Adjutant's Updates

This week in American Legion history

July 19, 1918: Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., is shot through the right leg with a machine gun during battle near Soissons, France.  He is evacuated in the sidecar of a motorcycle before catching an automobile ride to a Paris apartment where his wife, Eleanor, a YMCA wartime volunteer, is staying. Roosevelt Jr. tells his wife he wants no medical care. He asks for a bath, a hot meal and a quart of champagne. Against his wishes and at his wife’s insistence, a surgeon arrives and, certain the wound will infect and force amputation, he transports Roosevelt Jr. to a hospital and cuts an 8-inch incision behind his knee to clean it. Roosevelt Jr., would limp for the rest of his life, having lost all feeling in his heel.
According to “The American Legion Story,” (1919) by George S. Wheat, Roosevelt Jr. met a Sgt. William Patterson, who was also recovering from a leg wound at Base Hospital No. 2 in France. According to this account, Roosevelt Jr. explained that Sgt. Patterson said he wanted nothing more than to return to the front and fight with his unit. Patterson told Roosevelt Jr., that his longer-term plan was to “go home and start a veterans’ association for the good of the country” after the war. Soon after he was released from the hospital, according to Wheat’s history, Sgt. Patterson is killed in action.

July 21, 1930: The Veterans Administration is established after persistent pressure from The American Legion for one scrupulous, mission-driven federal agency to address the health-care, disability and pension benefits of veterans.

July 21, 1983: The American Legion announces its official collaboration with Columbia University epidemiologists Drs. Jeanne and Stephen Stellman on an independent study that ultimately disproves government conclusions claiming that exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange is not responsible for adverse health conditions among Vietnam War veterans.

July 23, 1962: Pitching phenomenon Bob Feller of Iowa – known as the “heater from Van Meter” – is the first alumnus of American Legion Baseball inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. A teen prodigy, he was a farm boy who could throw a curve ball at the age of 8 and was playing American Legion Baseball at 10. At 17, he would skip the minor leagues altogether, and sign with the Cleveland Indians in the majors. He took four years away from baseball after enlisting in the U.S. Navy during World War II – the first professional athlete to do so – and quickly returned to form after his tour of duty. He would ultimately pitch 3,827 innings over 18 seasons and hold the record for most strikeouts in a game, 18, at the time of his retirement. He threw three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. Some of the game’s greatest hitters described him at the best pitcher in baseball history. Later in life, Feller was a frequent speaker at American Legion Baseball World Series events and in 2009, at the age of 91, he threw out the first pitch in the annual championship tournament in Fargo, N.D.

July 24, 1963: Future U.S. President Bill Clinton, then a 16-year-old student at Hot Springs, Ark., High School, famously meets and shakes hands with President John F. Kennedy at the White House during American Legion Boys Nation. Clinton had been chosen as a delegate to Boys Nation after participation in Arkansas American Legion Boys State. The experience that summer, and the opportunity of meeting JFK, helped inspire Clinton to begin a life of public service and elected office.

July 25, 1967: Alan Keyes of San Antonio, Texas, the son of a Vietnam War veteran, follows his April 1967 American Legion National Oratorical Contest championship with election as president of American Legion Boys Nation three months later. At 16, he is the youngest national oratorical champion to date, and is the first youth to claim top honors in both Americanism programs. He goes on to earn two degrees from Harvard University, serves as a U.S. diplomat, author, broadcaster and three-time U.S. presidential candidate. In 1999, he receives The American Legion National Commander’s Public Relations Award.