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December 7, 1941- A Day of Infamy


RJM_ConventionBy Robert J. Miller, Historian

There are thousands of stories, both verbal and written, about the influence the bombing of Pearl Harbor, by the Japanese, had on the lives of Americans.  The declaration of war on the United States four days later by Germany and Italy added to the legends. The history of Phi Delta Theta is no exception.

The September 1941 Scroll announced “The First Call For The 1942 Convention” followed by an article in the November 1941 Scroll by Executive Secretary Paul C. Beam praising “America’s Most Beautiful All-Year Resort”, the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia as the site selected for Phi Delta Theta’s forty-fifth Convention.  The four-day meeting was scheduled to take place August 25-28, 1942.  Additional stories appeared in The Scrolls of March and May, 1942, months after the disaster in Hawaii.

The members of the General Council, at their March 1942 meeting, began to show concern about convention plans in light of the after-effects of the “call-to-arms” which was beginning to decrease the college enrollment of male students.  This was  expressed in a minute which read “the Executive Secretary was instructed to ascertain at once whether or not it would be advisable to change the dates of the Convention because of changes in academic schedules…the Convention will be reduced to three days August 27-28-29…”

Convention plans changed significantly in the three months that followed.  Note the following paragraph from a convention article that appeared in the June 1942 issue of The Palladium:

“The Forty-Fifth General Convention of Phi Delta Theta will be held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, on August 26-28, 1942. The decision to transfer the Convention to Chicago has been reached after many disappointing and unavoidable delays, while hope was constantly held out that the White Sulphur Springs Convention site would be available as originally planned.  These hopes were shattered, however, when war was declared on the satellite nations of Germany, involving the internment at the Greenbrier of representatives of Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria.”

The newly designated convention site was highly praised in the remainder of the Palladium article but, alas, the final pre-convention issue of the Scroll was now history.  Even so, 438 Phis were in attendance at the meeting. The first guest speaker, Brigadier General Donald Armstrong, Columbia ’09,  talked about Phi Delta Theta in war.  “The most important subject in my life and yours, today, is WAR.”

The final convention speaker, William Mather Lewis, Knox ’00, closed the assembly with these comments: “…..let us join hands tonight going forward with courage to meet whatever life has for us—for our Fraternity, for our Nation, and for mankind.”  Little did anyone in that gathering anticipate that the next “biennial” convention would not be convened for another four years.

One thought on “December 7, 1941- A Day of Infamy

  1. I live in an old apartment complex, in Albuquerque. That complex once housed officers in the Army Air Corps, who trained at an air strip in Albuquerque, where a high school now stands. I’m reminded frequently, when the water pipes burst or a ceiling begins to cave in, of just how old my residence is………..and how lucky I am that I actually have a place to live, IN FREEDOM.

    My grandfather sailed into Pearl Harbor on December 8th. He was on the Executive Staff of Admiral Halsey & served on the U.S.S. Enterprise. It’s a scene that he shared with me countless times.

    Please don’t forget our men & women who have given that ultimate sacrifice to our Country……

    Mike Woolsey, NM Alpha
    Albuquerque, NM

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