Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Aggie Muster explained in more detail by a reader

Yesterday's post about the "Aggie Muster" has received more hits by far than anything else we have ever posted.  We normally receive two to three hundred hits on the first day of a post.  This one had over 1,200.  We cannot explain the interest other than possibly Aggies all over are telling their friends.  In any case we are very pleased, and humbled at the interest.

If you haven't seen it yet, go to

We received the following email, which goes into much more detail about the origins of the muster, and even explains why so many Aggies were on Corregidor at the time of its surrender.  Our sincere appreciation goes to John Ross, Texas A&M Class of 1969!

Dear Steve and Marcia
I was pleased to wake up this morning and read that you had attended Muster on Corregidor.  I wish I had known in advance that there would be a Muster there - I would have altered my plans to visit the Philippines again for the 6th time and tried to be one of the Aggies present.
There are many legends surrounding Muster as we know it today, most all have at least some basis in fact. Knowing that you have lived for a long while on Corregidor, a place that is so important to every generation of Aggies,  I thought perhaps you would enjoy knowing how the Muster actually came to be what it is today
Prior to 1943, April 21 was celebrated as San Jacinto Day or sometimes A&M Day by Aggies around the world.  It was a day for Aggies to gather in friendship, fellowship, and remembrance and often took the form of a picnic or field day.  It truly bore almost no resemblance to what you experienced today.  General George F. Moore, Texas A&M Class of 1908 was Commander of Harbor Defenses in 1942 and is credited with starting what is today the Muster Tradition.  General Moore had been Commandant of Cadets at A&M until he was reassigned to the Philippines in 1941, and when he transferred he brought quite a few Aggies with him, most graduating seniors just commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the Army.  Here is the story of how Muster came to be, taken from the April 18, 2010 "Muster Aggie Gram."

As a Colonel, Moore was Commandant of Cadets at A&M from 1937-1940. Consequently, he was very conscious of A&M's support of San Jacinto Day celebrations.

In early 1941, then Brigadier General Moore was commanding the turn-of-the-century fortifications on Corregidor Island. His mission was to defend the tiny island at all costs and protect Manila Bay and Manila Harbor. Should America retreat from Bataan, Corregidor was to provide back-up support.


In mid-April the nation needed something to fuel America’s will to win. On Corregidor, the American defense was entering its most desperate period.

Considering a potential San Jacinto Day, Major General Moore asked Major Tom Dooley ’35 and aide-de-camp to Lieutenant General Wainwright, for a list of Aggies assigned to the "Rock." Dooley, head yell leader at A&M in 1934-35, provided 24 (or 25) names. Moore's intent was to discuss with those Aggies the upcoming San Jacinto Day.

There are many legends of how the Corregidor Aggies celebrated San Jacinto Day. Contrary to most accounts they never gathered together on April 21, 1942 and they never, as legend states, "drank a toast in water to the heroes of 1836." It was just not possible to leave their defensive positions during the heavy and intense bombardment they were enduring.

Instead, Moore used Dooley’s updated list of 25 Aggies to conduct a roll call - in Army terms a muster - of the Aggies present on the "Rock" during the Japanese siege. In reaching out to each other, those 25 Aggies risked their lives to honor their beliefs and values in Texas A&M. Knowing that Muster could soon be called for them, these Aggies embodied the essence of commitment, dedication, and friendship - the Aggie Spirit.

Dooley, working with the UP correspondent, then sent to the USA a short article with a list of the Aggie names who had “Mustered.” The April 1942 wire press story from Corregidor Island told Americans about Texas Aggies celebrating San Jacinto Day on the "Rock" while under Japanese siege.

That article became the impetus for other news stories of the "Lone Star on the Rock." The press wrote parallel stories to the spirit of the Alamo and San Jacinto. The gallant and courageous Corregidor Aggies captured America's imagination. During the darkest days of 1942, the Corregidor Aggies provided a much-needed boost to America's determination to win.

On May 6, 1942, LTG Wainwright surrendered the American forces at Corregidor to the Japanese. Of the almost 12,000 defenders, approximately one third did not survive the brutal and inhumane Japanese POW camps.   Twelve survivors were Aggies. Their fate, unknown in 1942, was not to be forgotten. After the war, the full story of Corregidor came out.  


The Dooley wire press story served as a catalyst to transform the A&M San Jacinto Day celebrations into what we know today as the Aggie Muster. The Association of Former Students Executive Secretary E. E. McQuillen Class of '20, to honor and remember those gallant heroes of Corregidor on an isolated outpost during World War II, gave it lasting form and substance.

McQuillen began by using the spirit of the Aggies on Corregidor to change the 1943 San Jacinto Day celebration into an Aggie Muster. Using the term “Muster” and the events of Corregidor as his theme, he sent the first ever Muster packets to A&M clubs, Aggie Moms clubs and military bases around the world in February 1943. Those packets contained a detailed program, greetings from the A&M President, and a Muster Poem about Corregidor "The Heroes' Roll Call."

The Aggie response to McQuillen's call to Muster was overwhelming. World-wide 10,000 Aggies attended 500 Musters. McQuillen captured Aggie hearts around the world. By focusing Muster on the spirit of the Corregidor Aggies, McQuillen had given San Jacinto Day Aggie meaning forever.

In 1944, McQuillen added a list of recently deceased Aggies to the packet. The introduction to the “Roll Call” noted, "This little ceremony is our tribute to the memory of friends who have passed away. Insert the names and classes of the men whose names you want to call…, these of course are symbolic of all those who have died.... [and] as each name is called a comrade will answer 'Here!'"


As the war ended, two events gave the Muster Ceremony, as we know it today, permanence as a traditional solemn ceremony of remembrance.

The first event occurred in April 1945, eight weeks after the “Rock” was recaptured. Marine LTC Ormond Simpson ‘36, Maj. R. N. “Dick” Conolly ‘37, and Lt. Tommy Martin ‘40 “Mustered on the Rock.”  Their letters to McQuillen detailed the impromptu Muster. It also signified the Aggies had returned.

One year later, on April 21, 1946, there was a much larger Muster on the Rock.  (This photo is shown in the previous blog.)

The second event occurred on Easter Morning 1946. Fifteen thousand Aggies gathered in the North end of Kyle Field to listen to General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, the keynote speaker at the 1946 Kyle Field Victory Homecoming Muster.

Aggies watched in silence as Lt. Col Tom Dooley presented the “Muster Tradition.” To represent the more than 900 Aggies who gave their lives on all fronts in WWII, Roll Call for the Victory Muster consisted of just four names. Those names were the deceased WWII Aggie Medal of Honor winners.

"No more convincing testimony could be given to the manner in which the men of Texas A&M lived up to the ideals and principles inculcated in their days on the campus than the simple statement that the Congressional Medal of Honor has been awarded to six former students, that 46 took part in the heroic defense of Bataan and Corregidor, and that nearly 700 are on the list of our battle dead." -- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1946.


Century-old roots provide the foundation for many of the traditions incorporated within the Muster tradition Aggies know today - a time-honored reflection and celebration of those initiatives and gallant acts that have made Texas and America a place of independence, freedom, and peace.

Like San Jacinto Days, and A. and M. Days, Muster has evolved over the years. The tone and character of  Muster 1942 was certainly different then the relaxed "bull sessions" of the years leading up to it. The Spirit, in which it was established, however, remains the same.

I hope you don't find me presumptuous in sending you the true story of the beginning of Muster. It's something I like to share with those who appreciate its meaning.  I was born in College Station while my father was finishing his degrees at A&M post-war.  I attended my first Muster when I was just a year old with my father who was Class of 1946, graduating in 1949 after serving in the USAAF in Europe during WW2. 

Here's a picture of my father in his Mustang.
I have not missed a Muster since my first, having attended Musters in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Vermont, Utah, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, and Washington DC, as well as South Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam.  One day perhaps I will be fortunate enough to attend one at the place where it all originated.  Tonight I will attend Muster at Fort Benning, Georgia.  It will be my 68th.

I also wanted to thank you for your well documented Valor Tour blog - I have read it all eagerly and enjoyed the pictures you included.  I have been to most of the places you visited, some more than once, but I always enjoy talking with others who have been there also. I regret that I did not have the opportunity to meet you both during my visit to Corregidor in June, 2011, but I've enjoyed all your blogs and photographs from Corregidor and around the Philippines since I first started receiving them in 2011. 


John Ross,
Albany, Georgia
Texas A&M Class of 1969

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