Just a Couple of UW Frat Boys: American Legion Post 227 relearns its history

Sunday, September 11, 2022

2nd Lt Starr Sutherland, Jr. 1943
Courtesy of MR Johnson
By Doug Cerretti

With the passage of time we tend to forget much of the past as we lose contact with that past. Such is the case with 1st Lt Starr Sutherland, Jr. 

When I joined the Starr Sutherland, Jr. Post 227 of The American Legion in Shoreline, WA a few years ago, all I knew about Starr Sutherland is that Post 227 was named after him and he was killed in action in WWII during the Battle of the Bulge. 

Since establishment of Post 227 in 1948, we had lost much of the knowledge of Starr Sutherland. 

We were prompt to remedy our deficiency in our knowledge of Starr Sutherland, Jr. after an email. 

Starr Dern in Shoreline
The author of the email related that his Dad, William Dehn, and Starr Sutherland, Jr. were students at the University of Washington, roommates, fraternity brothers (Sigma Tau chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta, aka Fijis) and best friends.

William thought so much of Starr that he named his youngest son after him. The sender of the email - Starr Dehn! 

This email prompted us to search for the information we had lost of Starr Sutherland, Jr. This search culminated in a visit to Post 227 by Starr Dehn on August 20, 2022.

We learned that William and Starr were graduates of Seattle’s Roosevelt and Lincoln High Schools, respectively, class of 1940. At the UW, Starr was a member of the Husky football and tennis teams while William participated in rowing. 

Graffiti at Husky Stadium
When Husky Stadium was renovated in 2013, walls were uncovered revealing graffiti. You can see Starr had left his mark. 

With the outbreak of World War II, many college students of the time enlisted into the military; William was commissioned after Navy ROTC in 1944 and Starr after Army OCS (officer candidate school) in 1943. 

2nd Lt Starr Sutherland, Jr. entered France via Omaha Beach July 1944 in the 35th Infantry Division, a part of Patton’s 3rd Army. As they raced across France they took part in the fighting to relieve Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Wartime letter from Starr to his friend William. Transcription below.
Starr wrote a letter to William 18 December 1944. It is heartening, like so many letters written to friends and family, with plans never to be fulfilled. Just two UW Frat Boys talking about the friendship their families had and what they were going to do when they returned home.

On December 26, 1944, 2nd Lt Starr Sutherland, Jr. was awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action and was battlefield promoted to 1st Lt. 

Starr Dehn in Luxembourg at Starr Sutherland, Jr.'s grave
Sadly, two weeks after William received Starr’s letter, 1st Lt Starr Sutherland, Jr. was killed in action in Luxembourg on January 4, 1945. 

His parents, Starr and Ruth Sutherland, received a letter of condolence from General George Patton writing in part, 

"You should be very proud to be the parents of this man. I know that you are and I know that this pride will sustain you in your grief over his unfortunate death."

In 1984 the Dehn family visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Starr Dehn had his picture taken at Starr Sutherland’s grave.

Starr Sr, Ruth, Starr Jr. and George Sutherland, 1943
Courtesy of MR Johnson
Since our first contact with Starr Dehn, we have discovered many other facts about the Sutherland family. 

Starr, Sr. was a history teacher and tennis coach at Lincoln High School and Starr’s mother Ruth was a charter member of Post 227 Auxiliary. 

From the 1940 census we discover a younger brother George.

Dixie Rhode, a member of the Auxiliary, related that her family was good friends with the Sutherlands and as an eight-year-old girl she had a crush on Starr. 
L-R Dixie Rhode, Doug Cerretti, Mary Robertson Johnson at Post 227 August 2022. Photos by RB White. Mary Sutherland and Mary Robertson Johnson in 1996 photo courtesy MR Johnson.

Most unexpectedly Dixie brought her good friend Mary Robertson Johnson to Starr Dehn’s visit to Post 227. Remarkably, Mary is a Lincoln High School classmate of Starr Sutherland, class of 1940 and 100-years young. Mary was also very close to the Sutherland family after Starr’s death. 

Starr Dehn was ecstatic to meet people who actually knew his namesake. With information supplied by Mary we discovered that Starr’s brother George has a son named …, you guessed it, Starr Sutherland, named after his Uncle. We have talked with him and look forward to his visit to Post 227.

Ensign William Dehn.
Photo courtesy S Dehn
I would like to end this story with Starr’s best friend, William Dehn. 

William left the Navy after WWII as a Lieutenant, Jr. Grade after serving on an Escort Carrier in the Pacific. 

As a young man, he made a list of life goals, his #1 goal, have a son... he had four. 

William is one of the veterans who came home and lived his life and raised a family. 
William Dehn and his sons Mike, Frank, William and Starr, 1985. Photo courtesy S Dehn
Starr Sutherland, Jr. who made the ultimate sacrifice was not able to do this but he will be in our hearts and will always be remembered.

Please visit Post 227’s our webpage (shorelinepost227.com) for more information on 1st Lt Starr Sutherland, Jr.

Starr Sutherland Jr.'s letter to William Dehn

      18 December 1944

Dear William,
Just have a few moments - long enough to write a short note to let you know where I am and how things are. Also time enough to ask you to let me know how you and Jane are.

Well Roomie, I've been on the Third Army front for almost two months and am ready for the armistice. I been in too many close ones to suit me and am now counting the days till this all is over and we're home again.

It looks as tho you and I will lose our bet with the professor. He'll gloat over that - wait and see.

I hope you have had opportunities to be with Jane. Marriage is a difficult problem during wartime, but probably not much of one for you too. You can't imagine how much my family enjoyed Jane and your visit with us that day. I don't have to tell you how happy I was to see you both.

When I get married, we shall have to have many nights together. We'll have the wives prepare dinner - & the drinks for us while we lounge before the fireplace in our bare feet. Afterward, we'll wax you & Jane in bridge - or maybe you & I can beat the women. Life will be wonderful. All that has to happen now is for the powers involved to agree to cease this fight. You and I are doing our part to speed the victory.

Well William, there's no other man any higher on my totem pole than you. You've known that for a long time. My very best wishes and luck to you and your Jane. Anytime there is anything I can do, Roomie, just say the word.
I'm mighty glad to be a Fiji.



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