This year marks the 70th anniversary of the memorable Aggie Muster Ceremony of April 21, 1946. This event is best remembered by the famous photo, pictured above, of 127 Aggies posed with an Aggie flag proudly hung up behind them in front of Malinta Tunnel on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. These proud military men had much to be thankful for and to remember as they gathered on that April 21 in 1946, just a few months after the end of World War II.
Four years earlier, in 1942, it was a far different scenario on Corregidor. The Japanese were attacking with a relentless fury, as it was key to controlling the Bay of Manila and securing this crucial area of the Pacific. The U.S. and Allied forces were pinned down and fighting with every reserve they had to withstand the barrage. According to the records, on April 21, 1942, General George F. Moore ‘08 asked Major Tom Dooley ’35 to get a list of the Aggies fighting on Corregidor. There were 24 of them. Major Dooley is quoted as saying to a news correspondent, “So we had a roll call, and a muster is a roll call.” By the time this quote traveled back to the U.S. it had grown into the legend that there was an actual Muster gathering of the Aggies on Corregidor. This news fueled desperate hope that all was not lost in the Pacific. The tradition of Aggie Muster gained international recognition from this event. Unfortunately, the fierce fighting would have prevented such a friendly gathering. In fact, it was truly the last stand for the U.S. and Allied troops. For the Texas Aggies involved it would be eerily comparable to the last stand at the Alamo against Santa Anna. Less than a month later, on May 8, 1942, the Japanese would overtake Corregidor and all troops would be taken as prisoners and dispersed to very harsh and inhumane prison camps throughout the region. Out of the 24 Aggies taken prisoner off Corregidor, only 12 returned home alive. General Douglas MacArthur had this to say about the brave Texas Aggies that he served and fought with in the Pacific:
“Texas A&M is writing its own military history in the blood of its graduates, not only in the Philippines Campaign but on the active fronts of the southwest Pacific. Texans daily emblazon the record with outstanding feats of courage on land, on the sea and in the air. No name stands out more brilliantly than the heroic defender of Corregidor, General George F. Moore. Wherever I see a Texas man in my command I have a feeling of confidence.”
It would be this pride and the remembering of fallen classmates that would compel the 127 Aggies at the war’s end to return to Corregidor on April 21, 1946 in order to answer “here” for their friends and to celebrate victory and freedom. There would be from this point on a renewed dedication and commitment to the sacred tradition of Muster.