Text by Lynn McDaniel
Museums house a wide variety of items, from fine art to biological specimens, or historical artifacts to objects with cultural importance. The Sam Houston Sanders Corps Center is home to a museum that houses thousands of Aggie artifacts and a library with over 3,000 military research volumes. For day seven in the 12 Days Countdown, we recognize the seven former A&M students who are Medal of Honor Recipients. The Medal of Honor is the highest award that a member of the United States Armed Forces can receive and is awarded for valor against an enemy force.
The seven Texas A&M former students who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor are:
1. Sergeant George D. Keathley ‘37–Keathley joined the Army in May of 1942 and was assigned to the 338th Infantry Regiment, 85th Infantry Division at Fort Shelby, Mississippi. His unit went into action in Italy in April 1944. On September 14, 1944 his company attacked to capture Monte Altuzzo and break through the Gothic Line. He was killed in this action while leading two platoons to defeat a determined enemy. His last words were, “Please write my wife a letter and tell her I love her and I did everything I could for her and my country. So long. Give ‘em hell for me, I’m done for.”
2. Major Horace S. Carswell, Jr. ‘38–Carswell piloted a B-24 bomber in a one-plane strike against a Japanese convoy in the South China Sea on the night of 26 October 1944. Taking the enemy force of 12 ships escorted by at least 2 destroyers by surprise, he made 1 bombing run at 600 feet, scoring a near miss on 1 warship and escaping without drawing fire. He circled, and fully realizing that the convoy was thoroughly alerted and would meet his next attack with a barrage of antiaircraft fire, began a second low-level run which culminated in 2 direct hits on a large tanker. A hail of steel from Japanese guns, riddled the bomber, knocking out 2 engines, damaging a third, crippling the hydraulic system, puncturing 1 gasoline tank, ripping uncounted holes in the aircraft, and wounding the copilot; but by magnificent display of flying skill, Maj. Carswell controlled the plane’s plunge toward the sea and carefully forced it into a halting climb in the direction of the China shore. On reaching land, where it would have been possible to abandon the staggering bomber, one of the crew discovered that his parachute had been ripped by flak and rendered useless; the pilot, hoping to cross mountainous terrain and reach a base, continued onward until the third engine failed. He ordered the crew to bail out while he struggled to maintain altitude, and, refusing to save himself, chose to remain with his comrade and attempt a crash landing. He died when the airplane struck a mountainside and burned. With consummate gallantry and intrepidity, Maj. Carswell gave his life in a supreme effort to save all members of his crew. His sacrifice, far beyond that required of him, was in keeping with the traditional bravery of America’s war heroes.
3. Lieutenant Eli L. Whiteley ‘41–On Christmas night 1944, Whiteley’s company attacked Sigolsheim, a small village west of Colmar, France. The attack was beaten back by the Germans, but the Americans attacked again the next day. By this time Whiteley’s platoon was reduced to eight men. He led the attack in house-to-house fighting and is credited with killing nine of the enemy and capturing twenty-three others. He suffered wounds to the head, shoulder, arm and leg. He was returned to the States in March 1945 and was hospitalized at Dibble Army Hospital in Menlo Park, CA. He was discharged as a captain in May 1946 and returned to Texas A&M where he was a lecturer in freshman agronomy classes. Following a short stay at A&M he resumed his graduate studies at N.C. State University, receiving his master’s degree in September 1949. Returning to A&M he began a career in teaching and research. He earned his Ph.D. in January 1959. He retired in 1979 as a distinguished professor.
4. Lieutenant Turney W. Leonard ’42–Lt. Turney W. Leonard, Class of 1942, was commanding a platoon of tank destroyers at Kommerscheidt, Germany, during a fierce three-day battle. Leonard repeatedly put his life at risk trying to direct the fire of his tank destroyer, going on lone reconnaissance missions, taking out an enemy machine gun emplacement, and leading broken units whose officers had been killed. Leonard received a wound early in the battle, but stayed in the fight until a high-explosive shell hit him. Leonard was last seen at a medical aid station, but the enemy later captured it. Leonard was awarded for leadership and brave actions that held off enemy forces while destroying six enemy tanks.
5. Sergeant William G. Harrell ‘43–Harrell landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. On the night of March 2, Sgt. Harrell and PFC Andrew Carter were assigned to a narrow foxhole on a ridge, some twenty yards forward of the company command post. About five o’clock the next morning, March 3, Carter saw a number of shadowy figures coming toward their position. They shot several of the advancing enemy until Carter’s rifle jammed. While Carter returned to the command post to obtain another weapon, the assault on Harrell continued. An enemy grenade severed Harrell’s left hand and fractured his thigh. Due to the severity of his wounds and thinking he was dying, Sgt. Harrell ordered his companion to retire to safety. Carter left only to retrieve another rifle; during his absence Harrell used an enemy grenade to kill his attackers, but lost his right hand in the explosion. By dawn, the enemy had withdrawn leaving twelve dead around the foxhole. In a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Harrell on October 5, 1945. He was discharged in February 1946, and returned home to Mercedes. In 1949, he moved to San Antonio where he was employed by the Veterans Administration, eventually becoming Chief of the Prosthetics Division. He died on August 9, 1969 and is buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Harrell was the seventh Texas Aggie to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
6. Lieutenant Lloyd H. Hughes ’43–Second Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes was awarded the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry in action and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during the air raid of August 1, 1943, on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. He was the pilot of a heavy bombardment aircraft flying in the last element of a formation. As he approached the target area, through intense antiaircraft fire at a dangerously low altitude, his aircraft received several direct hits. The plane was seriously damaged, with fuel streaming from both the bomb bay and the left wing. Although he had the option to make a forced landing, Hughes proceeded to the target. With the full knowledge of the possible consequences of flying into the blazing target area with an already leaking and burning aircraft, he proceed to drop his bomb load with precision. Only then did he attempt to crash land. By then the fire had progressed so that his aircraft crashed and burned. His heroic decision to continue the mission at the risk of his life contributed to the defeat of the enemy. The posthumous medal was presented to his wife, Mrs. Hazel Dean Hughes, at Kelly Field, San Antonio, on April 18, 1944. Hughes was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in April 1950. A dormitory at Texas A&M University and a residence hall at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona were named in his honor.
7. Lieutenant Thomas W. Fowler ’43–After a short assignment in the states, Lt. Fowler was shipped to North Africa in October 1943 and then to Italy in February 1944 as a replacement officer assigned to the 191st Tank Battalion that was fighting on the Anzio beachhead. After joining the 191st, his first duty was as a liaison officer to a regiment of the 45th Infantry Division engaged in the effort to break out of the beachhead. Advancing on foot, he came upon two completely disorganized infantry platoons held up in their advance by an enemy minefield. Fowler immediately took command and reorganized the units, making a personal reconnaissance through the minefield, clearing a path as he went, by lifting the mines out of the ground with his hands. After he went through the 75-yard belt of deadly explosives, he returned to the infantry and led them through the minefield, one squad at a time. Then he led supporting tanks through the minefield. As he moved forward, he came upon several dug-in enemy soldiers and, having surprised them, dragged them out of their foxhole and took them prisoner. Twice, when he met resistance, he threw hand grenades into enemy dugouts killing the occupants. Under intense enemy fire, he brought the tanks forward, and when one of the tanks was hit and set afire, he attempted to save the wounded crew. Only when the enemy had almost overrun his position, did he withdraw a short distance where he rendered first aid to nine wounded infantrymen. Ten days later while commanding a tank platoon he was killed in action. Second Lieutenant Thomas W. Fowler ’43 was the second Texas Aggie awarded the Medal of Honor.
Most of the actual medals, as well as other memorabilia, are on display in the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center. For more information about the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center and the memorials and artifacts there, please contact Lisa Kalmus, Curator. Lisa has been a museum professional for 19 years. She has experience and knowledge in museum education, collections management, and exhibit design, development, and implementation. In addition, she holds two degrees in history; undergraduate from Trinity in San Antonio, and a Master’s degree from Texas A&M.
Object label information by Lisa Kalmus, Curator, Sanders Corps of Cadets Center.
Leatherwood, Art. “HUGHES, LLOYD HERBERT,” Handbook of Texas Online Website: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu72. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Date accessed: December 7, 2012.
The Battalion Online. Website: http://www.thebatt.com/2.6043/lt-turney-w-leonard-1.2832285. Date published: March 29, 2012. Date accessed: December 7, 2012.