After World War II, there were more than 4,000 veterans at SMU

By Ada Negraru
Archival Assistant at DeGolyer Library

 Trailerville at SMU in the late 1940s
Trailerville, temporary trailers used by veterans after World War II, was located where SMU's Meadows Museum is today. (Photo courtesy of SMU's DeGolyer Library)
After World War II, SMU honored the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the G.I. Bill, by welcoming the enrollment of veterans in all degree courses, as well as advanced degree and certifications programs. The University also promised assistance with job placement at the completion of all instructional programs.

In accordance with the policy of the Association of Texas Colleges, veteran high school graduates were accepted without an exam, and admission decisions were made case-by-case for the applicants who had not completed high school before enrolling in the military.

Thousands of veterans enrolled at SMU as full-time and part-time students. During the spring term of 1947, the total veteran enrollment at SMU was 4,369 (both GIs and vocational rehabilitation program), of a total student population of 6,588. Of the veterans, 4,303 were male, 66 female; 2,902 were single, 1,467 married – of which, 452 had one or more children. 

 Children playing in Trailerville at SMU in the 1940s.
Trailerville included a nursery school with a capacity of 20. (Photo courtesy of SMU's DeGolyer Library)
The SMU Veterans of World War II campus organization encouraged the membership of all veterans, provided assistance with obtaining benefits and tried to create a good social environment for the veteran students. They elected members to the SMU Student Council, and some became active in campus life. Some were law students; others were undergraduates – and they were quick to question SMU policies designed for younger students.

One of the biggest problems the veteran students had was housing, especially in the case of those with families. The lack of adequate housing led to Trailerville, temporary trailers located south of campus where the Meadows Museum is today. 

Trailerville, which began in 1946 and continued until 1953, included a nursery school with a capacity of 20 that opened in 1947. The women who lived in Trailerville sometimes held teas there.
World War II veterans were SMU’s largest group of veterans to date.

The Digital Collections at the DeGolyer Library include three collections from the World War II era:

  • The Melvin C. Shaffer World War II Photographs and images depict the indigenous populations and local conditions of North Africa, Italy/Southern France, and Germany from the years 1943 to 1945. Included are 19 images of Mt. Vesuvius that depict the volcano before, during and after its eruption in 1944.
  • Frank J. Davis' frontline photographs and images portray life during World War II, including images from Washington, DC; Italy; France; and Saipan.
  • The Historic Government Publications from World War II contains 343 Informational pamphlets, government reports, instructions, regulations, declarations, speeches, and propaganda materials distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) during the Second World War.

Learn more about Veterans Day from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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