Capsule history of The American Legion
A group of 20 officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France during World War I is credited with founding the Legion. AEF Headquarters asked the officers to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale. One officer, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt Jr., proposed an organization of veterans. In February 1919, the group formed a temporary committee and selected several hundred officers who had the confidence and respect of the whole army.
About 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended the Paris Caucus in March 1919. They adopted a temporary Constitution and the name The American Legion. The group also elected an executive committee to complete the organization’s work. It considered each soldier of the AEF a member of the Legion. The executive committee named a subcommittee to organize veterans at home in the United States.
In May 1919, the Legion held a second organizing caucus in St. Louis. It completed the constitution and made plans for a permanent organization, setting up a temporary headquarters in New York City and beginning its relief, employment and Americanism programs.
Congress granted the Legion a national charter in September 1919. The first national convention convened in Minneapolis on November 10-12, 1919, adopting a permanent constitution and electing officers to head the organization. Delegates also voted to locate the Legion's national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Legion continues to support the four pillars of service and advocacy upon which it was founded: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth.
- Consider making a copy of your entry in the event it should become a national contest winner. With your permission, it will be retained in the library archives of The American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis for visitors to view.
- In the event that your post records are missing and there is no history, the post historian may search the local newspaper files and interview past commanders, adjutants and older members. Many important post events can be found using these methods. Also, the Digital Archive provides full-text access to newsletters, press releases, and other publications published by the national organization.
- Information about the post charter can be obtained by writing to the Charter Clerk, The American Legion, and P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206.
- Many departments have organized department historian associations, patterned after the National Association of Department Historians of The American Legion (NADHAL). These groups render assistance in carrying out a successful historian’s program. Ask if your department has such an organization and join in its activities. If there is no such department organization, consult your department historian.
- The serious post historian will find informative and interesting any one of the following published histories about The American Legion: Michael J. Bennett's "When Dreams Come True: The G l Bill and the Making of Modern America" (Brassey's, 1996); Thomas A. Rumer's "The American Legion: An Official History" (M. Evans, 1990); Raymond Maley's "The American Legion Story," (Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1966); Richard Jones' "A History of The American Legion" (Bobbs-Merrill, 1946); and Marquis James' "A History of The American Legion" (William Green, 1923).
- Where possible, use digital voice recorders or video cameras to record oral histories and interviews of American Legion Post founders and leaders to capture firsthand information about the post's history.