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Distinguished Service Medal Recipients

1923, Adm. Robert E. Coontz

The American Legion awarded the Distinguished Service Medal to U.S. Navy Adm. Robert Coontz and and visiting Polish Gen. Josef Haller in 1923.

After growing up in Hannibal, Mo., where Mark Twain was a family friend, Coontz attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, followed by duty on numerous ships.

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1923, Gen. Josef Haller

A key figure in World War I, Haller commanded the Second Brigade of the Polish Legion in 1916, fighting against Russia on the Eastern Front. Two years later, Haller broke through the Austro-Russian front line to Ukraine, where his troops united with Polish detachments. His troops engaged in fierce battle and were interned, but he escaped to Moscow.

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1922, Gen. John J. Pershing

The American Legion awarded its second Distinguished Service Medal to Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.

A staunch backer of the Legion's founding just three years earlier, he told delegates at the 1922 national convention, "I never wear any other decoration than the Distinguished Service Medal, and I would rather have it than all the decorations that could possibly be bestowed by all the kings and potentates of the earth."

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1921, Adm. Sir David Beatty

Beatty, who became commander in chief of Britain's Grand Fleet late in World War I, was quick to stress the importance of Allied strength, even in times of peace.

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1921, Gen. Armando Diaz

Commander in chief of the Italian army, Diaz was among the many World War I leaders to travel to Kansas City for the groundbreaking of the Liberty Memorial in 1921. He also visited the tomb of President Theodore Roosevelt to express his appreciation for the United States' contributions in the Great War. As reported by The New York Times, Diaz commented, "At the tomb of Roosevelt it is not fitting to make a speech, but only to express the deepest regard.

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1921, Lt. Gen. Baron Jacques

Conveying his gratitude to the Allied forces was foremost in the mind of Jacques, commander in chief of the Belgian army, during his 1921 visit to the United States. While stateside, he attended The American Legion's convention in Kansas City and visited Arlington National Cemetery to place his own Belgian Croix de Guerre (War Cross) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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1921, M. Charles Bertrand

Like his peers who received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1921, Bertrand paid tribute to the Allies' achievement. As secretary of France's largest veteran organization and president of the developing Inter-Allied Veterans Association, he wanted to maintain that unity during peacetime.

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1921, Marshal Ferdinand Foch

In March 1918, after the Germans had displayed their strength in a series of successful offensives, Foch became supreme commander of the Allied armies. Charged with keeping them intact and holding back the Germans, he drew on a lifetime's experience as a soldier. In 1871, he joined the French army at 20, attended a war college and eventually became an instructor there. Forced out of retirement, he became a key French figure in World War I. In August 1918, Foch was named marshal of France.

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