This Day in Legion History (for the next two weeks):
- Dec. 1, 1929: American Legion posts nationwide begin sponsoring soup kitchens to feed the hungry during the Depression. Post 81 in New Jersey serves more than 14,000 meals in less than 15 months. Posts in Memphis, Tenn., provide food, fuel and clothing to more than 12,000 needy residents. Hundreds more posts provide necessities for needy members of their communities in the years to come.
- Dec. 4-10, 1921: The American Legion and the National Education Association collaborate to address widespread illiteracy, advance the teaching of citizenship and conduct the first American Education Week to improve public schools.
- Dec. 7, 1941: Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, brings the United States into World War II. Soon, more than 150,000 members of The American Legion (World War I veterans and career officers) return to wartime service. In addition, nearly 400,000 Legionnaires serve as air-raid wardens, 300,000 as volunteer police officers and 50,000 as volunteer firefighters to fill wartime needs in their communities.
On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the British issued orders to its naval river patrol boats to surrender. The Japanese Imperial Army moved into the international community in Shanghai to secure the area and the foreign nationals who might organize an underground resistance including Past China Post 1 Commander Frank Delacy Mortimer.
Many of those captured were American Legion Post 1 members, prominent citizens within the expat community. Individuals who because of their connections in the financial, political, and information spheres, had the potential to cause trouble for the Japanese. Arrested were business leaders, retired US Navy, Army and Marine personnel, and people who had been working in intelligence community. Considered POWs with the rank of sergeant by the Japanese, 382 internees found themselves in the former barracks of the US Marine Fourth Regiment, Second battalion, at 372 Haiphong Road.
One year earlier in 1940, with uncommon foresight and anticipation of the inevitable Japanese occupation of Shanghai, and in an effort to protect the China Post’s records, then Adjutant Frank Mortimer had the records bound into volumes and hid them in a camouflaged area in the attic of his company warehouse. Unfortunately, during this period, the Japanese quartered troops in his former warehouse. Had they discovered the Post records, Frank would have certainly been executed.
During their internment, Post members led by Frank D. Mortimer and Otis Fritz kept the post alive with the distribution of Red Cross supplies and secreting mail in and out of the facility. His efforts resulted in Frank being elected as the Camp representative three consecutive years. Following the end of hostilities with the assistance of General Claire Lee Chennault, Frank D Mortimer and Otis Fitz reconstituted the post and resumed normal Post operations including clothing and feeding expats and orphaned children in the Shanghai area. General Chennault became the Executive Director, Otis Fitz was elected Commander and Frank Mortimer resumed his duties as China Post 1 Adjutant.
The contributions and sacrifices of these giants in American Legion China Post 1 History cannot be overstated.
- Dec. 9, 1919: Founding American Legion member Eric Fisher Wood is listed as the inventor and receives the official U.S. patent for an “emblem-button” design that remains in use today as The American Legion emblem. Prior to receipt of the patent, Wood wrote a letter, witnessed by two others and notarized, transferring all rights to the emblem to The American Legion.
- Dec. 12, 1995: Following a June vote of 312-120 in the House – 22 votes more than necessary for a supermajority – the Senate fails by just three votes of hitting the two-thirds mark necessary to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag from intentional physical desecration. The measure is introduced in every subsequent Congress from that point forward, spurred by The American Legion and the Citizens Flag Alliance.