What types of material are available to the public? What arrangements should I make to visit the American Legion Library?
The American Legion Library was founded in 1923 and tasked with preserving materials related to the programs and ideals supported by the organization. Included in these areas are 20th- and 21st-century wars in which the United States was involved, as well as issues concerning veterans after their return from war. Access to the library’s archives and files must be granted by the director of the library and museum. Before setting up a date for study, researchers must provide information on the specific areas in which they are interested.
The American Legion National Headquarters
c/o Howard C. Trace, Library and Museum Director
700 N. Pennsylvania St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
If granted approval, a date for conducting research will be agreed upon. The Legion requests a copy of any article, thesis, book, etc., that may be written as a result of research conducted.
What information on individual members may be found at National Headquarters on a current or former Legionnaire?
National Headquarters maintains biographical files on those Legionnaires who have attained a certain level of participation, including national commanders, National Executive Committeemen, national officers, department commanders, department officers, department adjutants and Legion staff members. We do not maintain biographical information on members at the local level, such as post commanders, post officers, post members, county officers and district officers.
Our earliest resource for membership verifications is American Legion Magazine subscription records from 1968. These only show name, address, post, department, years of continuous membership and membership number. Due to their confidential nature, these materials are not available to the public.
Can the library help me locate someone I served with during Vietnam?
We offer a letter-forwarding service. The only information contained in our listings is the current names and addresses of Legion members. We do not have access to a member’s former branch of service, rank, service number, telephone number or Social Security number. We will forward a letter from you to matching names from our membership list. If you wish to make use of our letter-forwarding service the link above provides an application form detailing the kind of information needed, and the stamps and envelopes required, for this service. Other than postage, letters and envelopes, five letters may be forwarded free for members with a nominal charge for additional letters. Nonmembers may request this service for a fee.
Information on searching for or submitting a reunion can be found here.
Do your archives contain a list of founding members of The American Legion?
The founders of The American Legion are the men and women who attended one or both of the first two caucuses, in Paris and St. Louis in 1919. There is a list of attendees in the archives, but it is known to be incomplete since many delegates attended but did not register. Therefore, it can only be said with certainty that there is no living Legionnaire who attended either of those meetings.
“Charter member of The American Legion” is another term commonly used. When National Headquarters first granted charters to posts, the men who were the original members of those posts were called charter members. Many would sign the application for charter to establish that a sufficient number of eligible veterans were willing to start a post. Often, these men were known in later years as “charter members of The American Legion.” Today, this term is sometimes taken to mean the national organization rather than the local post.
I have an American Legion School Award medal/medallion. What were these medals given for, and how many were made?
The American Legion School Award originated with posts in Pennsylvania and spread throughout the country. It was given each year to the outstanding boy graduating from the eighth grade of a local public school or the equivalent grade at a private school. The award was based on five points: honor, courage, scholarship, leadership and service. Many Auxiliary units created a similar award for girls on the bases of courage, character, service, companionship and scholarship. This practice became an officially recognized national activity in 1926, when 1,046 medals were distributed and awarded to high school students.
The first medals available from The American Legion National Emblem Sales Catalog appeared in 1927. They were made in two different designs: one for boys, and a similar medal, smaller in size and appropriately designed, for girls. In 1951, a new design was implemented for boys and girls. In 1962, the qualifications for both genders were made the same: honor, courage, scholarship, leadership and service. The following year, patriotism was added.
Today, the medal is awarded to a boy and a girl in graduating classes of elementary, junior and senior high school and college. Award is based on courage, honor, leadership, patriotism, scholarship and service, which if cultivated result in better citizenship. More information is available at http://www.legion.org/youth/90765/school-award-medal-program-youth.
How do I donate an item to the museum?
Because of the generosity of Legion members and other donors, our museum has acquired a significant collection of materials relating the history of The American Legion and America’s wars since World War I. If you are interested in donating to the museum, please contact us with the following information.
All donations become property of The American Legion and must be accompanied by a signed Gift Donation Form. Please note: if we are unable to accept your donation, we will try to suggest other appropriate repositories.
I have an item/object I think is valuable. Will you tell me how much it is worth?
The American Legion National Headquarters does not give appraisals on any items or objects. Maloney's Antiques & Collectibles Resource Directory can help you find experts, appraisers, dealers clubs and museums that specialize in any kind of collectible. Online, www.collectorsuniverse.com has relevant information and links. Krause Publications produces magazines, price guides and other information.
Remember that list prices are usually what a dealer asks for a collectible. When you sell to a dealer, expect to get 40 to 60 percent of that price. Of course, you can bypass the dealer and buy or sell on your own. eBay has auctions for almost any kind of collectible.
Where can I find information on the issuance or replacement of military service medals, decorations, and awards?
Information on the issuance or replacement of military service medals, decorations, and awards can be found at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/replace-medals.html.
I am searching for military service records for myself or a family member, for genealogical research. What records can I find?
The American Legion does not have military service records. For that you need to apply, with as much information as you know, to:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Further information about access to military service records is available at
Can we find information about residents from our town who died during wartime service for construction of a memorial?
There are many partial sources of information.
What is the publication, "The Source Records of the Great War"?
“The Source Records of the Great War” is a set of books compiled by Charles F. Horne in 1923. The Legion sponsored sales of the books until termination of the contract in 1935. When the books were sold, many salesmen asked prospective buyers to impart their war record. The buyer’s record was placed on a certificate and included as part of the purchaser’s individual copy. This record was not included in any other volume. There is no record of people who purchased these volumes on file in Indianapolis.
During the period the Legion was interested in these sales, a special American Legion set was available with buckram binding for $39.50, silk binding for $69.50 and leather binding for $98. The books have been out of print for many years. The exact number of sets sold is unknown. From 1931 to 1935, the Legion was authorized and required to expend the proceeds toward the purpose of rehabilitation of disabled veterans. Accordingly, such sums were applied to the annual budgets of the Legion’s National Rehabilitation Division beginning in 1931.
I have items (cap, awards, letters, etc.) from the 40&8. What is the meaning of "Forty and Eight"?
La Societe Des 40 Hommes et 8 Chevaux is a French title meaning “The Society of the 40 Men and 8 Horses”. The phrase is derived from the rail cars used during World War I to transport troops to the Western front in France. Each car was supposed to have capacity of, predictably, 40 men and eight horses.
The 40&8, as it is more commonly known, was an organization for Legionnaires who had distinguished themselves through service. The 40&8 is no longer affiliated with The American Legion, although the organization does still exist.
The 40&8 national organization can be contacted at:
Forty & Eight National Headquarters
777 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46206
Tel: (317) 634-1804