Ask Dr. Samuel R. Gammon III ’44 about his life and he’ll spin you a decades-long tale of heroics, intrigue and romance that spans continents, presidents and popes. Now, at age 96, he’s reflecting on a life well-lived and paying it forward. He recently created an estate gift to support Texas A&M University’s Department of History in memory of his father.
Gammon’s Aggie experience started younger than most: He moved to campus in 1925 as a baby. His father, Dr. Samuel R. Gammon Jr., chaired the university’s Department of Government and History for the next 30 years, and the family lived in faculty campus housing until 1940.
Practically an Aggie since birth, it only made sense that Gammon eventually enrolled at the university. He was eager to join the Corps of Cadets and begin his military training and academic endeavors. “I did three semesters of classes per year and attended summer school,” he recalled. “I left college one semester shy of graduation for Officer Candidate School at Camp Hood (now Fort Hood). Three and a half months later, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army, on Dec. 30, 1943. I was just 19 years old. By that time, we were deep into World War II.”
Before deployment, Gammon had one element of preparation that made him unique: an emphasis on languages. At his father’s insistence, he had studied Latin and French in high school. At Texas A&M, he studied German.
His preparation paid off, as his first assignment was in Germany as a combat engineer. “I was the only officer in my combat unit who spoke German,” Gammon said. His language skills were essential, as his role was to communicate with local residents while his unit traveled through villages that had been captured by Allied forces.