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Idaho Alpha Gold Star Brothers Remembered this Memorial Day

Dear Brothers and Special Friends,

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The holiday is often confused with Veterans Day (which celebrates the service of all USA military veterans) and with Armed Forces Day (which honors men and women currently in military service).

Memorial Day began in 1868, a few years after the end of the Civil War. An organization of Union veterans established the holiday, then known as Decoration Day, as a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. Soon Confederate veteran groups and families in southern states adopted the practice. The solemn holiday has been formally observed since 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. Veterans groups often decorate cemetery tombstones with American flags on Memorial Day. Unofficially, the holiday also marks the beginning of the summer season.

  • Idaho Alpha chapter records list a total of 334 brothers who have served in the US Armed Forces since SAE was chartered on campus. The breakdown of chapter service by time period is WWI: 23, WWII (198) and Korea: 202 (many who served in WWII were recalled to duty for the Korean War), Cold War & Vietnam War: 99 (33 served in Vietnam) and Global War On Terror, Afghanistan and Iraq: 10.
  • Chapter records show that 85% of ZXA men served in WWI, and 84% of the 1939 – 1946 pledge classes served in WWII.
  • During the 56 years between 1917, when WWI began for America, and 1973, when the all-volunteer military was voted in by Congress, 31% of Idaho SAEs served in the US military. It is likely that an additional 500+ brothers drilled in ROTC units while enrolled at Idaho because ROTC was “almost mandatory” at land grant colleges for freshmen and sophomores until 1967. During the late 1950s and 1960s up to 20% of the members had ROTC scholarships (NROTC had the largest number over the years). After the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the number of SAEs in ROTC declined due to the reduction of America’s military forces. The Navy ROTC units at Idaho and Washington State were reduced and consolidated into one unit at Idaho.

Below is a list of the 18 ZXA and Idaho Alpha gold star brothers known to have died in the service of their country since 1917 and who deserve to be remembered this Memorial Day.

World War I
After the United States declared war on Imperial Germany on April 6, 1917, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 7, 1917, most college men left American universities and joined the armed forces. The US Army began training men at the University of Idaho and other universities and took over vacant fraternities to house men in training. The Army used the empty ZXA chapter house at 904 Deakin, where approximately 20 brothers had lived, as barracks for 27 men in the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) who were taking college courses and training for the US Army. Freshman Ewing Albertson (picture below), assigned to the ZXA barracks, died from influenza in November 1918. Most of the 20 of the University of Idaho WWI Gold Star men (20 of 32) died from influenza while training in America for the war.

World War II
Chapter and SAE national records list 198 Idaho Alpha men who served in the military during WWII, but the number may actually be higher as SAEs four and five years out of college may not have informed the chapter that they had joined the military. This number does not include the several SAE combat veterans who died due to war wounds after returning to civilian life. Below are pictures of the 14 Idaho men known to have given their lives for their country during WWII with their actual or planned graduation year (19xx) are listed below.

Below are the pictures we currently have of the Idaho Alpha WWII Gold Star men.

2nd Lieutenant John Cook USAAC
Captain Walter Dennison USAAC
1st Lieutenant Earl Eggers USAAC
1st Lieutenant Ralph Garst USAAC
2nd Lieutenant William Hershey USAAC
1st Lieutenant John Jensen USA
Captain Donald Milich USA
1st Lieutenant John Minden USAAC
1st Lieutenant Louis Runyan USAAC
1st Lieutenant Ray Sharp USAAC
Major Paul Spence USAAC
Private Sidney Thiessen USA
Captain Robert Wardwell USAAC
2nd Lieutenant William Zahora USA

In addition to the Idaho Alpha men who died during the war, three were prisoners of war. Frank Crowe (Idaho Alpha 1941) was working for the Boise construction company Morrison Knudson building fortifications on Wake Island when the Japanese captured the island on December 23, 1941. While in captivity Brother Crowe was given a commission in the US Army. He was fortunate to survive three years and nine months in a Japanese POW camp in Shanghai, China, because 98 of the 1,145 Americans who surrendered on Wake Island were kept on the island as laborers and then executed on the island in 1943. John Meese (Idaho Alpha 1940) was shot down on a bombing mission over Germany and was imprisoned in Germany at Stalag Luft 4 for a year. Raleigh Rhodes (Idaho Alpha 1949) was held prisoner in Switzerland for 10 months after his heavily damaged B-17 crashed in Switzerland.

Frank Crowe POW
SGT Raleigh Rhodes USAAC POW

Korean War (1950-1953)
Soon after the Korean War began, the Idaho Alpha men who had remained in military service after WWII were joined by brothers recalled to active duty. Others with ROTC commissions and those who were drafted also served during the war. The actual number of brothers who served in this war is not known. Two Idaho Alpha brothers, Lieutenant Darrell Callihan US Army (Idaho Alpha 1952) and Lieutenant Colonel Vernard Rudolph US Air Force (Idaho Alpha 1945), are listed as gold stars.

Lieutenant Darrell Callihan USA
Lieutenant Colonel Venard Rudolf USAF

Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Due to the high percentage of brothers in the chapter with Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force ROTC scholarships, possibly as many as 100 Idaho Alpha SAEs served in the US armed services during the 8 years of the Vietnam War (33 served in Vietnam). Captain George Volk US Army (Idaho Alpha 1962) assigned to a unit in Vietnam was killed in a ground accident while training in the Philippine Islands.

Captain George Volk USA

Lieutenant John “Spike” Naysmith, US Air Force, was captured after being shot down over North Vietnam in 1966. He was held as a prisoner of war in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” and tortured for 2,355 days before being released as the war ended.

Lieutenant John Naysmyth USAF POW

Every SAE who served in the US military gave something of themselves to the United States of America. The brothers who died in the service of their country gave the most important thing they possessed.

Phi Alpha,

  • largest number over the years). After the end of the Soviet Union in
  • 1991 the number of SAEs in ROTC declined due to the reduction of
  • America’s military forces. The Navy ROTC units at Idaho and
  • Washington State were reduced and consolidated into one unit at
  • Idaho.

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