The Victory Convention (6/28/2019)

The FFA Convention of 1946 was a time to celebrate the end of World War II. It was called the Victory Convention. Attendance at the convention was not restricted as it had been during the war years. There were 12,500+ members in attendance (compare that to the 251 who attended the 1945 convention). Cots were set up in an empty warehouse and in other building to accommodate the FFA members. A special cafeteria was set up near the auditorium to feed the big crowd.

Like previous conventions, one of the 1945-46 national officers, Eugene Starkey of Orland, California had resigned because of military obligations and was replaced by Clifford Bailey of Snohomish, Washington.

At the first convention session (Monday morning, October 21), a Memorial Service was held. The following account of the Memorial Service is contained in the Convention Proceedings (p. 22 – 25):

As the audience of Future Farmers of America and guests stood in silence, a procession of F.F.A. representatives bearing the Flag of the United States and the flags of the United Nations entered the Arena and massed on the platform. Following them were four members each of the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Corps (all members or former members of the Shawnee-Mission, Kansas F.F.A. Chapter). Mr. and Mrs. Alben Borgstrom of Thatcher, Utah were escorted to the platform by Mark Nichols, State Supervisor of Agricultural Education in Utah, and Eugene Hansen, Utah State F.F.A. President. Four former members of the F.F.A., representing four branches of the services, completed the processional.

The Unveiling of the Service Flag was under the direction of Third Vice President Marion F. Baumgardner. Before the unveiling he made the following statement:

We now come to one of the most important ceremonies of our National Victory Convention, one in which we shall honor those young men who served so gallantly and courageously in the armed forces of our nation. Today, many of these young men have returned home, some more fortunate than others. There are those who left our country to defend our precious heritage who shall never return. It is with humbleness of spirit and sacredness of heart that we honor these young men today.

Members of our organization have served in every branch of the service. They have served well. They have fought gallantly. They have brought honor to our organization and they have brought peace to our nation. Sacrifices such as these young men have made have brought liberty and freedom to the nations of the world.

We can best honor these young men today by rededicating our lives to the ideals for which they fought. May we have the courage and ability to protect and insure the peace they have won. God grant that they shall not have fought in vain.

At this convention we are displaying a Service Flag of the Future Farmers of America. Certain representatives of the armed forces have been requested to assist in the unveiling ceremony at this time.

The lights dimmed and as the Utah State Band played ”Our Country ‘Tis of Thee” the servicemen unveiled the Service Flag [The Footnote for next week will focus on the Service Flag].

The audience rose and reverently bowed their heads in honor of the 260,450 Future Farmers of America who fought so courageously, and those 7,188 members who paid the supreme sacrifice.

The bugler sounded Taps, which were echoed, and the band played “Abide With Me.”

Following the unveiling President Stuff called on four former members of the F.F.A. who presented short addresses. As these former members were, introduced, President Stuff made the following statements:

Sergeant John T. Flehmer of Pierce City, Missouri was inducted into the Army on October 12, 1944. He received basic training at Camp Fannin in Texas and then went to Infantry Replacement Training Camp. John went overseas March 16, 1945. He landed at Morilla on April 6 and joined the 25th Infantry Division May 1. He took part in the battles for Balete Pass and was wounded May 15 and May 22. He was awarded the Purple Heart on May 22, 1945. After spending three months in the hospital he rejoined his outfit and went to Japan, September 27, 1945. He came back home to the United States, September 27, 1946, and left the separation center September 16, his birthday, at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, arriving home September 17.

Roy Martin, past State and National Officer in 1936-37, Cotulla, Texas, made an outstanding record during the war. He left the ranch to volunteer in the Air Corps. He piloted the famous ‘Boomerang’ Liberty on fifty-three missions over enemy territory. The “Boomerang” is credited with dropping a third of a million pounds of explosives and shooting down 12 fighters. The crew led the first Poleski Raid and returned with cornstalks clinging to the bomb bay. Roy made the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the age of twenty-five and became operations officer of the oldest Liberator group in the European Theater.

First Lieutenant Donald Dickey was with the 4th Marine Division on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. It was on Iwo, that hotly contested but vitally strategic island, that he lost an arm in his country’s service.

Donald now is twenty-five years old. He was an outstanding member of the Oklahoma F.F.A. Association as a livestock breeder and judging team member. He was a Junior Master Farmer in 1937, and in 1938 he was president of the Oklahoma Association.

In his senior year at Oklahoma A. & M. College he enlisted in the Marines, and later went to officer candidate school at Quantico, Virginia. He spent forty-two months in service. He now is serving as State Insurance Commissioner of Oklahoma, by appointment of the Governor.

George Stelter, past National Third Vice President, was inducted into the Navy and attached to the Underwater Demolition Team No. 18 of Task Force 51, Third Fleet. After intensive training he was sent overseas and was in the first group to land in Tokyo Bay, just two days before the Japanese surrendered.

Following the addresses, President Stuff introduced Mr. and Mrs. Alben Borgstrom. ”Out on the northern shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah is a little farming community called Thatcher, where stands a farm house with five stars in the window. Four of them are gold. The four Borgstrom brothers, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Alben Borgstrom, all of them former Future Farmers of the Bear River Chapter, lost their lives in the service of their country. Clyde was killed in the Solomons; Leroy in Italy, Rulon in France, and Roland, his twin brother, in England of injuries received in battle. Boyd, the fifth, served in the Marine Corps. Few families in American history have been called upon to make such a tremendous sacrifice for the cause of freedom and liberty.” The Future Farmers of America presented a lovely bouquet of red roses to the Borgstroms as an expression of their gratitude to them and to the parents of all members who served during the war years.

The Wisconsin F.F.A. Chorus sang ”Roger Young”, which was written about a former Ohio F.F.A. member. All members and former members of the organization who served in the armed forces were asked to rise. The audience then sang “God Bless America” and following the recessional of flags and platform guests, the session adjourned at 12 o’clock.

The Wisconsin FFA Choir singing the Ballad of Roger Young
(click here to hear the West Point Glee Club rendition of the song.
The white flag with a star in the background is the Service Flag)

At the fourth session of the convention (Wednesday morning, October 23) a letter was read from President Truman who had been invited to the convention but was not able to attend. After the reading of the letter a Victory Pageant was presented. The Future Farmers of America’s contribution to the war effort was depicted in this Pageant as representatives of all 49 State associations came forward with samples of their State’s outstanding agricultural product, told of the production of that product during the war years, and placed the sample on the huge “V” on the stage. Ray Tucker of Antlers, Oklahoma played the part of “Uncle Sam” and O. Beverley Roller, Past National Officer, played the part of the farm boy.

One of the resolutions from the Resolutions Committee was “To those Future Farmers of America who are in the armed forces and those who have made the supreme sacrifice, our hearts* most sincere thanks for keeping up the standards of the F.F.A.”

A. W. Tenney, FFA Executive Secretary, provided a five year statistical summary of the number of war bonds bought, pounds of various materials collected for the war effort and other wartime efforts of FFA members. He then recognized a number of state associations for their efforts.

The Hawaii FFA Association had bought $11,000 worth bonds. The California Association followed with $9.000. Texas led in scrap metal collections with 47,628,752 pounds. Texas also repaired the most farm machines – 165,380. Georgia had processed 3,828,278 No. 2 cans of food.

Tenney then identified a number of former FFA members for their gallantry in the war.

Even though Eugene Starkey was not able to finish his term as a national officer, he sent a report to be included in the Proceedings. He wrote:

When I accepted the office of National 2nd Vice President, I had no idea that I would be entering the Army before completing my term of office. The brief time I served as a national officer was one of the greatest experiences of my life…However, on March 21st I received my notice to report for active duty, which made it impossible for me to … complete my term as a national officer…I enjoy my work now in [the] Army… but I am looking forward to that day when I can go back to my farm and continue my farming enterprise, which developed as a Future Farmer of America.

Concluding Remarks

The officer report of Clifford Bailey who replaced Eugene Starkey is the fitting final word for this Friday Footnote (FFA Convention Proceedings, 1946, p. 71-72):

The 19th National Convention is drawing to its end—this Victory Convention will soon be over; its purpose of paying tribute and honor to those members who served in the Armed Forces and to those who served on the home front has been reiterated to you many times—but let me again make its message clear to all. We are in debt to those who served so gallantly in battle and in the production of food at home. Let us hope that such sacrifices may never again be necessary.