With Gratitude 70 Years After D-Day, June 6, 1944

Omaha Beach Normandy

Omaha Beach Normandy. Photo by Susan Bruch, taken in 1993 during a Hillsdale College trip.

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I want to acknowledge the servicemen who sacrificed so very much on that day. We are indebted to them. On June 6, 1944, 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft and 150,000 Allied troops began the operation to gain a foothold in France. Nazi Germany had heavily fortified the 50-miles of French coastline. According to updated information by the D-Day Foundation (www.dday.org),  2,499 Americans and 1,914 from the other Allied nations died on D-Day.

When I was researching the history of the Greek-letter organizations at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I discovered the devastating effect World War II had on the young local fraternities, all of which were less than two or three years old when the United States entered the war.

Sigma Beta Mu was organized in 1939, and it attracted many athletes. From the original 14 members, the chapter grew to 38 men. The chapter lost six members in the war. The chapter later became Sigma Tau Gamma. Delta Delta Chi, another local group at SIUC, lost three members in the war. It is now the Phi Kappa Tau chapter. 

In the fall of 1942, Nu Epsilon Alpha was founded with 22 charter members. By 1943, many of the members were in the Armed Forces. From April 20, 1943, until October 25, 1945, 23 issues of the NEA Newsletter (later called the Nu-Eps “Tattler”) were published. There were 57 NEAs on the mailing list and the newsletter traveled around the world. After the war, NEA became a Sigma Pi chapter.

The groups at SIUC were local organizations. The national fraternities suffered losses that were much greater. After the start of the war, men’s fraternity houses emptied very quickly. There were 21 men in the Alpha Chi Rho chapter at Oregon State University; 20 of them were drafted in one day. Of the Of the 20,276 University of Illinois students and alumni in the Armed Forces during World War II, 738 died. At the start of the war, there were more than 50 fraternities on the Urbana-Champaign campus; so I suspect that more than half of these casualties were fraternity men.

The fraternity magazines published during World War II chronicle the efforts put forth by members, with lists of those who were serving in the war and those who had perished. In 1943, Tau Kappa Epsilon stopped printing its magazine for the duration of the war, and instead, a newspaper called Teke Life was sent to all members.

Fraternity men served in the Canadian and American combat forces. A recent tweet from Sigma Alpha Epsilon put the number of their men lost during WWII at more than 860. Sigma Chi lost 738 members. Eight hundred Phi Delta Theta members were killed. Zeta Beta Tau had 3,240 men serving in the Armed Forces; 121 of them gave the ultimate sacrifice. Kappa Delta Rho, which had less than 25 chapters, lost 70 men.

Phi Gamma Delta had 506 Armed Forces members killed. Its University of Washington chapter lost 14 men the University of Pennsylvania chapter had 13 taken from them. The Colgate, Dartmouth, Missouri and Yale Fiji chapters each lost 12 men.

Many of the fraternities have honored their members’ World War II service. Here are some additional resources:

For more information about the Phi Gamma Deltas in war see http://www.phigam.org/wwii.

Chi Psi’s Summer 2004 Purple & Gold The Journal of Chi Psi had several articles about the fraternity’s war service. For more information, seeihttp://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.chipsi.org/resource/resmgr/png_stuff/ww2story.pdf.

Last year, Theta Chi wrote about its D-Day heros at http://www.thetachi.org/news/2013/06/06/general/theta-chi-honors-heroes-of-d-day/

The Phi Kappa Psis at the University of Iowa endowed a $100,000 scholarship fund. It is named for Nile C. Kinnick, winner of the 1939 Heisman Trophy, and a war hero. See http://now.uiowa.edu/2014/02/ui-fraternity-gives-100000-nile-c-kinnick-scholarship-fund For information on the four members of Phi Kappa Psi who died in the D-Day action, see http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s21iaj.

Don Malarkey, a Sigma Nu at the University of Oregon, was a paratrooper whose first day of combat was D-Day. Yesterday’s Sigma Nu blog post featured Malarkey. His experiences are told in the Band of Brothers miniseries. See the blog post at http://sigmanublog.com/2014/06/05/easy-company-soldier-brother-malarkey-tells-his-story/

Theta Chi Lt. Col. Vandervoort, jumped into Normandy, broke his foot and continued to lead. He was warded the Distinguished Service Cross. https://twitter.com/ThetaChiIHQ/status/474908722339139585/photo/1

Arromaches Normandy

Arromaches, Normandy. Photo taken by Susan Burch during a Hillsdale College trip.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2014. All rights reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory/

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