Today and this weekend in American Legion history:
May 28, 1918: Maj. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., successfully leads a 26th Infantry Regiment company in the first U.S. offensive of World War I, the Battle of Cantigny. He is gassed nearly to blindness and refuses evacuation, but his company’s raid is a breakthrough victory, and he receives the Silver Star. He is promoted to lieutenant colonel.
May 28, 1984: President Ronald Reagan acts as next of kin and accepts the internment flag for a then-unknown soldier of the Vietnam War, whose remains are added to the crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
May 29, 1946: Dr. Leonard Rowntree, chairman of The American Legion’s Medical Advisory Committee, presents a check for $50,000 to a little-known and financially struggling non-profit organization called the American Heart Association. The Legion’s National Rehab Committee had been authorized to spend $25,000 to help the AHA, and the American Legion Auxiliary raises $25,000 to match it. At the time, as heart disease is accounting for one in four U.S. deaths, The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary seize the opportunity to take a national leadership role to “inaugurate a nationwide program in the study, prevention and treatment of rheumatic heart disease.” The funding leads to American Legion-sponsored heart research and provides the AHA a springboard to life-saving work that continues today.
May 30, 1920: Paris Post 1 Commander Col. Francis Drake represents The American Legion to help oversee Memorial Day observances for fallen U.S military personnel buried in temporary cemeteries across Europe.
May 30, 2014: Gen. Eric Shinseki resigns as VA secretary three weeks after The American Legion calls for him to step down. Additional cases of VA appointment falsification around the country are revealed by whistleblowers. President Obama appoints Sloan Gibson interim secretary.
May 30, 1921: Four unknown American soldiers of the Great War are exhumed from their graves in France. Sgt. Edward F. Younger, a highly decorated and combat-wounded veteran, selects the third casket from the left, whose remains are sent to Arlington National Cemetery for entombment. The other three are interred at the Meuse Argonne Cemetery in France, where they remain today. The chosen unknown soldier would lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., until ceremonies at Arlington on Nov. 11, 1921.
May 30, 1969: Cabin John Bridge, which opened in 1962 to connect Fairfax County, Va., with Montgomery County, Md., across the Potomac River, is renamed American Legion Memorial Bridge during the organization’s 50th anniversary commemoration. Today, nearly 250,000 travelers a day cross the bridge, which has five lanes in both directions, as part of Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway.
May 30, 2011: The 10 World War II sailors of the USS American Legion who died off the coast of New Zealand in June 1943 are honored in a ceremony at Kapiti, near Paekākāriki Beach. A memorial monument to honor them is installed the following year, on the 70th anniversary of the tragedy.