2016 Archives

Blue stars on a red flag: Remembering SMU veterans

May 24, 2016

“Universities such as ours could not exist in the kind of world we should have had if men like your son, husband or brother had not been willing to risk their lives in the country's defense”…
— SMU President Umphrey Lee, 1946, from letters to families of SMU WWII soldiers killed in action.

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU veterans of the two great World Wars are remembered on campus at memorials in quiet corners and in lovingly hand-stitched blue stars on a fragile wool service flag in the SMU Archives.

In 1917, as SMU students left their classrooms to fight in World War I, a librarian stitched a red wool service flag to honor the soldiers. Blue stars on the flag create a border and spell "SMU." The flag hung behind the reference desk in the one-room library in Dallas Hall, the first building on the two-year-old campus.

After the war ended, she covered 11 blue stars on the flag with gold stars to honor the 11 SMU students who were killed in the war.

The wool flag now is safely housed in the SMU Archives, and the 11 soldiers' names are listed on the "World War" monument near the Perkins Administration Building on campus. The SMU class of 1924 gave the monument long before anyone imagined a second world war.

The first SMU students to lose their lives in WWII were honored at halftime at Homecoming in 1943 when 11 students were remembered. By 1943, 76 SMU graduates and former students had been killed in action, 27 were missing and 11 were prisoners of war, according to Darwin Payne in One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of Southern Methodist University (DeGolyer Library: 2016). SMU President Umphrey Lee wrote individual letters to the families of those killed in the war and honored them at a 1946 memorial service in McFarlin Auditorium. The quote from former SMU president Umphrey Lee at the top of this story is taken from Payne’s centennial history of SMU.

In a shaded corner outside of Fondren Library on campus, bronze plaques honor the 134 SMU alumni who died during World War II. The memorial plaza was given in 1999 by SMU alumni Henry S. Miller Jr. '34 and Carmen Miller Michael '45 in honor of their brother, Lt. Jack Miller, a 1941 SMU graduate who was killed in action at Guadalcanal in 1942.

More than 150 veterans, representing all branches of military service, are current SMU students as we mark Memorial Day 2016.

Honoring SMU Veterans

SMU service flag, 1917
SMU service flag, 1917.
Closeup of blue and gold stars on SMU's 1917 service flag
Blue and gold stars on SMU's 1917 service flag.
Gold stars for 11 students killed during the first World War on SMU's 1917 service flag
Eleven gold stars, representing SMU students who died in
the first World War, on the University's 1917 service flag.
The 1924 'World War' memorial at the corner of Hillcrest and University
The SMU World War Memorial at the corner of Hillcrest Avenue
and University Boulevard, presented by the class of 1924.
The SMU World War II memorial outside Fondren Library Center
SMU's World War II memorial, honoring the 134 University students who died during the conflict, outside Fondren Library Center.
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Media Contact:

Nancy George
SMU News & Communications
Tele.: 214-768-7650
Cell: 972-965-3769
ngeorge@smu.edu