Knox died of a heart attack at 70, just a few months before his widow, Annie, accepted on his behalf the Legion's first posthumous Distinguished Service Medal. Had he lived one more year, the Navy secretary would have seen the nation claim victory in World War II.
John L. Sullivan, assistant secretary of the Treasury and a past department commander of the New Hampshire Legion, said of his close friend: "He served his country in three wars ... He died as he had lived, giving the last measure of his very being to the service of his country."
From his days as a flight student of the Wright Brothers to commanding general of the Army Air Forces, Arnold had enjoyed a lengthy career by the time of The American Legion's 1944 convention. One of three recipients of the Distinguished Service Medal that year, Arnold was honored for his "outstanding contributions to the cause of national defense and the development of American air power," and expansion of the Army Air Forces from 21,000 in 1938 to a war strength of 2.4 million in 1944.
As the second Distinguished Service Medal honoree at The American Legion's national convention in 1943, King - commander of the U.S. Fleet and chief of naval operations - said, "It is my conviction that the action of the Legion, in conferring this signal award, will serve to confirm to all officers and men of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard - and to our country and our allies, even to our enemies - that our fellow citizens, veterans of another great war, believe in us and our will to win."
Receiving the Distinguished Service Medal at The American Legion's national convention in 1942, Marshall, the Army's chief of staff, said of his job, "My consideration is for the American soldier, to see that he has every available means with which to make successful war: that he is not limited in ammunition, that he is not limited in equipment, and that he has sufficient training and medical care ... to see that for the first time, for once in history, he is given a fair break in the terrible business of making war."
When he received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in1942, Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur had already served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army, retired from active service, served as adviser to the Philippines, and returned to active duty as supreme Allied commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.
In Australia during the Legion's convention, MacArthur was represented in Kansas City, Mo., by Maj. Gen. James A. Ulio, the Army's adjutant general.
A native of Canada, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a two-time president of the Naval War College, Sims received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1930. The Legion's National Executive Committee called him "a man whose leadership, whose courage and whose efficient service was most vital to our military success in the World War."
Judge, Major League Baseball commissioner and friend of The American Legion, Kenesaw Mountain Landisreceived the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1929. Presenting the award, National Commander Paul V. McNutt told Landis, "Since the inception of the Legion, in its legislative program, in its endowment-fund campaign to aid our disabled comrades and orphans of the war and in its Americanism programs, you have responded instantly to every call the Legion has made upon you."
Great Britain's role in World War I received special recognition from The American Legion in 1928. At their annual convention in San Antonio, Legionnaires honored Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, whose military fame included his leadership of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the conquest of Palestine and Syria in 1917 and 1918. Accustomed to a leader who commanded from afar, Allenby's troops appreciated his frequent presence on the front line. In 1919, he was made a field marshal and earned the distinction of viscount.
Eight years after the Legion's founding in Paris, its members assembled again in France, and they conferred the Distinguished Service Medal upon Dejean with the distinction "that he be authorized to wear this insignia for life." Convention planners had the help of Dejean, chief of the American section of France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in overcoming the language barrier.