What is the American Legion?

Introduction

The American Legion, commonly known as the Legion, is a non-profit organisation of US war veterans headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Refer to A Brief History of the American Legion.

Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, home of the National Headquarters, American Legion.

It is made up of state, US territory, and overseas departments, and these are in turn made up of local posts. The organisation was formed on 15 March 1919, in Paris, France, by a thousand officers and men of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.), and it was chartered on 16 September 1919, by the United States Congress. The Legion played the leading role in the drafting and passing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the “G.I. Bill”. In addition to organising commemorative events, members provide assistance at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics. It is active in issue-oriented US politics. Its primary political activity is lobbying on behalf of interests of veterans and service members, including support for benefits such as pensions and the Veterans Health Administration. It has also historically promoted Americanism, individual obligation to the community, state, and nation; peace and good will.

Brief History

Refer to History of the American Legion.

The American Legion was established on 15 March 1919, in Paris, France, by delegates to a caucus meeting from units of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.), which adopted a tentative constitution. The action of the Paris Caucus was confirmed and endorsed by a similar meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri, from 08 to 10 May 1919, when the Legion was formally recognised by the troops who served in the United States. The Paris Caucus appointed an Executive Committee of seventeen officers and men to represent the troops in France in the conduct of the Legion. The St. Louis caucus appointed a similar Committee of Seventeen. These two national executive committees amalgamated and were the initial governing body of the Legion. The temporary headquarters was located in New York.

List of Founding Members

  • The men who initiated the formation of the Legion:
  • Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., of the First Division.
  • Colonel Henry D. Lindsley, formerly Mayor of Dallas, Texas.
  • Sergeant John J. Sullivan, of Seattle.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Franklin D’Olier, of Philadelphia.
  • Ex-Senator Luke Lea, of Tennessee.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Huidekoper, of Washington, D.C.
  • Major Redmond C. Stewart, of Baltimore.
  • Wagoner Dale Shaw, of Iowa.
  • Lieutenant Colonel George A. White, of Oregon.
  • “Bill” Donovan, of the “Fighting 69th”.
  • Major Thomas R. Gowenlock, of Illinois.
  • Lieutenant Earl B. Dickerson, of the 92nd Division.
  • Sergeant Alvin York, of Tennessee.
  • Colonel John Price Jackson, of the S.O.S.
  • Lieutenant Colonel “Jack” Greenway, of Arizona.
  • Sergeant Roy C. Haines, of Maine.
  • G. Edward Buxton, Jr., of Rhode Island.
  • Eric Fisher Wood, of Pennsylvania.
  • Chaplain John W. Inzer, of Alabama.
  • Lieutenant Colonel David M. Goodrich, of Akron.
  • Chief Petty Officer B.J. Goldberg, of Chicago.
  • “Tom” Miller, of Delaware.
  • Major Alex. Laughlin, Jr., of Pittsburgh.
  • Major Henry Leonard, of the Marine Corps.
  • Dwight F. Davis, of the 35th Division.
  • Corporal Charles S. Pew, of Montana.
  • Brigadier General William G. Price, of the 28th Division.
  • Bishop Charles H. Brent, Senior Chaplain of the A.E.F.
  • Major General John F. O’Ryan, of the 27th Division.
  • Stewart Edward White, of California.
  • Private Jesus M. Baca, of New Mexico.
  • Brigadier General Charles H. Cole, of the 26th Division.
  • Sergeant E.L. Malsbary, of Nevada.
  • Lieutenant Samuel Gompers, Jr., of New York.
  • Colonel Henry L. Stimson, Ex-Secretary of War.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Whittlesey, Commander of the “Lost Battalion”.
  • Roy Hoffman, of Oklahoma.
  • Lieutenant Colonel A. Piatt Andrew, of the American Ambulance in France.
  • Brigadier General Harvey J. Moss, of the State of Washington.
  • John MacVicar, Mayor of Des Moines before the War.
  • Sergeant George H.H. Pratt, of New Orleans.
  • Colonel F.C. Galbraith, of Cincinnati.
  • Corporal Joseph H. Fountain, of Vermont.
  • Devereux Milburn, of the 78th Division.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur Smith, of the 89th Division.
  • Sergeant Theodore Myers, of Pennsylvania.
  • Colonel Bennett C. Clark, son of Champ Clark.
  • Robert Bacon, Ex-Secretary of State.

Headquarters

The national headquarters, informally known as American Legion headquarters, is located on the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza at 700 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. It is the headquarters for the National Commander of The American Legion and also houses the archives, library, Membership, Internal Affairs, Public Relations, and The American Legion magazine’s editorial offices. The headquarters has expanded multiple times since its establishment.

Emblem

The World War I Victory Button on a narrow circular band of blue enamel, containing the words “American Legion” in gold letters, forms the central element of the American Legion Emblem. It was adopted by the American Legion National Executive Committee on 09 July 1919.

Eligibility

Membership in the Legion was originally restricted to US soldiers, sailors, and Marines who served honourably between 06 April 1917, and 11 November 1918. Eligibility has since been expanded to include military personnel who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, or armed forces associated with the US, between 07 December 1941, through a date of cessation of hostilities as determined by the government of the US, and was an American citizen when they entered that service or continues to serve honourably. US Merchant marines who served between 07 December 1941 and 31 December 1946, are also eligible.

Publication

The official publication, originally known as The American Legion Weekly, launched on 04 July 1919. In 1926, the Legion Weekly switched frequency of publication and was renamed The American Legion Monthly. In 1936 the publication’s name and volume numbering system changed again, this time to The American Legion.

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