|Established||March 15, 1919|
|Founded at||Paris, France|
|Type||501(c)(19), war veterans' organization|
|Headquarters||700 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, Indiana|
|Paul E. Dillard (TX)|
Since September 2, 2021
National Executive Committee
|61 voting members|
|Secessions||Forty and Eight|
The American Legion, commonly known as the Legion, is a nonprofit organization of U.S. war veterans headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is made up of state, U.S. territory, and overseas departments, and these are in turn made up of local posts. The organization was formed on March 15, 1919, in Paris, France, by a thousand officers and men of the American Expeditionary Forces (A. E. F.), and it was chartered on September 16, 1919, by the United States Congress. The Legion played the leading role in the drafting and passing of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the "G.I. Bill". In addition to organizing commemorative events, members provide assistance at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics. It is active in issue-oriented U.S. politics. Its primary political activity is lobbying on behalf of interests of veterans and service members, including support for benefits such as pensions and the Veterans Health Administration. It has also historically promoted Americanism, individual obligation to the community, state, and nation; peace and good will.
The American Legion was established on March 15, 1919, in Paris, France, by delegates to a caucus meeting from units of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.), which adopted a tentative constitution. The action of the Paris Caucus was confirmed and endorsed by a similar meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri, from May 8 to 10, 1919, when the Legion was formally recognized by the troops who served in the United States. The Paris Caucus appointed an Executive Committee of seventeen officers and men to represent the troops in France in the conduct of the Legion. The St. Louis caucus appointed a similar Committee of Seventeen. These two national executive committees amalgamated and were the initial governing body of the Legion. The temporary headquarters was located in New York.
List of founding members
The men who initiated the formation of the Legion:
- Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., of the First Division
- Col. Henry D. Lindsley, formerly Mayor of Dallas, Texas
- Sgt. John J. Sullivan, of Seattle
- Lt. Col. Franklin D'Olier, of Philadelphia
- Ex-Senator Luke Lea, of Tennessee
- Lt. Col. Frederick Huidekoper, of Washington, D.C.
- Major Redmond C. Stewart, of Baltimore
- Wagoner Dale Shaw, of Iowa
- Lt. Col. George A. White, of Oregon
- "Bill" Donovan, of the "Fighting 69th"
- Major Thomas R. Gowenlock, of Illinois
- Lt. Earl B. Dickerson, of the 92nd Division
- Sgt. Alvin York, of Tennessee
- Col. John Price Jackson, of the S. O. S.
- Lt. Col. "Jack" Greenway, of Arizona
- Sgt. Roy C. Haines, of Maine
- G. Edward Buxton, Jr., of Rhode Island
- Eric Fisher Wood, of Pennsylvania
- Chaplain John W. Inzer, of Alabama
- Lt. Col. David M. Goodrich, of Akron
- Chief Petty Officer B. J. Goldberg, of Chicago
- "Tom" Miller, of Delaware
- Major Alex. Laughlin, Jr., of Pittsburgh
- Major Henry Leonard, of the Marine Corps
- Dwight F. Davis, of the 35th Division
- Corporal Charles S. Pew, of Montana
- Brig. Gen. William G. Price, of the 28th Division
- Bishop Charles H. Brent, Senior Chaplain of the A. E. F.
- Maj. Gen. John F. O'Ryan, of the 27th Division
- Stewart Edward White, of California
- Private Jesus M. Baca, of New Mexico
- Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cole, of the 26th Division
- Sgt. E. L. Malsbary, of Nevada
- Lt. Samuel Gompers, Jr., of New York
- Col. Henry L. Stimson, Ex-Secretary of War
- Lt. Col. Charles W. Whittlesey, Commander of the "Lost Battalion"
- Roy Hoffman, of Oklahoma
- Lt. Col. A. Piatt Andrew, of the American Ambulance in France
- Brig. Gen. Harvey J. Moss, of the State of Washington
- John MacVicar, Mayor of Des Moines before the War
- Sgt. George H. H. Pratt, of New Orleans
- Col. F. C. Galbraith, of Cincinnati
- Corporal Joseph H. Fountain, of Vermont
- Devereux Milburn, of the 78th Division
- Lt. Col. Wilbur Smith, of the 89th Division
- Sgt. Theodore Myers, of Pennsylvania
- Col. Bennett C. Clark, son of Champ Clark
- Robert Bacon, Ex-Secretary of State
The national headquarters, informally known as American Legion headquarters, is located on the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza at 700 North Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. It is the headquarters for the National Commander of The American Legion and also houses the archives, library, Membership, Internal Affairs, Public Relations, and The American Legion magazine's editorial offices. The headquarters has expanded multiple times since its establishment.
The World War I Victory Button on a narrow circular band of blue enamel, containing the words “American Legion” in gold letters, forms the central element of the American Legion Emblem. It was adopted by the American Legion National Executive Committee on July 9, 1919.
Membership in the Legion was originally restricted to U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines who served honorably between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918. Eligibility has since been expanded to include military personnel who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, or armed forces associated with the U.S., between December 7, 1941, through a date of cessation of hostilities as determined by the government of the U.S., and was an American citizen when they entered that service or continues to serve honorably. U.S. Merchant marines who served between December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946, are also eligible.
The official publication, originally known as The American Legion Weekly, launched on July 4, 1919. In 1926, the Legion Weekly switched frequency of publication and was renamed The American Legion Monthly. In 1936 the publication's name and volume numbering system changed again, this time to The American Legion.
Notable members of The American Legion have included:
Harry Truman, 33rd President of the United States
Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States
John Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
Lyndon Johnson, 36th President of the United States
Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States
Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States
George Bush, 41st President of the United States
George Bush, 43rd President of the United States
Louis Johnson, 2nd United States Secretary of Defense
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Medal of Honor recipient
General George Patton, Jr., two-time Distinguished Service Cross recipient
Admiral Mark Ferguson III, 37th Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient
Sergeant Alvin York, Medal of Honor recipient
Humphrey Bogart, Academy Award winner
Clark Gable, Academy Award winner
List of National Commanders
- Franklin D'Olier, Pennsylvania, 1919–1920
- Frederic W. Galbraith, Jr., Ohio, 1920–1921
- John G. Emery, Michigan, 1921
- Hanford MacNider, Iowa, 1921–1922
- Alvin M. Owsley, Texas, 1922–1923
- John R. Quinn, California, 1923–1924
- James A. Drain, Washington, 1924–1925
- John R. McQuigg, Ohio, 1925–1926
- Howard P. Savage, Illinois, 1926–1927
- Edward E. Spafford, New York, 1927–1928
- Paul V. McNutt, Indiana, 1928–1929
- O. L. Bodenhamer, Arkansas, 1929–1930
- Ralph T. O'Neil, Kansas, 1930–1931
- Henry L. Stevens, Jr., North Carolina, 1931–1932
- Louis A. Johnson, West Virginia, 1932–1933
- Edward A. Hayes, Illinois, 1933–1934
- Frank N. Belgrano, California, 1934–1935
- Ray Murphy, Iowa, 1935–1936
- Harry W. Colmery, Kansas, 1936–1937
- Daniel J. Doherty, Massachusetts, 1937–1938
- Stephen F. Chadwick, Washington, 1938–1939
- Raymond J. Kelly, Michigan, 1939–1940
- Milo J. Warner, Ohio, 1940–1941
- Lynn U. Stambaugh, North Dakota, 1941–1942
- Roane Waring, Tennessee, 1942–1943
- Warren H. Atherton, California, 1943–1944
- Edward N. Scheiberling, New York, 1944–1945
- John Stelle, Illinois, 1945–1946
- Paul H. Griffith, Pennsylvania, 1946–1947
- James F. O'Neill, New Hampshire, 1947–1948
- S. Perry Brown, Texas, 1948–1949
- George N. Craig, Indiana, 1949–1950
- Erle Cocke, Jr., Georgia, 1950–1951
- Donald R. Wilson, West Virginia, 1951–1952
- Lewis K. Gough, California, 1952–1953
- Arthur J. Connell, Connecticut, 1953–1954
- Seaborn P. Collins, New Mexico, 1954–1955
- J. Addington Wagner, Michigan, 1955–1956
- Dan Daniel, Virginia, 1956–1957
- John S. Gleason, Jr., Illinois, 1957–1958
- Preston J. Moore, Oklahoma, 1958–1959
- Martin B. McKneally, New York, 1959–1960
- William R. Burke, California, 1960–1961
- Charles L. Bacon, Missouri, 1961–1962
- James E. Powers, Georgia, 1962–1963
- Daniel F. Foley, Minnesota, 1963–1964
- Donald E. Johnson, Iowa, 1964–1965
- L. Eldon James, Virginia, 1965–1966
- John E. Davis, North Dakota, 1966–1967
- William E. Galbraith, Nebraska, 1967–1968
- William C. Doyle, New Jersey, 1968–1969
- J. Milton Patrick, Oklahoma, 1969–1970
- Alfred P. Chamie, California, 1970–1971
- John H. Geiger, Illinois, 1971–1972
- Joe L. Matthews, Texas, 1972–1973
- Robert E. L. Eaton, Maryland, 1972–1973
- James M. Wagonseller, Ohio, 1974–1975
- Harry G. Wiles, Kansas, 1975–1976
- William J. Rogers, Maine, 1976–1977
- Robert C. Smith, Louisiana, 1977–1978
- John M. Carey, Michigan, 1978–1979
- Frank I. Hamilton, Indiana, 1979–1980
- Michael J. Kogutek, New York, 1980–1981
- Jack W. Flynt, Texas, 1981–1982
- Al Keller, Jr., Illinois, 1982–1983
- Keith A. Kreul, Wisconsin, 1983–1984
- Clarence M. Bacon, Maryland, 1984–1985
- Dale L. Renaud, Iowa, 1985–1986
- James P. Dean, Mississippi, 1986–1987
- John P. Comer, Massachusetts, 1987–1988
- H. F. Gierke III, North Dakota, 1988–1989
- Miles S. Epling, West Virginia, 1989–1990
- Robert S. Turner, Georgia, 1990–1991
- Dominic D. DiFrancesco, Pennsylvania, 1991–1992
- Roger A. Munson, Ohio, 1992–1993
- Bruce Thiesen, California, 1993–1994
- William M. Detweiler, Louisiana, 1994–1995
- Daniel A. Ludwig, Minnesota, 1995–1996
- Joseph J. Frank, Missouri, 1996–1997
- Anthony G. Jordan, Maine, 1997–1998
- Harold L. Miller, Virginia, 1998–1999
- Alan G. Lance, Sr., Idaho, 1999–2000
- Ray G. Smith, North Carolina, 2000–2001
- Richard J. Santos, Maryland, 2001–2002
- Ronald F. Conley, Pennsylvania, 2002–2003
- John A. Brieden III, Texas, 2003–2004
- Thomas P. Cadmus, Michigan, 2004–2005
- Thomas L. Bock, Colorado, 2005–2006
- Paul A. Morin, Massachusetts, 2006–2007
- Martin F. Conatser, Illinois, 2007–2008
- David K. Rehbein, Iowa, 2008–2009
- Clarence E. Hill, Florida, 2009–2010
- Jimmie L. Foster, Alaska, 2010–2011
- Fang A. Wong, New York, 2011–2012
- James E. Koutz, Indiana, 2012–2013
- Daniel Dellinger, Virginia, 2013–2014
- Michael D. Helm, Nebraska, 2014–2015
- Dale Barnett, Georgia, 2015–2016
- Charles E. Schmidt, Oregon, 2016–2017
- Denise H. Rohan, Wisconsin, 2017–2018
- Brett P. Reistad, Virginia, 2018–2019
- James W. Oxford, North Carolina, 2019–2021
- Paul E. Dillard, Texas, 2021-2022
List of Honorary Commanders
List of past National Commanders by vote of National Conventions
- Henry D. Lindsley, Texas, 1919
- Milton J. Foreman, Illinois, 1921
- Bennett Champ Clark, Missouri, 1926
- Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., New York, 1949
- Eric Fisher Wood, Pennsylvania, 1955
- Thomas W. Miller, Nevada, 1968
- Maurice Stember, New York, 1975
- Hamilton Fish III, New York, 1979
- E. Roy Stone, Jr., South Carolina, 1987
- Robert W. Spanogle, Michigan, 2008
- Freedom Bell, American Legion
- List of members of the American Legion
- List of veterans' organizations
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- Wheat 1919, pp. 206–207
- Wheat 1919, pp. 207–208
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