Stanford Law School honors its students and graduates who served in WWII

Stanford Law School graduate WILLIAM BEITLER BRUNTON, AB 35, and LLB 37, offered for responsibility in the Philippines in 1941 under Gen. George Marshall and fought throughout the bitter siege of Bataan. Survivors told his parents that he was a spirits builder who endured the starvation, embarrassment and ruthlessness of the notorious prison camp at Cabanatuan with great humor and terrific perseverance.

GEORGE WILLIAM SIMONDS, AB 38, had actually completed his very first quarter at Stanford Law School and remained in great standing when he joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and was appointed to a staff job with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He asked to be designated to field task and wound up parachuting into France on D-Day. When the C-47 he was aboard overshot the drop zone, he was hung up in a tree, and he managed to shoot a man with his carbine before cutting himself loose. Less than a month later on, on July 4, 1944, he was eliminated throughout heavy opponent fire by the Germans.

Captains Brunton and Simonds are among numerous Stanford Law School students and graduates who served throughout World War II in all branches of the military, all over the world. On Thursday, on an intense, bright day, about 80 veterans, students, faculty, staff and good friends collected in the shade of the Grove, a stand of gigantic redwoods behind the law school library, to honor those killed throughout that war and all who have served our country.

One of those in the official celebration seated in front was a most recognized veteran, former U.S. Secretary of State GEORGE P. SHULTZ, who served as a U.S. Marine Corps policeman from 1942 to 1945 and is now a Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He did not own dress blues because, as he said, when I finished from boot camp, I went directly to weapons school and then I went overseas.

During a complete military event, total with an honor guard and music by the U.S. Air Force s Band of the Golden West, the focal point was a large bronze plaque that was just recently discovered in a basement storeroom at the law school. On it are the names of 18 Stanford Law School alumni who gave their lives while serving in the armed forces throughout World War II. Quickly the plaque will be installed on a stone shaped with a folded American flag on top that will stay in the Grove.

JASON ESTACIO, assistant director of centers and operations at the law school, explained that he discovered the plaque this spring while preparing for a heating project. It was quite dirty, he stated.

The plaque hung over a water fountain in the History Corner at the Main Quad while the law school lay there. When the school transferred to its present location in 1975, someone tucked it in a storage wardrobe, where it stayed for 41 years. Upon learning of the existence of the plaque, TRIPP ZANETIS, JD 17, and JORDAN RITENOUR, JD 17, co-presidents of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization, won assistance from Stanford Law School Dean M. ELIZABETH MAGILL and administrators to rededicate the plaque in time for Memorial Day.

In her welcoming remarks, Magill recalled the words of then-Dean MARION KIRKWOOD at the original dedication event in 1945, when relatives and buddies of World War II veterans joined together to establish the Stanford Law Veterans Memorial Scholarship and a tangible and permanent memorial to honor them. The scholarship was offered to any dependent of a World War II veteran killed in action.

Amongst the visitors on Thursday were CRAIG LARGENT, MS 89, JD 04, and JOHN DUGAN, JD 99, who, in addition to STEVEN BENZ, JD 90, just recently endowed the Stanford Law School Veterans Fund, which supports existing veterans participating in the law school.

Speaking was DANA REHNQUIST, JD 16, whose grandpa, the late Chief Justice WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST, BA/MA 48, LLB 52, employed quickly after Pearl Harbor and served as a sergeant in North Africa as a weatherman supplying weather condition reports to Army Air Corps pilots. Maturing, I always saw Gramps was a little obsessed with the weather, she said with a smile.

In his address, Shultz recalled things I discovered in the war that have stood me in excellent stead. Among them: Be careful of exactly what you say you’ll do, and if you do exactly what you state you’re going to do, you’ll be relied on and Strength is more important than force.

He concluded, we have actually fought wars, and the people who combated them deserve our respect and acknowledgment. They saved our lives.

With that, while the color guard saluted and the band gently played The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Ritenour read the honor roll of Stanford Law alumni who gave their lives in World War II and the memorial plaque was revealed.