"The Moon, The Badge, The Urban Legend"
The Truth Behind Neil Armstrong's Badge

By Jay-Raymond N. Abad, UC Irvine, 2002
January 2003

When I came to college and I looked around at the different fraternities, each fraternity would always say things that are impressive and unique about their organization in order to draw interest. This is typical of course, but from a new student perspective it is common to perceive the different fraternities as a mono tone society with no distinguishing characteristics among them. Of course you learn later on that this is false assumption.

History and famous alumni are no doubt a selling point. I remember a Beta telling me how if you were a Beta and wore the letters during a taping of the TV show Home Improvement, Richard K. Wilson a fellow Beta, who played Al, would come up to you in the audience and talk to you. I remember how Kappa Sig were proud of their "traditional" founding in Italy in 1400. I remember looking at Sig Ep and their rush shirt, making it known that Dr. Seuss, the famed writer of children's books, was one of their own. Then came Phi Delta Theta and was told that not only was Neil Armstrong a Phi Delt but that he pinned the badge of Phi Delta Theta on the American flag which sits atop the moon.

My decision to ultimately join Phi Delta Theta was not based because of Neil Armstrong, although as all Phis would agree it is an amazing feeling to know that you are part of such a storied society. I didn't think much of the story of Armstrong's badge on the flag, until about a year ago when there was debate on whether or not Armstrong actually did place the flag on the moon or it was just an urban legend. The debate mainly arose from non-Phis. The debate was actually an off shoot when members of Alpha Chi Omega sorority claimed that their badge was also on the flag because Armstrong's wife was an Alpha Chi.

If I was aware of this debate when I first joined Phi Delta Theta, I would have said to those who claimed that the badge was not on the flag as being jealous. Pure and simple. However as I've grown, I now know that being proud of your membership in a fraternity should not blur your distinction between what is fact and what is fiction.

I have come to realize that the urban legend of the badge on the flag, is just that...an urban legend. As the webmaster of this website I have taken pride in presenting to you facts.

It would be nice to think that the story about the pin and the flag is true. However the truth is that Neil Armstrong NEVER placed a pin of Phi Delta Theta nor that of his wife's sorority on the flag. Anyone interested could verify with the Headquarters of Phi Delta Theta and Alpha Chi Omega. The flag/pin story and the ridiculous story of Neil Armstrong having the Phi Delt flag on the soles of his feet while walking the moon is false. He did carry with him the badge on the moon, which is now on display at Phi Delt GHQ, but that is all. Interestingly, the urban legend is more prevelant with Alpha Chi Chapters than with Phi Delt Chapters.

So how did this urban legend come about? There are several theories but my guess is this: There was indeed a pin that was left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts. However it was not a fraternity pin. The pin was made of gold in the shape of a laurel. Along side the pin read the message, "We come in peace from all mankind". It is my belief that this fact of leaving a pin on the moon perpetuated into the present day urban legend when Phis assumed that Armstrong also left his fraternity badge on the moon without actually having proof.

Armstrong was a very sentimental person. He carried various momentos with him on his mission including the World Scout Badge in memory of his boyhood days in the Scouts and a piece of tartan in honor of his family's Scottish heritage, but there is no proof he left anything personal behind.

Claiming the pin is on the moon goes against eveything about what Neil Armstrong stands for. To proclaim that the urban legend is true is demeaning. Why? All Phis are proud to proclaim Armstrong as one of their own, but one should be familiar with the books and articles written about him. The truth is that Neil Armstrong was a very very humble man. In fact, it may interest people to know that the chance of Apollo XI landing on the moon was only 50/50. That is why when he left the earth, he didn't have a prepared quote already in his mind. His memorable quote was actually thought up only within hours before his lunar module touched the moon. Neil Armstrong becoming the first man on the moon was by chance. Up to the time he came back on earth until now, he has always stated that he was an instrument of a much larger society. He just happened to be "the first man".

I believe that as Phis we should all take pride in Neil Armstrong. If you sit back and think about, it is a remarkable feeling. For thousands of years, the moon has served as an inspiration to many civilizations. Of the billions who ever lived on earth, the first person to set foot on a celestial being was one of our own. Therefore, there is no need for embellishment. Let the accomplishment do the talking.

Neil Armstrong serves as an inspiration not necessarily because he was the first but because of his humility. Like Armstrong and to the countless other Famous Phis we should take great pride in our own personal accomplishments and that of each others, but at the same time we should also be mindful of our open motto,"We enjoy life by the help and society of others". Remember, it is amazing what people can accomplish when no one is fighting to take credit....