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History Lessons: The Honored Dead

The University paid tribute to those who gave their lives in World War II at a special reunion in 1946.
By Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10

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Ten months after World War II officially ended, over 5,000 alumni returned to Ann Arbor for the Victory Reunion, held June 20-22, 1946. At the center of events was the Memorial Service on June 21. In Rackham Auditorium, an audience gathered to participate in a service of “solemn beauty and dignity,” as reported in the July 13 issue of Michigan Alumnus.

“To the accompaniment of the roll of muffled drums, a Color Guard, made up of Army and Navy personnel, escorted the national ensign and the flag of the University to the platform and placed each in its traditional location, while the audience stood in deference to the colors.”

Following a hymn, University President Alexander G. Ruthven, PhD1906, HLLD’53, introduced the chosen speaker of the hour: Lt. Cmdr. John H. Shilling, MA’29, a Navy chaplain who served on the frontlines in the Pacific theater. Shilling’s eulogy honored “the men he saw in action: their sportsmanship, their skill, their ingenuity” and set an obligation on the living to ensure the servicemen had not died in vain.

While 474 men and women of the U-M community were known to have perished at the time, the final toll would come to 579 in the coming years.

Following his speech, Shilling recited a benediction and a platoon performed a three-volley rifle salute on Rackham’s front steps. The U-M Men’s Glee Club led the audience in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the Memorial Service came to an end.


Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10, is senior assistant editor of Michigan Alumnus.

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