“From the trenches of France, to Aggieland”

The “Aggie War Hymn” was written by J.V. “Pinky” Wilson, one of many Aggies who fought in World War I.  In a nod to the museum’s ties to Texas A&M University, we are honored to display James Vernon “Pinky” Wilson’s items from his time in service in WWI and, from when he was a student at Texas A&M University.

Pinky Wilson’s WWI Dog Tags

The Aggie War is turning 100 and this is a little story of how it came to be. James V. “Pinky” Wilson was a student at Texas A&M when the US entered the war in April 1917.  Pinky wanted to see action right away, so he turned down a commission with the army and enlisted as a Marine.  Pinky figured being a Marine would get him to the frontline faster.  However, rather than frontline duty he was assigned as a Muleskinner to the Supply Company, 6th Marine Regiment.  A muleskinner drove, at times under heavy shellfire, rations and ammunition into the front lines and brought back the bodies of the dead.  This was not the action that Pinky had hoped to see.

Pinky Wilson’s 2nd Division WWI Ring

The US Marines suffered heavy casualties in the Battles of Belleau Woods (June 1918), Soissons (July 1918) and during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  As a result, Pinky finally got his wish.  He was assigned frontline duty around November 1, 1918. The weather was cold, and the fighting was fierce.  Pinky found respite from the struggle of a battlefield through reflection on life at his beloved Texas A&M.  Drawing from a variety of “Aggie Yells” common to the time, he wrote the lyrics of a song on the back of a letter from home.  With the signing of the Armistice on November 11, Pinky moved from the battlefields of France to guard duty in Germany.  Over the weeks, Pinky finished the lyrics and put them to music. “Good-by to Texas University” was finally finished.  Not wanting to wait until he returned home, Pinky and his fellow Marines sung it for the first time in German.

Pinky Wilson In France

Pinky returned to A&M when the war was over.  While back at A&M, he played the piano at the Queen’s Theater in Bryan.  One night during intermission, Pinky’s “Cast-Iron Quartet” preformed “Good-by to Texas University”.  The Yell leaders present encouraged Pinky to enter a jazzed-up version of his song in a contest to pick the official fight song of A&M.  It won!  The song, renamed the Aggie War Hymn, was first sung at Midnight Yell Practice in 1920. In 1921, at halftime of the football game against Baylor, the Aggie War Hymn was officially played by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band for the 1st time.   The musical composition and starting phrase of the “Aggie War Hymn” – “Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!” remains amongst the most iconic and recognizable openings to a collegiate song in all of America. From 1918 in war-torn France to the present, Pinky Wilson’s inspirational contribution to Aggieland lives on in the hearts and minds of Aggies everywhere. To honor all who served in WWI, Jane Metz was commissioned to create a painting reflecting those thoughts of home in the midst of war.  The original painting, Hullaballo,  is on display at the Museum of the American G.I. as part of the Pinky Wilson’s exhibit.

Pinky Wilson’s Original Aggie Ring

Aggie War Hymn
by James V. Wilson
Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!
Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!

Good-bye to texas university
So long to the orange and the white
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys that show the real old fight
“The eyes of Texas are upon you . . .”
That is the song they sing so well
So good-bye to texas university
We’re going to beat you all to
Rough Tough! Real Stuff! Texas A&M!

Pinky Wilson Holding Copy of Aggie War Hymn

Pinky Wilson Playing the Aggie War Hymn

College Yells from the 1910 Texas A&M Long Horn (Courtesy Texas A&M University Archives)

Hullabaloo by Jane Metz