What is the Lodge-Philbin Act?

Introduction

The Lodge-Philbin Act was a US federal law, passed on 30 June 1950, which allowed for the recruiting of foreign nationals into a military force fighting under the command of the US Armed Forces.

Refer to Selective Service System.

Background

The Act permitted initially up to 2,500 non-resident aliens (later expanded to allow up to 12,500) to enlist. If they successfully served five years with an honourable discharge they were guaranteed US citizenship.

The Act was pushed through Congress by Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. during the Cold War, looking especially for recruits from the Eastern Bloc to form infiltration units working in that part of the world. More than 200 Eastern Europeans qualified before the Act expired in 1959. No German nationals or citizens of countries of the Marshall Plan or of NATO were eligible.

Members of this force who died during active service or from injuries or illness during active service – and were inducted or sent to US territory at least once – were entitled to posthumous citizenship. Applications could be filed as recently as November 2004 (or within two years of their death).

For comparison, note that during World War II, foreigners who served just three years were entitled to citizenship.

The military was not interested in recruiting on a large scale from overseas. World War II general and future US president Dwight Eisenhower is quoted in a 1951 Time article as saying, “When Rome went out and hired mercenary soldiers, Rome fell.”

Notable Foreigners

  • Alpo K. Marttinen:
    • A Finnish-American Colonel.
    • During WWII he served in the Finnish Army, and following the war he immigrated to the US and served an an officer in the US Army, retiring as a Colonel.
  • Lauri Törni, later known as Larry Thorne: A Finnish born American soldier who fought under three flags:
    • As a Finnish Officer in the Winter War and the Continuation War, ultimately gaining the rank of Captain;
    • As a Waffen-SS Captain (under the alias Larry Lane) of the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS when he fought the Red Army on the Eastern Front in World War II; and
    • As a US Army Major (under the alias “Larry Thorne”) when he served in the US Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War.
  • Henryk “Frenchy” Szarek.
  • Master Sergeant M Jan Janosik.
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