Military historian Dr. Thomas M. Hatfield shares his personal insights into one of World War II’s most decorated soldiers—U.S. Army Major General James Earl Rudder—on Monday, Feb. 13, as part of Tarleton State University’s yearlong centennial celebration as a founding member of The Texas A&M University System.
Hatfield will discuss Rudder at 7 p.m.in the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center. Admission is free and open to the public.
Rudder was a Tarleton alumnus who became president of Texas A&M and chancellor of the A&M System.
Hatfield served under Rudder as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and decades later wrote his acclaimed biography on the general—Rudder: From Leader to Legend.
The biography chronicles Rudder’s life, from his birthplace in Eden, Texas, to Tarleton, to A&M, to the beaches of Normandy, and home again to Texas.
“I can say with confidence that no place was more important to Rudder than Tarleton,” Hatfield said. “Tarleton is where he discovered who he was and what he wanted to be.”
Rudder started college at Tarleton in 1927 and graduated from Texas A&M. He returned to Tarleton in 1938 as a teacher and head football coach before entering military duty in 1941.
He rose to fame as commander of the historic assault up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc—part of the Normandy Invasion—and is remembered as Texas A&M’s innovative president who transformed a regional all-male military school into the renowned university of today. He oversaw the admission of women and African Americans and championed research. Rudder died in 1970 while chancellor of the A&M System.
Hatfield is director of the Military History Institute at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin and dean emeritus. His work includes growing the center’s American military history archives through the acquisition of memorabilia, photographs, papers and oral records as well as research and writing. He is a member of the Texas Historical Commission.
He has lectured on American military history, emphasizing the diplomatic and strategic background of the Second World War, for more than 30 years. He pioneered university-based international education by leading groups of adults and students to historic war sites.
During his undergraduate days, Hatfield followed the great campaigns of World War II across Western Europe and Northern Africa, through Sicily, Italy and France into Germany. In the Pacific, he walked the beaches of island fighting from Guadalcanal to Tarawa to Pelelieu, and swam with scuba gear through the sunken Japanese fleet of the Truk Lagoon.
Hatfield has shared his research on the History and Discovery channels, PBS, Fox News and CNN.
Later this year, Tarleton will dedicate a pedestrian mall and unveil a statue of Rudder—sculpted by Granbury artist and Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus Mike Tabor—on its Stephenville campus, and Vanderbilt Street on campus officially will become Rudder Way.