this book chronicles the lives and extraordinary actions of these seven Texas Aggies largely forgotten over time.
In Texas Aggie Medals of Honor, James R. Woodall, a 1950 graduate of Texas A&M University, a decorated U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, and former commandant of cadets at Texas A&M University, has written a fast-moving narrative of short, thoughtful portraits of the lives of the seven World War II Texas Aggie Medal of Honor recipients. Woodall’s first chapter chronicles his relentless approach toward the daunting task of tracking down the seven men’s histories and the physical location of their medals, largely forgotten over the past six and half decades by many, including members of the Aggie Nation. In an effort to rectify this loss of the collective memory, Woodall’s book documents his efforts toward an ultimate goal of displaying all seven Medals of Honor, along with accompanying narratives of the Texas Aggies’ gallant service in combat, at the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center at Texas A&M University.
To provide the reader with an understanding of the significance of the Medal of Honor, Woodall devotes chapter 2 to a brief, but sufficient understanding of the origin of the award, its history and the importance of its place in American military [End Page 210] history. In subsequent chapters, Woodall adds historic context to his research by not only narrating the wartime story of each Texas Aggie, but also by telling their personal stories as well, from childhood to enlistment and, for those few who survived, life in post-war America. Woodall’s relentless letter writing campaign to family and friends of the seven men, extensive use of primary documentation and the timely assistance from Texas Aggies across the country mix together to produce a fitting tribute to the honored war dead. Woodall’s modest sampling of insightful photos and maps provides a visual connection for the reader to the inspiring and in most cases tragic sacrifice by these men to craft informative yet succinct descriptions of each battle experience. Finally, Woodall aptly places the official military citation, verbatim, for each of the seven’s Medal of Honor accomplishments within the book’s appendix; an added bonus sure to be appreciated by any diehard military or Texas Aggie history connoisseur.
Texas Aggie Medals of Honor could easily have fallen into the niche genre of Texas Aggie military history books if not for Woodall’s skillful approach to the topic. His prodigious efforts clearly enhance the book’s value and secure its place alongside other successful contributions to the growing social military history scholarship of the past twenty to thirty years. His work has meaning for readers both inside and outside the Texas Aggie Nation, and they will certainly grasp Woodall’s admiration for these seven men and appreciate his tenacious research into their histories.