September 18, 2017

Texas A&M University has a strong military tradition, as members of the Corps of Cadets and other former students have been involved in every American armed conflict since 1876. Besides the military academies, no other university commissions as many cadets into military service as Texas A&M. The Cooper K. Ragan Military History Collection at Cushing Memorial Library and Archives seeks to complement the military history of Texas A&M.

This poster, produced by General Motors Corporation in 1942, was designed to persuade Americans that factories were an important aspect of the war effort and create a sense of unity. 

The collection is named after Cooper Ragan, who donated the bulk of the original collection to the library in 1988. Comprised of nearly 30,000 volumes of material related to the history and technologies of battle, the Ragan Military Collection spans American military history from the Mexican-American War through the Iraq War, but concentrates most heavily on the 20th century. It is strong in both naval and aviation history, while unit histories, regalia, and literary and personal narratives are all amply represented as well.

Other items in the collection include books, diaries, logs, letters, photographs, artifacts, sheet music and war effort propaganda posters. Many of these items were donated by former students. There is even a collection of firsthand accounts, self-published by the residents of Arbor Oaks, an independent living community in Bryan, Texas, who documented their World War II wartime experiences.

During World War I and World War II, propaganda posters were often printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office to spread patriotism and information about the war efforts. Poster themes range from recruiting to encouraging civilians to ration their food and buy bonds. In fact, the common idiom “loose lips sink ships” derives from a propaganda poster printed during World War II that discourages talking publicly about sensitive or confidential information that might give an advantage to the enemy.

The many books in this collection discuss topics such as military formations, how to operate zeppelins and tactics for officers for training their troops. There are also maps in the collection that portray various fronts of different wars, including Germany and the Pacific. Some of the early training manuals are bilingual to help officers who spoke different languages.

Some of the physical objects used by soldiers include an American World War I band uniform, a German canteen, a sterilized camp battle dressing kit, a Spanish-American War walking cane, a mirror for shaving and even cannonballs from the Texas Revolution. Perhaps one of the collection’s most harrowing items is a wooden box full of lantern slides, or transparent photographic plates, that depict the devastating aftermath of the bomb-drop zones in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

The "Texas Aggies Go to War" exhibit opened in August 2017 at the J. Wayne Stark Museum located in the MSC after debuting in Bastogne, Belgium, in 2014. 

Visiting military historians and scholars, as well as history classes, visit Cushing Library to view this collection, as it offers a glimpse into life during these troubled times. A chronological study of these materials takes researchers on a journey through military and technological advancements, as armies shifted from using weapons such as pikes and swords to flame-throwers in the 1940s.

Cushing Memorial Library & Archives loaned items from the Ragan Military History Collection to the exhibit "Texas Aggies Go To War,” which opened locally in August at the J. Wayne Stark Museum located on campus in the Memorial Student Center. The exhibit originally debuted in Bastogne, Belgium, in December 2014 as part of the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge. The exhibit, which continues through December, tells the story of five Texas A&M former students who played pivotal roles in the battle which led to the Allied victory in Europe. These five men—James Hollingsworth ’40, Turney Leonard ’42, Willie Peña ’42, Joe Routt ’37 and Earl Rudder ’32— are representative not only of all Aggies, but all Americans who served in World War II.

The Ragan Military Collection houses only a few items from recent American wars, such as the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is partly because war-era objects are often donated to libraries and museums only after their owners have passed away. Cushing Library will gladly accept materials related to American wars, especially those from more recent wars. Please reach out to Anton duPlessis '03 at or Robin Hutchison '91 at, who serve as curators of this collection.

You may donate items relating to the Ragan Military Collection or funds to support this collection by contacting Anton duPlessis '03 at or Robin Hutchison '91 at or (979) 845-1951.

  • Military Formations

    This military manual was printed in Germany and is bilingual in German and French. It explains how soldiers should line up in row formations as well as how to position their weapons when standing ready and then when firing.

  • British Military Guide

    The Military Guide for Young Officers, published in 1772, provides British officers with tactics on how to train their troops. It was also used during the Revolutionary War by American leaders such as George Washington and Sam Adams. The inside cover page even displays a portrait of King George III.

  • Alamo Facade

    This period illustration, drawn by Edward Everett, shows the ruined facade of the Alamo. Originally from London, Everett was an artist and draftsman who moved with his family to the U.S. in 1840. He was wounded in the Mexican-American War and proceeded to make several ink sketches of the San Antonio area while his injury healed.

  • Illustration of the Alamo

    This postcard displays another ink drawing by Edward Everett, showing the interior view of the church of the Alamo.

  • Yankee Doodle Music

    The Ragan Military History Collection includes a few books of sheet music. These wartime songs followed the style of ragtime music and were considered the popular music of the time.

  • When the Sun Goes Down in France

    These wartime songs included themes such as being separated from loved ones during the war, war as an adventure, patriotism, and humorous tales of military life. Americans portrayed and held a more romanticized view of the war, as seen from the sheet music.

  • Pencil Sketch of Soldiers

    Tom Lea was a correspondent for LIFE magazine during World War II and accompanied the Marine landing on Peleliu in September 1944. He used his sketches, photographs and notes of the first 32 hours of the landing and assault to produce one of the most vivid accounts of the battle for the western Pacific island.

  • Map of German Front

    This Newsmap of Germany gives updates on the battle front. It was prepared and distributed by the Army Information Branch. It is dated as the 290th week of the war and the 172nd week of U.S. participation, or Monday, April 2, 1945.

  • Map of the Pacific

    This Newsmap of the Pacific gives updates on raids in Japan, Marines fighting in Okinawa, and the Australian and Dutch troops making gains on the oil center of Tarakan during World War II.

  • Battle Dressing Kit

    This unopened box contains a small U.S. Army sterilized battle dressing, which soldiers would have carried in their medic packs and used to bandage their own wounds.

  • Wooden Walking Stick

    Soldiers would often whittle to pass the time. This wooden walking stick is believed to have belonged to an officer in the Spanish-American war.

  • Japanese POW

    This letter was written by a captured American, Colonel Thomas Dooley ’35, while in a Japanese POW camp, as seen by the Japanese symbols at the top of the paper.

  • Propaganda Poster about Books

    The American Library Association set up a distribution library in Koblenz, Germany, to provide books to U.S. soldiers who were stationed in post-war occupied Germany.

  • Propaganda Poster Against Espionage

    This poster was designed by Anton Otto Fischer in 1942 for the Office of War Information (OWI). The sentiment behind this war propaganda is that careless talk could be intercepted by the enemy and used against our troops.

  • Lantern Slides

    A collection of lantern slides, or mounted photographic transparencies meant to be projected with the use of a magic lantern, shows the devastating impact of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • Arbor Oaks

    The residents of Arbor Oaks, an independent living community in Bryan, Texas, self-published their accounts of their wartime experiences.

  • Michael Kelly

    The photographs were donated to the Ragan Military History Collection by Michael A. Kelley '89 from his time serving in Iraq during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.