Make Your Impact
Make Your Impact



As the oldest and largest student organization on campus, the Corps of Cadets is deeply interwoven into the traditions and history of Texas A&M University. There’s no better place to familiarize yourself with the group’s history and Texas A&M’s military ties than the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center, an on-campus museum that houses thousands of Aggie artifacts and a library with more than 3,000 military research volumes.

Through numerous displays and memorabilia, you can learn the details of the Corps’ history dating back to its 1876 founding. Here are five unique items housed within the center’s collection:

 

1. Metzger-Sanders Antique Firearm Collection

The Metzger-Sanders Antique Firearm Collection features a wide assortment of historical firearms. The collection is one of the largest in Texas with more than 600 rare firearms on display. Featured are weapons representing various time periods in history, including everything from hand and shoulder weapons and brass knuckle revolvers to firearm accessories. The oldest piece is a 14th century Chinese hand cannon.

The collection is more widely known for the completeness of its Colt section and houses one of the nation’s largest collections of Colt firearms.

 

2. J.V. “Pinky” Wilson’s Helmet

The name J.V. Wilson does not ring a bell for most Aggies, but “Pinky” Wilson certainly does. J.V. “Pinky” Wilson was the author of the Aggie War Hymn and one of many Aggies who fought in World War I. In a nod to Wilson’s deep ties to Texas A&M, the Sanders Corps Center houses a display of Wilson’s items from his time in service, including the steel helmet he wore during the war. It is believed to be the helmet Wilson was wearing when he scribbled the words for the Aggie War Hymn.

Wilson volunteered for the Marine Corps in 1917 during his junior year at Texas A&M and was sent to France soon after. It was there that he was reportedly inspired to write the song’s lyrics.

“Wilson’s original lyrics included a verse that referenced only one other school: The University of Texas,” said Lisa Kalmus ’93, museum curator at the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center. “He tried to alter the song years later to include a verse that could apply equally to all athletic opponents, but by that time, the original lyrics had stuck. That is why when singing the War Hymn, the first verse is sung twice.”

Nearly a century after Wilson wrote the spirited lyrics, a statue of him was placed on campus on the west side of the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center. He is one of only a few former students to be honored as such.

 

  • Wilson's Helmet

    In a nod to Wilson’s deep ties to Texas A&M, the Sanders Corps Center houses a display of Wilson’s items from his time in service, including the steel helmet he wore during the war. It is believed to be the helmet Wilson was wearing when he scribbled the words for the Aggie War Hymn.
  • J.V. "Pinky" Wilson

    J.V. “Pinky” Wilson was the author of the Aggie War Hymn and one of many Aggies who fought in World War I.

3. The First Female Corps Uniform

It was not until 1974 that the Corps of Cadets admitted women, becoming the second ROTC program in the country to do so. “Women were admitted to the Corps under the Minerva Plan,” Kalmus said. “It was named for the Greek goddess of wisdom and war.”

In the fall of 1974, the first females walked onto the Quad as members of Company W-1. At its start, there were 57 women in the outfit, but by November of that year, the numbers were in the twenties.

During their first semester in the Corps, female cadets had only black nametags to set them apart as cadets. They donned their uniforms—a khaki blouse and skirt, Army green jacket, black beret and black leather shoes—for the first time on Jan. 20, 1975. The original uniform is preserved at the Sanders Corps Center.

The Corps went on to admit women into the Aggie Band and other special units in 1985. In 2016, a female commander was selected for the first time in the organization’s 140-year history. Since then, there has been one other female commander, all thanks to the precedent the first female cadets created.

 

  • The First Female Uniform

    Ceil McKinney, Class of 1978, was one of the first female cadets. Her uniform is preserved at the Sanders Corps Center to display the historical outfit—a khaki blouse and skirt, Army green jacket, black beret and black leather shoes.
  • Company W-1

    In the fall of 1974, the first women were admitted into the Corps of Cadets as members of Company W-1.

4. Turney W. Leonard’s Ring

Lieutenant Turney W. Leonard ’42 was a member of the Corps of Cadets and commander of Company I Infantry during his senior year. Leonard reported for active duty in May 1942 and was proud to be among the many Aggies who served in World War II.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Leonard’s battalion was exposed to heavy enemy fire. Leonard was wounded and left at an aid station, later to be declared missing. In 1949, he was listed as killed in action. Almost a year later, Leonard’s family received his Medal of Honor for “his superb courage, inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit,” according to his medal citation. Leonard is one of Texas A&M’s eight Medal of Honor recipients.

Two years later, in 1946, a German named Alfred Hutmacher found a gold ring and pocketed it. Putting it in a desk drawer, he forgot about it again for the next 56 years. Then, in 2000, when his son-in-law, German Army Lt. Obit Volker Lossner, asked about the battle, it caused Hutmacher to remember the unique piece of history he had collected years before. Upon closer examination of the ring, Lossner noticed a name engraved on the inside, sparking a quest to return the ring to its rightful owner. In a matter of weeks, they traced the name and ring back to Texas A&M, and in November 2000, Leonard’s ring found its way back to Aggieland.

Leonard’s family presented his Medal of Honor, his ring and other decorations for permanent display at the Corps Center to tell the legacy of an American and Aggie hero.

 

  • Turney Leonard '42 Medal of Honor and Aggie ring

    The Sanders Corps Center houses Turney Leonard's Medal of Honor and Aggie ring along with other items significant items from his military career.
  • Turney Leonard '42

    Turney W. Leonard '42, a Dallas native, was killed in World War II while fighting in Germany. His ring found by a German who held on to it until 2000 when it was finally returned to Aggieland.

5. Items Belonging to “Danger 79er”

Prominently displayed at the entrance to the Quad is the life-sized bronze statue of Lt. Gen. James F. Hollingsworth ’40, depicted in a Vietnam War-era uniform. The statue, along with the array of medals and ribbons stemming from Hollingsworth’s combat service, as well as his sidearm and Aggie ring, are all displayed at the Sanders Corps Center as symbols of his service, selflessness and leadership.

Hollingsworth’s 36-year military career spanned Europe, North Africa, Asia and elsewhere. He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It was while serving in Vietnam that Hollingsworth became identified by the radio signal “Danger 79er,” a designation that remained for the duration of his career.

His legendary career has distinguished him as the most decorated Aggie and the 3rd most decorated U.S. serviceman in history. His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star and Purple Heart.

 

  • Danger 79er Items

    An array of medals and ribbons stemming from Hollingsworth’s combat service, as well as his sidearm (shown here), are all displayed at the Sanders Corps Center as symbols of his service, selflessness and leadership.
  • Aggie ring

    The collection also displays Hollingsworth's Aggie ring.
  • James F. Hollingsworth '40

    Lt. Gen. James F. Hollingsworth ’40 had a legendary military career which distinguished him as the most decorated Aggie and the 3rd most decorated U.S. serviceman in history. His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star and Purple Heart.

To learn how you can support students and programs in the Corps of Cadets, contact Tom Pool ’96, senior director of development, at tompool@txamfoundation.com or (979) 862-9154. You can also give to the Corps directly online by clicking here.

Contact:

Tom Pool '96

Senior Director of Development
Corps of Cadets
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