Western Fraternal Life Association has had a rich history over the course of our 115 years. Over time, our members have proven they are dedicated citizens by providing countless hours of service to their communities. However, one of our most impressive examples of nationality was contributing war equipment during WWII.
The effort began in April of 1942, wfla (known then as ZCBJ or Western Bohemian Life Association) announced a campaign to begin raising money to purchase field ambulances for the army. In less than a year, in February 1943, six ambulances were purchased. A commanding officer of the 68th Medical Regiment in Tennessee, Lt. Francis Kintz, said of one of the ambulances, “out of two hundred odd vehicles, you have endowed one of them with personality and individuality.”
The President of the Association at that time, John Rompotl (1940-1961), declared that February 12-22, 1943 would be Ambulance Fund Week. He asked that lodges hold special events specifically to raise donations for the important fund. From that effort, six additional ambulances were purchased to send overseas. In addition to the ambulances, wfla helped to remodel a room in the Schick General Hospital in Clinton, IA, an army hospital.
The excitement for contributing to the war efforts did not stop at ambulances and a hospital room. The Treasury Department of the United States was also looking for donations at the state level. In 1943, President Rompotl announced the Iowa Bomber Campaign to purchase a B-25 bomber by the Iowa lodges. A similar drive was started in Nebraska. The bombers would cost $300,000 for a heavy bomber and $175,000 for a medium bomber. It would take everyone’s effort to show, “that our members are in this fight until final victory is won” said President Rompotl.
In January 1944, President Rompotl announced the success of each campaign. The Iowa members purchased $195,000 in bonds, and a medium bomber was named “Spirit of Iowa Czechs.” In Nebraska, the members came together to donate a staggering $350,000 in bonds. A heavy bomber christen “Spirit of Czech Nebraskans” was bought. In today’s money, that would be equivalent to more than $2,500,000 for the Iowan bomber and more than $4,600,000 for the Nebraskan bomber!
Never has our patriotism shown so bright. To this day, wfla is dedicated to supporting many activities for our veterans, both at home and overseas. To learn more about what your wfla community does, check out our lodge locator to find a lodge near you!
Tell us what you think! What is your favorite story about the lodges contributing to a cause?
**The information for this post was found in the July 1997 Centennial Issue of the Fraternal Herald.