December 7, 1941, is a day that has lived in infamy. About a week earlier, fraternity men and women were meeting in New York City at the first joint meeting of the National Interfraternity Conference (NIC) and the National Panhellenic Congress* (NPC). Likely some of the delegates had just arrived home when the news hit the airways that Sunday.
An article in the December 1941 issue of The Kleos of Alpha Phi Delta was entitled “Dominant Topic at National Interfraternity Conference Dealt With Fraternities and Defense.” Due to the efforts of NIC Chairman Lloyd G. Balfour, Sigma Chi, a joint NIC-NPC luncheon, sessions, and banquet were held.
In addition, more than 2,000 fraternity men and women gathered at the Commodore Hotel for a banquet. According to the article it was “the most representative gathering of college Greeks ever held…Delegates of the 59 national fraternities which make up the NIC and the 21 sororities which comprise NPC also carried on separate sessions, which were largely concerned with problems resulting from the defense emergency.”
A drum and fife corps from Cornell University opened the banquet. The flags of the United States, Canada, NIC and NPC were presented. After singing the anthems of both countries, Alpha Tau Omega’s national chaplain Rev. Paul Hickok, gave the invocation. During dinner, 150 members of the Cornell University Instrumental Club and Glee Club “provided music, both classical and collegiate. The individual star was N. Herrmann, Theta Delta Chi, a 19-year-old basso profundo, who fairly startled his audience by his rare musical ability.”** Kappa Sigma Lowell Thomas served as toastmaster. The guest speaker at the previous year’s meeting, Beta Theta Pi Wendell Wilkie, was introduced.
There were a number of speeches. One was extremely prophetic. Lynn Stambaugh, national commander of the American Legion, in a talk entitled “Fraternities and Defense,” made the assertion that fraternity men, “because they often are in positions of leadership, had a special responsibility to assist in the national emergency. He was emphatic in his statement that this nation is definitely in the war and that people should realize this fact and function accordingly. He called upon fraternity men to do their part in making defense efforts effective.” Did he know that the fraternity magazines of the late 1940s would be filled with pages of pages about the members who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who served admirably and returned home to get on with their lives.
My husband’s father, the Phi Gamma Delta, was in Hawaii that Sunday morning. He was a high school student; his father, a Sigma Nu, and a career Army man, was stationed there. He spoke little about that day until decades later, when our sons were doing a school project on World War II, and they asked him about it. He had kept them bottled up for decades.
While men across the country left college to serve in the armed forces, so did many young women, including many sorority women. Here are five women, two sets of sisters, belonging to the Macon Magnolias, Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu, who enlisted in World War II service.
Three Alpha Delta Pi sisters from the Kansas State chapter, Ruby, Laura, and Eunice Randall, joined different branches of service. Ruby joined the WAVES, Laura was a WAC, and Eunice joined the SPARS.
Twin members of Phi Mu, from the University of Maine chapter, Mary Joan and Mildred Lombard Chapman, were among the first women to take over men’s jobs at the United States Marine Corps Post Exchange at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.***
I would love to compile a list of the NPC women who have served during the World Wars. I have started a series of spreadsheets, but it a very large undertaking. I applaud the effort of Sigma Phi Epsilon men who have created the @ twitter feed to remind Sig Eps of the members who served.* Today it is known as the National Panhellenic Conference, but NPC has had several name changes since it began in 1902. ** N. Herrmann was William Edward “Ned” Herrmann who would later go on to work for General Electric as a corporate trainer. In 1978, he created the “Herrmann Participant Survey Form” to identify an individual’s thinking styles and learning preferences in accordance with brain dominance theory. *** See http://wp.me/p20I1i-PI for a post about some Pi Phi WAVES who met Grace Goodhue Coolidge while training at Smith College.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2015. 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/