The first building to house National Headquarters was called the War Memorial Building. Built by the state of Indiana government in 1925 and then presented to the Legion, a groundbreaking and dedication was held on Nov. 4, 1921. Among the many luminaries who spoke was Marshal Ferdinand Foch, commander in chief of the Allied armies during World War I, who brought with him a piece of the Marne River bridge at Château-Thierry. It was a gift from the people of France for the Legion to use as the cornerstone of the new building.
Foch, who had been pulled out of military retirement to oversee the French fighting force, never lost his respect for the American soldiers he had fought beside, and was intimately bound up with the Legion during its early years. His remarks at the dedication were typical:
“I am very much pleased at having this great honor of having to speak at the dedication of The American Legion ceremony. It is an honor for me to commemorate the souls of those who were at Château-Thierry, and those who are here now and were at Château-Thierry. It is a great credit to the American soldier for what he did there. Citizens of America, I greet thee.”
Earlier that year, Foch had appeared at the Legion’s third national convention in Kansas City, Mo., where he received the Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal as one of its first five recipients. He concluded his acceptance speech by declaring, “As for me, the great honor of my life will be to have guided along the road of victory the American Army of 1918, which was a real Grand Army, beginning with its Commander.” In 1926, the Legion passed a resolution naming Foch an “Honorary Commander of The American Legion.” He died in 1929.
The cornerstone is currently on loan to the Indiana War Memorial Museum, part of the same War Memorial Plaza that houses both the former and current incarnations of National Headquarters.