American Legion

1915

FOUNDED

Arthur Sullivant Hoffman and Stephen Allan Reynolds founded the American Legion

1919

ESTABLISHED BY U.S.

Congress chartered the American Legion on September 16

1925

BASEBALL LEAGUE

The American Legion Baseball program was formed

1932

SONS OF THE AMERICAN LEGION

The Sons of the American Legion was founded to honor the Legionnaires and their service

1976

LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE

During the 1976 American Legion Convention, 182 members caught a form of atypical pneumonia and 34 of them died. In 1877, it was discovered to be caused by an unknown strain of bacteria

1993

AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS

The Riders were established by Chuck “Tramp” Dare and Bill “Polka” Kaledas from American Legion Post 396

2019

CENTENNIAL

The American Legion celebrated 100 years

The American Legion, Chartered and Incorporated by Congress in 1919

 

Not Prepared for War?

Arthur Sullivant Hoffman, magazine editor, and Stephen Allan Reynolds, writer, were concerned at the potential lack of preparedness of U.S. Forces in the absence of their involvement in World War I. In February 1915, they founded the American Legion. Their goal was to strengthen the military; officers involved included Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Henry L. Stimson. When war was declared in 1917, the Legion had 23,000 members who had pledged to fight.

 

The American Legion Post-WWI

At the cessation of World War I, American officers felt the need for a group consisting of soldiers who had participated overseas – those who had formerly belonged to the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)*. Many of these were American soldiers left in France waiting for transport home, whose morale sank lower and lower.

Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and a National Guard officer, George A. White, discussed an organization that would comprise the soldiers still abroad as well as the ones at home. In 1919, General Pershing gathered officers together in Paris to generate a plan to increase morale. Roosevelt put forth his plan, and it was publicly announced in 1919 in the Stars and Stripes**.

 

The Paris Caucus

Every soldier, officer or enlisted, was invited to a conference in Paris in March of 1919 to help form “one permanent nation-wide organization…composed of all parties, all creeds, and all ranks who wish to perpetuate the relationships formed while in military service.” Approximately 2,000 men gathered to hear Eric Wood explain and outline the organization. Wood asked participants to consider three items: 1) a formal founding conference; 2) a name; and 3) a provisional constitution. The name chosen was the American Legion, and the date for the first national convention was set for November 11, 1919, at 11:00 a.m. – a year from the date of the Armistice. A portion of group’s mission was “[d]esiring to the perpetuate the principles of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy for which we have fought….” During their first planning meeting in St. Louis in May 1919, there was much discussion regarding resolutions, including prohibition, the League of Nations, race, and Bolsheviks.

 

The American Legion

Over 600 delegates from around the U.S. attended the first convention in Minneapolis MN. There was a concerted effort to remain non-partisan***.

...this organization shall be absolutely non-political and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles or for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking public office or preferment; and no candidate for or incumbent of a salaried elective public office shall hold any office in the American Legion or in any branch or post thereof.

 

The American Legion Grows Up

Membership in the American Legion has been active since the 1920s when they fought for benefits for World War I veterans (presaging the Veterans Administration), promoted the teaching of “American patriotism” in the schools, and opposed immigration.

The Legion also focused on youth; they created the American Legion Baseball program – more than 50% of pro ball players are graduates of the program. The Sons of the American Legion (Boys State) was created in 1932 to promote knowledge of the federal government. And for adult members, the American Legion Riders created in 1993, now has over 100,000 members in over 1,000 chapters.

Although non-partisan, the American Legion opposed U.S. troops in Yugoslavia, and has said they would only support military involvement if “Guidelines be established for the mission, including a clear exit strategy” and “That there be support of the mission by the U.S. Congress and the American people.” They have also maintained a conservative position on gays in the military and separation of church and state.

 

Can I Join?

Membership is limited to any service member who has served at least one day of federal active duty service during an eligibility period determined by the U.S. Government who received an honorable discharge, and any active duty member (including students at the military academies). It doesn’t matter whether or not you served in a combat zone.

 

Did You Know?

  • The American Legion sponsored an independent study on the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans.
  • The Legion reported alleged Communist persons to the Hollywood Blacklist.
  • With its $1 million donation to the construction of the Vietnam Wall, the Legion became the largest contributor.
  • Legion Baseball, formed in 1925, now consists of 5,400 teams in all 50 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
  • The American Legion Sponsors Scouting and annually awards $10,000 to the Eagle Scout of the Year.
  • Legionnaires’ disease was named after a bacterial pneumonia that killed 34 American Legion members at the 1976 convention.

 

* The AEF, led by General John J. Pershing, consisted of the US military forces sent to Europe, who fought the final year of the WWI against the German army.

** Founded in 1861 during the Civil War, the Stars and Stripes is a US newspaper for members of the military all over the world.

*** Ironically this meant that both political parties sought and continue to seek endorsements from the Legion’s membership.

 

 

LINKS:

Do you know the difference(s) between the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars?

Famous members of the American Legion


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WRITTEN BY: MOUTH WATERING MEDIA