• Part 6: The War Years

  • The 27th annual meeting of the RSNA, held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, ended on December 5, 1941. Two days later, before some RSNA members had even returned home from the annual Scientific Assembly, military bases at Pearl Harbor were bombed, and the United States became embroiled in the Second World War. News of the attack reached the RSNA Executive Committee as they were meeting in Chicago's Palmer House to plan for the upcoming year.

    Like Benjamin H. Orndoff, MD, had done during World War I, Leon Menville, MD, who had stepped down as Radiology editor to become the RSNA president, called Society members to military service. In an article in Radiology (now under the editorship of the 1938 president, Howard P. Doub, MD), Dr Menville wrote: "Let us erect a militant radiological edifice, for which a strong foundation already exists, that shall stand as a blinding light to our barbaric enemies, a source of aid to the civilized nations of the world, and a glowing monument to posterity!" (1).

    The RSNA annual meeting in 1942 was held in Chicago under the gloom of a world at war. The scientific program for that meeting reflected the concerns of the nation. One page in the program exhorted RSNA meeting attendees to salvage scrap "for the manufacture of guns, tanks, ships, and other implements" (2).

    Meeting Canceled 

    By 1943, the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation, trying to conserve the nation's gasoline supplies for the war effort, began to curtail what it considered unnecessary travel on the home front and asked RSNA President Robert S. Stone, MD, to cancel the Society's annual meeting. In its place, Dr Stone held a token 2-day business meeting of the Executive Committee at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. At that meeting, Edwin R. Witwer, MD, became the new RSNA president.

    In 1944, especially after the D-Day invasion on June 6, the fortunes of war turned in favor of the United States and its allies. Yet gasoline rationing remained in effect, and travel for nonmilitary purposes was still being kept to a minimum. Dr Witwer did not want to cancel the RSNA Scientific Assembly for a second consecutive year. Society membership was nearing 1,000, and the need for continuing education in radiology continued in spite of the war. Consequently, leaders of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) were contacted, and the two organizations, with government permission, held a joint ARRS/RSNA meeting in September at the Palmer House in Chicago. A sign of the times was reflected in the title of the annual oration given by Lawrence Reynolds, MD: "History of the Use of the Roentgen Ray in Warfare."

    The 1945 RSNA annual meeting was planned before the war ended. RSNA President Lewis G. Allen, MD, had arranged for a business session and a reading of the scientific program by title only at Chicago's Drake Hotel. But by November 9, the scheduled start of the meeting, the war was over. Consequently, the Society's short 31st scientific assembly was also a celebration. Lowell S. Goin, MD, was named the new RSNA president, the Carman Lecture was renamed the Annual Oration, and the Society commemorated the 50th anniversary of Roentgen's discovery with a special issue of Radiology that contained a wealth of historic information.

    At that time, no RSNA member suspected that the technologic advances developed to wage war successfully would now be applied to peacetime endeavors, such as healthcare. Radiology was poised at the beginning of a "golden era," and the RSNA, strengthened by the adversities of the Depression and World War II, was ready to handle the challenges that new radiologic technology would bring.


    1. Menville LJ. How can we of radiology best serve our country? [i]Radiology[/i] 1942; 38:238B239.
    2. Scientific Program of the Twenty-eight Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held from November 30-December 4, 1942, in Chicago.
    Leon Menville, MD
    Robert S. Stone, MD

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