President Harry Truman

1949, President Harry Truman

At The American Legion's 1949 convention, Truman was called "just one of the guys" as he received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal. A 30-year Legionnaire and founding member of his post in Independence, Mo., he was the first president from the Legion's ranks. But Defense Secretary Louis Johnson, a past national commander, spoke of a much more common Harry: "In his simplicity, his humility, his charm, his devotion to his friends and his warm understanding of his fellow Americans, our friend and fellow veteran, Harry Truman, never seems to change ...

Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson

1947, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson

As Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan called Fred M. Vinson to the podium to receive a the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal, he praised him for serving his country during World War I, and as being one of the Legion's own. Upon returning home, Vinson helped organize W.O. Johnson Post 89 in Louisa, Ky., and became its first post commander.

Lt. Gen. William S. Knudsen

1947, Lt. Gen. William S. Knudsen

For his achievements in war production, the Danish-born Knudsen - who immigrated to the United States at 20 and built a career in industrial America that included the presidency of General Motors - received the 1947 Distinguished Service Medal, though illness kept him from the convention.

Sen. Edward Martin

1947, Sen. Edward Martin

Reflecting on Martin's 44-year military career, National Commander Harry Colmery praised the Keystone State senator as he presented him with the Distinguished Service Medal: "Today, The American Legion reaches into the state of Pennsylvania, and places in her gallery of the great, a distinguished son of that state, who, in arts and learning, military prowess, public service and administration, and statesmanship reflects the character of our American heritage."

Bob Hope

1946, Bob Hope

Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Hope in 1946, Past National Commander John R. Quinn called the entertainer "the personal jester of every man and woman in uniform ... Wherever they were - in foxhole, Quonset hut, jungle or warship - he administered the toxin of cheer and laughter. ... He has flown one-half million miles to perform in the din of the front lines as well as in the hush of hospitals."

Cordell Hull

1946, Cordell Hull

A longtime public servant who served nearly 12 years as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of state, Hull was too ill to attend the 1946 Legion national convention to receive the Distinguished Service Medal. Accepting the award on his behalf was Assistant Secretary of State John Hilldring, who said The American Legion always had Hull's "earnest support and affection."

J. Edgar Hoover

1946, J. Edgar Hoover

Awarding the Distinguished Service Medal to the FBI director in 1946,Past National Commander Frank Belgrano Jr. said that thanks to Hoover's work, "not one single act of enemy saboteurs or espionage agents was successful. On the first day of World War I, 62 dangerous enemy agents were arrested. Within the first 24 hours of World War II, 1,700 key figures of the enemy's fifth column were taken into custody, and this figure rose to more than 16,000 before the war was over."

Maj. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey

1946, Maj. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey

As director of the Selective Service System, Hershey was responsible for the veteran status of many of the Legionnaires he addressed at the 1946 convention. Presenting him with the Distinguished Service Medal, incoming National Commander Paul Griffith recognized Hershey for growing the military during World War II.

William Randolph Hearst

1946, William Randolph Hearst

A strong proponent of The American Legion, Hearst received one of five Distinguished Service Medals in 1946. The National Executive Committee unanimously resolved that Hearst "has been a constant champion of the rights of veterans for the past 26 years, and has demonstrated an intense patriotism in his unselfish support of the program and principles of The American Legion."

Ernie Pyle

1945, Ernie Pyle

Shaped by the simplicity of his childhood days in Indiana, wartime journalist Ernie Pyle had a knack for telling the stories of the common person as he traveled across the nation. He did the same from the battlefields of World War II, until his death on Ie Shima in April 1945.