Military Order of Foreign Wars

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Military Order of Foreign Wars Insignia

The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States (MOFW) is one of the oldest veterans' and hereditary associations in the nation with a membership that includes officers and their hereditary descendants from all of the Armed Services.[1] Membership is composed of active duty, reserve and retired officers of the United States Armed Services, including the Coast Guard, National Guard, and allied officers, and their descendants, who have served during one of the wars in which the United States has or is engaged with a foreign power.[2]


The Order was founded on December 13, 1894, in the office of Frank M. Avery in the Tribune Building in New York City. The first signer of the Order's "Institution" (founding document) was Major General Fitz John Porter who was a veteran of both the Mexican War and the Civil War. Eighteen others signed the Institution of which five were Mexican War veterans, nine were descendants of American Revolutionary War officers and four who were descendants of officers who served in the War of 1812.

The resultant Order was initially known as the Military and Naval Order of the United States and was organized and later incorporated under that name. Its hereditary line of descent spans the period of American history since national independence during the Revolutionary War. Initially membership in the Order was limited to officer veterans (and their hereditary descendants) of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. (In addition, there is a requirement that ancestors who were militia officers must have had active service during wartime.)

Although there were many individuals who served as officers in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars who were living at the time of the Order's founding, that service did not qualify them for membership as those wars were considered to be domestic rather than foreign wars.

In April 1895, the name of the Order was officially changed to its present name – The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States (MOFW). By the end of 1896, commanderies had been formed in seven states.

The MOFW was patterned after the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) which was a military society for officers, and their descendants, who had served the Union during the American Civil War. As MOLLUS had restricted its membership to officers who had served in one particular war, the need was felt to have an organization for the descendants of officers who had served in the American Revolution, War of 1812 and the Mexican War – as well as the few surviving Mexican War veterans who were officers.

The influence of the Order spread rapidly and soon commanderies (state level organizations) were formed in other states. It was deemed advisable to form a National Commandery to centralize and coordinate the activities of the various state commanderies, and which would have general supervision and control over the policies and activities of the Order. The National Commandery was founded at a joint meeting of the individual state commanderies in March 1896 and General Alexander S. Webb was elected as the first Commander General.

The motto of the Military Order of Foreign Wars is the Latin phrase Deus et Libertas meaning God and Liberty.

The War and Navy Departments, and later the Department of Defense, under various resolutions of Congress, gave recognition to the Order and permitted the wearing of its insignia on uniforms.

Membership qualifications[edit]

For the first two years of the MOFW's existence, membership categories were limited to Veteran and Hereditary companions who were either veteran officers or descendant of veteran officers who had served during the American Revolution, War of 1812, War with Tripoli or the Mexican War. Service during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars did not qualify as those were considered domestic rather than foreign conflicts.

In 1896 the membership category of Honorary Companion was created for presidents of the United States and officers who had attained the rank of major general or rear admiral. President William McKinley, President Grover Cleveland and Lieutenant General John M. Schofield were among the earliest honorary companions. The qualifications for Honorary Companions were later changed to require that officers be equal to or higher than lieutenant general or vice admiral.

The Spanish–American War of 1898 provided the Order with a great number of new Veteran Companions – particularly the Pennsylvania Commandery which, according to the MOFW Register published in 1900, accounted for over half of the Order's membership. Among the individuals who joined the MOFW between 1898 and 1900 were Admiral George Dewey, future president Theodore Roosevelt and future General of the Armies John J. Pershing. Most senior officers who served in the Spanish–American War were also veterans of the Civil War, and many belonged to both the MOFW and MOLLUS.

In 1928, a fourth membership status (junior companion) was created for sons of companions who had not reached the majority age of 21. In 1969, companionship was extended to those who served in an enlisted status during a foreign war and were later commissioned.

In time, the Order's membership qualifications were expanded to include service during conflicts with foreign powers which include, but are not limited to, the War with Spain, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan. Combat or "in theater" service is not required for membership.

The membership of the Order and the number of state commanderies over the 100 years of the Order's existence has fluctuated, typically increasing after the end of a war and declining during times of peace. The Order's stringent and high eligibility requirements make it difficult for the Order to recruit members in large numbers. However, this selectivity has enabled the Order to sustain itself for over 100 years because it continues to fill its ranks with individuals of the highest caliber, patriotism, loyalty, and character.

Past Commanders-General[edit]

  • Brevet Major General Alexander S. Webb (1896–1911)
  • Major General Charles F. Roe (1911–14)
  • Rear Admiral William B. Caperton (1914–17)
  • Brigadier General Samuel W. Fountain (1917–20)
  • Rear Admiral Robert E. Coontz (1920–23)
  • Major General Clarence R. Edwards (1923–26)
  • Captain William S. Bainbridge, MC, USN (1926–32)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Pelham St.G. Bissell (1932–38)
  • Colonel Philip L. Schuyler (1938–41)
  • Colonel William I. Forbes (1941–45)
  • Major General John F. O'Ryan (1945–46)
  • Colonel James A. Doherty (1946–49)
  • Colonel Edwin S. Bettelheirn, Jr. (1949–51)
  • Brigadier General Joseph H. Lewis (1951–53)
  • Major General John Williams Morgan (1953–55)
  • Commander Ross H. Currier (1955–57)
  • Captain Richard F. Warren, USN (1957–59)
  • Lieutenant Benjamin L. Cook, Jr., (1959–61)
  • Colonel Frederick B. Wiener (1961–63)
  • Commander James A. Lamphier, USNR (1963–65)
  • Brigadier General William C. Baxter (1965–67)
  • Rear Admiral Robert Granville Burke (1967–69)
  • Colonel Wilbur J. Myers (1969–71)
  • Rear Admiral Theodore C. Aylward (1971–73)
  • Colonel R. Graham Bosworth (1973–75)
  • Brigadier General Joseph S. Zarieko (1975–77)
  • Colonel Richard H. Love (1977–79)
  • Colonel John Denny Dale (1979–81)
  • Brigadier General William Uriah Ogletree (1981–83)
  • Brigadier General Arthur N. Phillips (1983–85)
  • Lieutenant Commander T. Johnson Ward, USN (1985–87)
  • Major General James C. McElroy (1987–89)
  • Commander Thomas F. Wiener, USN (1989–91)
  • Colonel Charles H. Bechtold, USMC (1991–93)
  • First Lieutenant Charles F. Dale (1993–95)
  • Colonel Versel Case, Jr. (1995–97)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Ronald R. Sommer (1997–99)

Recent Commanders-General[edit]

  • Colonel Joseph P. Kirlin III, USAR (1999–2001)
  • Captain Ronald E. Fischer, AUS (2001–03)
  • Major General John J. Salesses, USMCR (2003–05)
  • Colonel Duane Bartrem, MIARNG (2005–07)
  • Colonel Arthur J. Nattans, MDARNG (2007–09)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Lewis L. Neilson, Jr., USAR (2009–11)
  • Major Wulf Lindenau, USA (2011–13)
  • Colonel David H. Russell, RIARNG (2013–15)
  • Captain Richard A. Coutermarsh, USAR (2 May 2015 until resigned on 1 September 2015)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Orfeo "Chuck" Trombetta, Jr., USAR (1 September 2015 to 3 April 2018)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Kent A. D. Clark, USA (3 April 2018 to 4 May 2019)
  • Colonel Christopher V. Herndon, USA (4 May 2019 to 29 May 2021)
  • Lieutenant Commander Christopher Saint Victor-de Pinho (29 May 2021 – present)

Notable companions[edit]

Note – The rank listed is the highest held by that individual in their career.[3]

Veteran Companions[edit]

United States Army
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
United States Air Force

Hereditary Companions[edit]

Honorary Companions[edit]

Presidents of the United States and the MOFW[edit]

Five Presidents of the United States were elected companions (members) of the MOFW. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower joined the MOFW as Veteran Companions. Presidents Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley joined the MOFW as honorary companions. (Presidents Harrison and Cleveland could also have joined the MOFW as hereditary companions.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hereditary Society Precedence List".
  2. ^ "Home".
  3. ^ Register of the Military Order of the Foreign Wars of the United States. National Commandery MOFW. 1900.

External links[edit]