Adjutant's Updates

This Week in The American Legion History

This week in American Legion history:

  • Nov. 9, 1926: Originating five years earlier in Pennsylvania posts, the American Legion School Award program becomes national, honoring outstanding eighth-grade boys evaluated on five points: honor, courage, scholarship, leadership and service. The American Legion Auxiliary offers a similar award for girls on the basis of courage, character, service, companionship and scholarship. In its first year, 1,046 medals are awarded throughout the country. By 1943, the number would soar to 13,302.
  • Nov. 10-12, 1919: Minneapolis is the site of the first American Legion National Convention. Temperatures dip to 11 degrees above zero, with light snow, during the convention parade, and weather is later blamed for Minneapolis losing its bid to become permanent home of The American Legion National Headquarters. Indianapolis is chosen instead, and Washington, D.C., finishes second in the voting. Despite cold temperatures and flurries, approximately 15,000 march in the first national convention parade, and the David Wisted Post of Duluth, Minn., which by this time has amassed a membership of 2,500, is declared The American Legion’s first official band. Among the veteran delegates attending the first national convention are 140 female members of the newly formed organization. Also marching in the first American Legion National Convention Parade is a Boston bull terrier named “Sgt. Stubby,” a celebrity dog that was smuggled overseas to serve alongside his master and best friend, James Robert Conroy of the Connecticut National Guard, on the western front. By the time of its first national convention, membership in The American Legion exceeds 684,000.
  • Nov. 10, 1919: The American Legion Committee on Auxiliaries meets and listens to a report from approximately 12 women of different organizations who express interest in forming an official American Legion Auxiliary. A report from the committee is delivered to the National Convention that “recommends that The American Legion recognizes an Auxiliary Organization, to be governed by the rules and regulations prescribed by the National Executive Committee, to be known as the ‘Women’s Auxiliary of the American Legion,’ to which shall be eligible, all mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters of members of The American Legion, and of all men and women who died honorable deaths in the military and naval service of the United States between the declaration and the formal conclusion of the World War.” In the months that follow, American Legion Auxiliary units spring into existence across the map.
     
  • Nov. 10, 1919: Following the decision to name Indianapolis the permanent home of the national organization, American Legion National Adjutant Lemuel Bolles announces that “as soon as practical” The American Legion Weekly Publishing Corp. will “also have headquarters at Indianapolis.” The magazine office, however, remains based in New York until 1976.
     
  • Nov. 10, 1919: The American Legion’s Committee on Military Policy reports that it favors universal military training but “strongly” opposes compulsory military service during peacetime. The committee calls for a “relatively small regular Army and Navy and a citizen Army and Navy capable of rapid expansion sufficient to meet any national emergency.” The report begins by stating: “We have had a bitter experience in the cost of unpreparedness for national defense and the lack of proper training on the part of officers and men … we realize the necessity of an immediate revision of our military and naval system and a thorough house-cleaning of the inefficient officers and methods of our entire military establishment.”
     
  • Nov. 11, 1918: A defeated Germany signs an armistice in a railroad car outside Compiegne, France, ending the Great War that killed nearly 10 million military men and women from around the world, wounded another 21 million and is estimated to have caused the deaths of an additional 5 million civilians. Some 4 million Americans have served during the war, 72 percent of whom were drafted. At the time of the armistice, fallen U.S. military personnel are buried in approximately 2,400 temporary cemeteries throughout Europe.
     
  • Nov. 11, 1919: Four American Legion members marching in an Armistice Day Parade in Centralia, Wash., are shot to death in the streets. Blamed, arrested and convicted are members of the International Workers of the World (the “wobblies”), regarded as Bolshevik-aligned radicals. When one of the suspects is jailed, a mob breaks in, pulls the suspect out, hauls him away and hangs him from a bridge until dead. Eleven others associated with the wobblies serve sentences for their parts in the shooting. The shooting galvanizes the early American Legion at its first national convention in Minneapolis and hardens its position against the IWW, Bolshevism and other threats to democracy. Verna Grimm, widow of one of the Centralia shooting victims, Warren Grimm, in 1923 would accept the position as chief librarian for The American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, where she would work until her retirement in 1957.
     
  • Nov. 11, 1921: President Warren G. Harding and the Allied generals, flanked by American Legion members, dedicate the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, the culmination of a Legion-supported legislative push by U.S. Rep. Hamilton Fish Jr., a Plattsburgh alum, former captain of “Harlem’s Hellfighters,” the famed all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, and founding member of The American Legion.
     
  • Nov. 11, 1930: Philadelphia celebrates Armistice Day for the first time with a football game between an American Legion all-star team and the Quantico Marines. The Philadelphia Council of The American Legion invites some 12,000 high school students to the game, which the Legion team wins on a long pass play in the final seconds. Some 40,000 spectators take in the game at Franklin Field, and proceeds are divided between the Marines to help fund a school at Quantico and The American Legion for county welfare work.
     
  • Nov. 11, 1993: The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, designed by Texas sculptor Glenna Goodacre, is dedicated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The project, spearheaded by American Legion member Diane Carlson Evans, a Vietnam War U.S. Army combat nurse, culminates more than a decade of lobbying, fundraising and overcoming bureaucratic and governmental obstacles. Carlson Evans, buoyed by an October 1985 American Legion national resolution supporting the memorial, had participated in the 1982 dedication ceremony for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington and came away feeling that the more than 10,000 women who served during the Vietnam War were not adequately represented. In the final hearing after more than 30 to get the project approved, she testifies to the Department of the Interior: “Our wall would be much higher and much wider without the contribution of these brave women.” In 2013, Carlson Evans is selected to serve on The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee and on Feb. 27, 2018, is presented the organization’s prestigious Patriot Award for her military service, dedication and persistence to honor America’s military women.
  • Nov. 11, 2016: American Legion Riders in Freehold Borough, N.J., see a man alongside the road next to his motorcycle, which has a dead battery and won’t restart. They ride up to him and offer to help. The stranded rider is none other than rock and roll hall of famer Bruce Springsteen, who as a high school junior participated in New Jersey’s American Legion Boys State program. “He was just one of the guys, a basic down-to-earth kind of guy,” said Dan Barkalow, a Sons of The American Legion member and Legion Rider attached to Post 54 in Freehold Borough, where Springsteen grew up. Facebook photos about the Veterans Day encounter go viral, reaching millions and getting attention on CNN, Billboard, the Today Show and the Howard Stern Show.
     
  • Nov. 12, 1919: Boy Scouts of America is the only youth program singled out for official recognition in the first American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis. The resolution of support reads: RESOLVED: The American Legion heartily commends the principles and achievements of the Boy Scouts and recommends that each post assist the Scout troops in its community in whatever manner practicable.
     
  • Nov. 13, 1919: Lemuel Bolles, a founder and first national adjutant, packs all The American Legion’s official records into one dry-goods box and carries them to the organization’s first national offices loaned by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce at the Meridian Life Building, 307 N. Pennsylvania Street, in Indianapolis.
     
  • Nov. 14, 1982: The American Legion concludes a four-day “National Salute to Vietnam Veterans,” the highlight of which is the formal dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Nov. 13, attended by thousands. The Vietnam Wall would by 2017 be engraved with the names of more than 58,300 military personnel who died as a result of their war wounds, primarily between 1959 and 1975. It eventually becomes the most attended veterans memorial in the nation, receiving more than 3 million visitors per year.
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