Student-designed memorial dedicated on WWII battle site

Learn more about the Aggie Muster tradition.

A monument designed by Texas A&M architecture students to commemorate fellow Aggies who defended Corregidor Island and Bataan Province in the Philippines, two pivotal World War II battlefields that loom prominently in Aggie lore, was unveiled by a small delegation from Texas A&M who gathered with a few local islanders April 21, 2015 for yet another Aggie Muster on Corregidor Island.

Bob Epstein ’44, who participated in the now famous 1946 Corregidor Muster, unveiled the monument, which was designed by Carmen Torres, a Master of Architecture student. Her design reworked of an earlier design by Master of Architecture student Luis Martinez ’12, whose original drawings had to be simplified to facilitate the monument’s construction by local craftsmen with locally available materials.

“The scale, design and craftsmanship of the monument embodies its intimacy and significance,” said Lou Tassinary, executive associate dean of the Texas A&M College of Architecture and member of the Aggie delegation.

Affixed to the largest of the monument’s four maroon ceramic-tiled panels is a large bronze Aggie Muster symbol with a crossed rifle and sword over a lit torch and partially obscured “A&M” letters. Below, a bronze plaque describes the famous 1942 Aggie Muster at Corregidor, held by soldiers under siege, and the postwar 1946 Aggie Muster, held to commemorate the widely heralded wartime event.

The monument descends to the left in three tall “steps,” each with plaques mounted on top. The center plaque names the 88 WWII Aggies who defended Corregidor and Bataan, a nearby Philippine peninsula. The right plaque bears the names of the 1942 Muster participants, and the left plaque carries the names of those who returned to the island in 1946 for the postwar Aggie Muster.

Flying above the monument are the flags of the United States, The Philippines and Texas A&M University.

Historian John A. Adams ’73, a member of the Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor and author of several books about Texas A&M, was a featured speaker at the monument dedication. He provided a colorful look at the historical significance of past Corregidor Musters.

Back in 1942, when the first Aggie Muster was held on Corregidor, U.S. troops were under heavy bombardment from Japanese forces. They had either retreated to island tunnels or remained fixed at artillery positions. On April 21, Brig. Gen. George F. Moore ’08 asked fellow soldier and former student Maj. Tom Dooley ’35 for a list of Aggies fighting on the island.

“So, we had a roll call, and a muster is a roll call,” Dooley was quoted as saying in U.S. press accounts that followed.

Although the Aggies on Corregidor did not physically gather for Muster, stories were widely published celebrating their heroic assembly in an island tunnel where there was lots of yelling and singing of songs about Texas independence.

According to David Chapman ’67, retired Texas A&M archivist, the stories gave hope to a war-weary nation and helped Aggie Muster grow into the celebration it is today, with more than 300 events taking place annually around the globe.

After U.S. forces on Corregidor surrendered May 6, only 12 of the 25 Aggies that participated in the 1942 Muster survived the battle and the notorious prisoner of war camps that followed.

Epstein, also a featured speaker, provided those gathered for the monument dedication and Muster with a firsthand account of the 1946 gathering at the island.

It was the second Corregidor Muster in 1946 that produced the iconic photo of Aggies in front of a makeshift Aggie flag at the mouth of an island tunnel. The flag and the photo are seasonally displayed in the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center.

The recent effort to memorialize World War II Aggie participation in the Philippines began in 2011 when Elton Abbott, assistant dean for International Programs and Initiatives for the College of Architecture, was asked by The Association of Former Students to enlist the college’s resources in designing a Corregidor monument.

First, graduate architecture student Luis Martinez created a design. Then, in the fall 2014 semester, Carmen Torres, another Master of Architecture student, created the revised design. Using Martinez’ concept as a baseline, she simplified the design and added ceramic tile, a material readily available to local monument builders.

Torres collaborated with Marty Holmes ’87, vice president of The Association of Former Students, Chris Paulk, manager of the college’s Automated Fabrication & Design Lab, and Luke Fangue, and environmental design student, to select a tile color, ensure that the monument’s plaques and Texas A&M seal were safely transported to the site.

posted June 15, 2015