Honoring Our Gold Star Aggies May 25

Rows of American flags.
Each flag of the 136 that will be placed on the Quad next week represents an Aggie lost in military service to the United States. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Nine Aggies who could have turned 100 years old this year never had the chance to do so.

They all withdrew from UC Davis — some briefly transferring to other UC campuses first — to join the military during World War II, and all gave their lives in service to the United States. Their names and stories are now part of the Golden Memory Book in the Memorial Union, and they’ll be among the 136 Aggies honored next week during the university’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony.

Each Gold Star Aggie’s name will be read aloud during the ceremony, which will also include a performance of the national anthem by campus a capella group The Spokes.

Xóchitl Rodriguez Murillo
Xóchitl Rodriguez Murillo ’08

This year’s keynote speaker will be Xóchitl Rodriguez Murillo ’08, deputy secretary for minority and underrepresented veterans at the California Department of Veterans Affairs and a sergeant in the Army Reserve. She would have spoken at the 2021 ceremony, but it was canceled because of the pandemic, so she instead sent a video remembrance.

“To me, Memorial Day is a day of service,” she said in her video message at the time.

Chancellor Gary S. May is scheduled to deliver remarks at the event for the first time since he joined UC Davis in 2017.

The day will be marked beyond the ceremony, too: 136 American flags — one for each Gold Star Aggie — will be placed along the Quad. The ceremony itself will be held on the North Courtyard of the Memorial Union, which is so named in honor of the Aggies who have died in military service to the United States, dating back to World War I.


  • WHAT: Memorial Day Ceremony
  • WHEN: 4 p.m. Thursday, May 25 (an hour earlier than usual)
  • WHERE: Memorial Union’s North Courtyard
  • A RECEPTION inside the MU will follow the ceremony.

Aggies on D-Day

Edward Bitterman
Edward Bitterman
 Donald John McDougall
Donald John McDougall

Those Gold Star Aggies include Edward Bitterman and Donald John McDougall, both of whom were born in 1923 and enrolled at UC Davis in 1941. They each withdrew to enlist in the Army, Bitterman after one semester and McDougall the following April.

Both Aggies participated in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 as paratroopers, but neither would return home. Bitterman and McDougall were assigned to different regiments within different divisions, but united in their mission of helping secure the route for ground troops participating in “Operation Overlord” and cut off defending German forces.

McDougall was killed in action on D-Day, June 6. Bitterman met the same fate just over a week later, on June 14. Both were awarded Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts and other honors.

18 when the U.S. joined WWII

The other Gold Star Aggies born in 1923 are:

  • Arthur Lionel Dixon, who served in both the Army and Naval Reserve and died on July 4, 1951, when the plane he was aboard crashed on its way back to an aircraft carrier from a combat mission in Korea.
  • Alvin Myo Dunn, who served as an aerial engineer aboard a bomber in the Army Air Force and died in a plane crash on Oct. 20, 1942.
  • Burson Woods Joseph, who served in the Army Reserve and rose to lead a tank company before being killed in action in France on Jan. 16, 1945.
  • James Dyer Kenner Jr., an Army Air Force bombardier who died July 29, 1944, after his plane collided with another on their way to a mission to Bremen, Germany.
  • William Jacoby Laury, an infantryman who was killed in action on Nov. 9, 1944, nearly two months into the Battle of Hürtgen Forest near the Belgian-German border, the longest battle the U.S. Army has ever fought.
  • James Pandelis Pandel, an infantry officer and platoon leader who was injured in action in Europe on May 6, 1945 — the day before Germany surrendered. He died from his injuries on May 12, in Austria.
  • Byron Legro Pressley, an Army Air Force fighter pilot assigned to a photo reconnaissance squadron whose P-38 Lightning never returned from a mission over Mandalay, Myanmar, in October 1944.

All stories excerpted from the Golden Memory Book, viewable online. You can see the book (in a display case) and view it on large display screens at the Gold Star Aggies Wall in the Memorial Union.

Media Resources

Cody Kitaura is a News and Media Relations Specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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