June 19, 1951: President Truman signs into law the nation’s first-ever Universal Military Training and Service Act, introduced earlier in the year as S. 1, The American Legion’s long-desired solution to a lack of wartime preparedness. A massive grassroots lobbying effort and support campaign, as with the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, comes from the Hearst newspapers and helps push the measure through both houses of Congress at the same time U.S. troops are fighting on the Korean peninsula. For more than 30 years, The American Legion had fought for UMT – which was not to be confused with UMS, or compulsory Universal Military Service. The bill may have been passed into law, but implementation would require further legislation that would prevent it from full and immediate adoption. Civilian or military authority questions, the shelf life of the program (the Legion sought for it to be permanent) and its compatibility with the Selective Service mired implementation legislation and on March 4, 1952, the House sends the long-awaited UMT enactment legislation into the vortex of more study.
June 20, 1917: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and his brother Archie sail for France after successfully arguing, with a letter of support from their father, for the opportunity to serve in the first wave of the American Expeditionary Forces under Gen. John Pershing. Roosevelt, Jr., enters the war as a major and soon distinguishes himself in battle, fighting through enemy fire and gas, and leading from the front. He receives high praise as a battalion commander and ultimately commands the 26th Regiment of the 1st Division through multiple battles.
June 20, 1943: Ten crew members of the USS American Legion lose their lives near New Zealand’s Paekakariki Beach after their landing craft – which had been separated from the ship during a fierce storm – capsizes. Fifteen survive, and the deadly incident prompts orders requiring all Navy personnel on landing crafts to wear life vests.
June 21, 1989: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 in Texas v. Johnson that deliberate acts of U.S. flag desecration are protected under the First Amendment, a decision that triggers outrage from The American Legion and leads to a campaign for a constitutional amendment to return to states the power to protect the flag.