Texas A&M Announces Discovery Of 15 Additional Aggies Killed In WWI
Texas A&M University has announced the discovery of 15 additional Aggie veterans who died in the First World War. The additional names have been added to a WWI commemorative site on Simpson Drill Field in the center of campus, joining the 55 Texas Aggie Gold Stars who are all remembered with individual oak trees and plaques.
Recent research efforts by the Brazos County World War I Centennial Committee identified the additional Aggie veterans who died during the war, prompting a project to update the Simpson Drill Field memorial, a commemorative site since 1920. Now the memorial site accounts for all Aggies who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.
The new additions to the site are:
- Charles L. Beaty
- Robert R. Brown
- John W. Butts
- Herbert R. Florence
- John W. Fuchs
- Edmund J. Griffin
- John B. Laden
- Stephen A. Norwood
- Joseph Z. Sawyer
- Joseph L. Smith
- Ira W. South
- George W. Splawn, Jr.
- Alvin M. Stovall
- James L. Vance
- Charles M. Whitfield
View a full list of those honored at Simpson Drill Field on the Division of Student Affairs site.
“These additional trees and markers are a testament to our fellow Aggies who gave the last full measure of devotion to our country during World War I,” said Brig. Gen. Joe E. Ramirez, Jr., USA (Ret.), Vice President for Student Affairs. “We are grateful for their service and honor their service today with these memorial trees and plaques. We also appreciate those who gave us this opportunity to complete a project that began more than 100 years ago.”
Leading the discovery is John Blair ‘83, archivist for the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and his colleague Pam Marshall ‘80, honorary chapter regent for the Come and Take It Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in Bryan-College Station. They met when the Brazos County World War I Centennial Committee formed in 2017 as an all-volunteer group to coordinate the awareness, education and commemoration of the First World War.
Blair and Marshall approached university officials last year with their research findings and petitioned for an update to the memorial. In collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Office of the University Architect, and the Don and Ellie Knauss Veteran Resource & Support Center, the project was initiated to ensure that all 70 Aggie veterans have a memorial on Simpson Drill Field.
The SSC grounds landscape team planted nine additional trees around the drill field to create a tree-lined walk along a portion of Lamar Street. Plaques were added near existing trees that were not originally planted as part of the memorial. To complete the project, several of the existing plaques were updated to ensure accuracy of information about each Aggie who is memorialized.
University Architect Lilia Gonzales ‘94 worked with the group to ensure the initiative would not impede the existing memorial trees, align with intended use of the field, and comply with the Campus Master Plan.
“This tribute is an important reminder of the sacrifices made by those who have served our country,” Gonzales said. “We were very happy to make changes to Simpson Drill Field to ensure these men are remembered with a memorial.”
Col. Jerry Smith ’82, USMC (Ret.), director of the Don & Ellie Knauss Veteran Resource & Support Center, said the Aggie heritage of supporting student veterans dates back to World War I. “This project provides a fantastic opportunity to enhance the awareness and visibility of how we honor the sacrifices made by 70 of our former students,” he said.
Blair and Marshall said they are passionate about their discovery, as Blair served in the U.S. Marines and Marshall’s three sons served in combat. They have worked to compile their stories and many others from veterans of Brazos County into “The Record of the Brazos County World War I Centennial Committee 2017-2019.” Brazos County is the only county in the state to compile exhaustive research of local involvement in World War I into one published source.
“As a former Marine, as a father, and as an Aggie, if my son had to die for our country, I would want it to be accurate. I would want everyone to remember who he was and where he died,” Blair said.
Both Blair and Marshall said they feel a connection to these veterans who have earned their place on Simpson Drill Field at an institution steeped in military history.
Ramirez concurs, saying, “Texas A&M University was established in 1876 as a military institution. Since then, we have continued to honor this proud military tradition of Texas Aggies serving our nation’s military in both peace and war. While membership in our Corps of Cadets is now voluntary, we still form the largest uniformed student body outside the U.S. military academies, and we still commission more officers into the military each year than any other school outside the military academies.”
Simpson Drill Field was the site for the Corps of Cadets to practice drill formations, artillery and infantry exercises and pilot training in the 1920s. It was named in 1985 for Lt. Gen. Ormond R. Simpson ’36 who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The Corps of Cadets continues to form up on the field for Fish Review, Veterans Review and Final Review, and its brass/cadet oath has been hosted on the field. Many Texas A&M students also use the field as a place of recreation and respite.