The First Team has Trigger and the 3rd Infantry Division has Rocky the Bulldog. But the mechanized power and fighting spirit of III Corps is represented by the Phantom Warrior.
A 4,600-pound 1.5X life-size bronze statue of the corps’ mascot was installed June 2 on a concrete apron near the entrance to III Corps headquarters. A crane was used to maneuver the statue, which was created by Deep in the Heart Foundry in Bastrop.
“It came out far better than we had imagined. The amount of detail, the size, the scale, everything about it exceeded our expectations,” said Col. Daniel Garcia, deputy chief of staff for III Corps and Fort Hood.
Although its outer skin is only a quarter of an inch thick, the statue is reinforced by a stainless steel inner cage, which allowed it to be hoisted into place with a single-point hitch and sling attached.
About two years ago when Garcia worked in the G-3 office, he was asked to get feedback on how to further develop a III Corps symbol from Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, who was the senior Corps commander at that time.
“They said he was looking for something that represented the corps and would be a strategic message about what being a Phantom Warrior is all about,” Garcia said.
Through research, he added, it was discovered that the idea to base a III Corps symbol upon one of Frazetta’s fantasy art works began with Gen. Crosbie Saint, who assumed command of III Corps and Fort Hood in 1985. Saint wanted to convey his vision of the heavy armored force.
In April 1986, an agreement between Frazetta and Saint allowed III Corps to use “The Death Dealer,” an image originally created as an album cover for the 70s rock band Molly Hatchett, as its symbol.
The Army’s adaptation of the figure was referred to as the “Phantom Warrior” and has served as the III Corps symbol for 24 years.
To create the statue, the artist recommended the foundry in Bastrop where, Garcia said, the Army team saw recently-poured life-sized bronze castings of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1893.
“So we thought, ‘Man, if they can do that they can certainly knock out a statue for this. Once we saw the quality of the work, its size and the amount of detail they could do, the artist recommended we go with them and we agreed,” Garcia said.
Eighteen months later, III Corps had taken possession of three Phantom Warrior statues.
Last September, when a fiberglass version of the statue was unveiled in the West Atrium, Lynch told attendees: “This is a life-size statue that represents an empowering image. This is a reflection of what we do as American warriors.”
The statues depict a menacing armor-clad warrior with a horned helmet, whose facial features are obscured by shadow, atop a Shire horse, holding a bloody axe and shield. After the fiberglass Phantom Warrior statue was unveiled, the opening of the Phantom Warrior Room followed. The room is a monument to the past, present and future accomplishments of III Corps.
With the death of Frazetta on May 10, the statue became part of the legacy of both the corps and the creator of comic book images such as Tarzan and Conan and other works of science fiction and fantasy art.
The bronze statue is one of three Phantom Warrior statues created by the foundry. Of the two fiberglass, 1.25X life-size statues, one that can be disassembled and reassembled is deployed with the corps in Iraq; and the other statue was placed inside the West Atrium.
Before the bronze statue was lowered onto its concrete apron, members of the set-up crew, Garcia, foundry owner Clint Howard and III Corps buildings manager Mike Borchers, signed a copy of the Fort Hood Sentinel, wrapped it in plastic and inserted it into one of the Phantom Warrior’s hollow hind legs.
That his grandparents both participated in World War II added meaning to his role in the statue’s construction, Howard said.
Of working with Garcia and other III Corps leaders, he added, “It means a lot. I don’t know how to put it into words. My grandparents were both in World War II, so I’m supportive of the Armed Forces. It’s really fun to work on something side-by-side with these guys and it has such a long history behind it in the comic book world and as a Frank Frazetta piece. He was involved in it up to the end, so we’re sad he didn’t get to see this day.”
As it ages, the statue will slowly change colors. Howard said more green will be visible in 20 years, but the greenish cast will grow slowly so it will “just look like a nice, aged bronze.”
Of Frazetta’s death, Garcia added, “We were very disappointed to hear about his passing. He was such a huge piece of the original concept of the Phantom Warrior back in the 80s that we really were looking forward to him coming back and helping us dedicate the statue.
“And it just didn’t work out, unfortunately.
“But this has been a long time coming; it’s awesome,” he added.
Although no date has been set, Garcia said an official dedication ceremony for the bronze statue likely will be held when the corps returns from Iraq next spring.