48 Stars Creator/Director, Shawn M. Concannon
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

48 STARS: Journeys of a Generation

By NU Athletic Communications

I feel greatly honored that the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Athletic Department reached out to me to display a collection of historical WWI and WWII 48-star American Flags. These can be viewed at the main entrance of Memorial Stadium at the November 10 game. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I. This display is in honor of those who made the supreme sacrifice in military service during World War I. 

I am humbled and grateful to the University of Nebraska to be involved in this historic event. 

By: Shawn M. Concannon
Creator/Director 48 Stars (48stars.org)

Eight weeks go I came across this ...


A haunting reminder to me from long ago that should ring as true today as it did 100 years ago. The framed document shows Lady Liberty, holding the symbol of peace in her right hand as she looks down in solemn reverence at the words. The symbolism is clear: peace in the past, the present and the future may always come at a terrible price. 

There it was,  a fragile and faded 11" by 18" World War I parchment, for sale in a roadside junk store. I'm sure it once held a place of pride and tragic honor in the family home of  the young Navy man, Arthur Paul Sharpe, who died while in service to his country. The document was presented to his mother after his death. Somewhere in its century-long journey, the document lost its importance to a family and ended up on the junk store rack, priced at $40. With its broken wood frame, cracked glass, stained and faded paper, it seemed a quaint relic, lost from history and living memory. For me, however, it is a reminder to stay the course.

Twelve years ago, I wanted to record the life- and war-time memories of my father, Richard W. Schmidt, who was a World War II Navy Sea Bee. I arranged and pre-paid for a professional videographer to do the job. Weeks turned into months as the professional made excuses and delayed the recording.

Thirteen months later she called to say she was ready to record my father. But it was too late. My father had died. I felt sick and heartbroken that my family's stories and my dad's war memories were lost to history, and that I had left it to someone else to do.

Six years would pass. I was browsing through a second-hand store. Turning a corner, I was stunned at the sight of a large, tattered old 48-star flag. She covered the wall. Rusty items hung from the flag; old shutters leaned against it. In a millisecond I heard my father's voice in my head: "Get that crrrapp off there!" I respectfully followed his command, removed the junk, purchased the flag and left the store.

In the next year, I raised that same flag upon the USS Arizona Memorial in memory of my father. Later that same day, I raised it on the USS Missouri. The inspirational experience at Pearl Harbor and the beauty of the old flag told me not to miss another opportunity. The wartime stories of my father were lost, but I could still collect the stories of others who lived through that remarkable time in our history. Thus was born the film documentary, 48 STARS

I committed the next four years to building a "not for profit," assembling a production team that included a videographer, co-director, film editor, music director, art director, public relations and a research team. I recruited a board of directors and a board of advisors. We established a list of potential interviewees including military and nonmilitary men and women of varied ethnic backgrounds and contrasting life journeys. The list was narrowed down to 48 individuals of the WWII period. The old, tired flag would go along on every interview and witness the testimonials of these unique individuals.

Completing the interviews required persistence and determination. From Harlem to Honolulu, the documentary team gathered epic stories through the eyes of those who lived them. From deadly combat to revolutionary inspiration, 48 STARS finds the unexpected revelation, the poignant moment - penetrating to the heart of each human story. 

  • From Woodstock, NY, a battle-weary Army "Dogface" soldier of strong morals and values shared painful war poetry that will shake you to your core. He died recently after tireless activism with Veterans for Peace.
  • A Native American army nurse from the Rosebud reservation of South Dakota served in the war in Europe. As a child, she endured separation from family and indoctrination in the "white man world."  She put aside this injustice to serve her country's wounded from the battlefield.
  • A San Francisco woman who served with the USO shared her story of entertaining the troops with a still-glowing vibrant energy, recalling not only the young men on their way to war, but many who returned damaged from the fighting.
  • The female pilot in Denver, Colorado, who broke aviation boundaries and would serve as a moving target for the gunnery.
  • In Kansas, an African-American who experienced racism throughout his service and beyond, yet served his country, community and state throughout his life and successful political career.
  • A Japanese-American in Honolulu who faced the ugliness of war not only in the prejudice of his fellow citizens, but on the battlefields of Europe.

In our travels we recorded 48 interviews covering more than 4,600 years of life with an average interviewee age of 92 years. We traveled more than 50,000 miles and put "in the can" more than 300 hours of intimate, first-hand accounts.

The next step in the 48 STARS project is purely a labor of love. Editing these hours of film with a professional team and weaving together the remarkable stories of a generation is no small task. Our responsibility now is to help our subjects tell their stories...that is our guiding principle. Our target date for release of the video is Memorial Weekend 2019.

It was a war that truly engulfed the world. It claimed lives, brought out the greatest endurance and strength of many, and forever changed the landscape of our modern world. It began future movements and shaped hearts and minds of a generation of Americans. The stories of these times were born under the symbol of the nation, the 48-star flag. Those stories will be preserved in this important film...48 STARS. Please visit our website at 48stars.org to view the seven-minute movie trailer and learn further details of this amazing journey.

Please feel free to contact us or follow us on Facebook.


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