The History of 100 years of the American Legion

100 Year


          The History of 100 years  of the American Legion

      The American Legion came to life in Paris, France, March 15 to 17, 1919. War-weary members of the American Expeditionary Forces who had fought to victory in World War One and remained in Europe, restlessly awaiting passage home, gathered for what became known as the Paris Caucus.

     In the months that followed the armistice of November 11, 1918, they had time to think about life after the war and what they might do…

           In support of their wounded comrades.

          In honor of the fallen.

          To help surviving spouses and orphans.

          To protect the democracy they pledged their lives to defend.

          And to chart a new course for future generations of Americans.

          These troops envisioned a different kind of veterans association. It would be like none before it, or   any that would follow.

          The American Legion would be built on strengthening the nation – not serving themselves – through four primary pillars of volunteer work on behalf of:

          And Americanism.

          Of course, the organization made a high priority of compassionate care and treatment for disabled veterans returning to civilian life. Such care and treatment were desperately lacking in the United States at the time.

          But The American Legion would reach into many other layers of society, some of which puzzled the public.

          Why, for instance, does a veterans group operate a nationwide youth baseball program?
          A speech contest?
          A mock government for high school students?
          Why the emphasis on naturalization and citizenship for legal immigrants?

          And is it really a veteran’s job to build city parks, install swimming pools, carve out hiking trails, form community bands, manage ambulance systems, rescue flood victims and lead Boy Scout units?

          The American Legion would spend the next century firmly establishing that such purposes strengthen the nation.

          Since the very beginning – front and center – has been compassionate and comprehensive treatment for those who served in uniform and came home changed by military experience.

          The effects of wartime service were especially profound for The American Legion’s first generation.

          They had been attacked and wounded by weapons previously unseen in history.

          They had been poisoned and blinded by chemical gas.

          Nearly half of their fatalities had come from illnesses caused by unsanitary conditions, lack of medicine and rancid food on the battle fields and at sea.

          They suffered psychological effects ignored at the time by medicine, the military and government.

          These effects – known then as “shell shock” – would sweep decorated combat veterans into asylums, jails and onto the streets … where relief was not forthcoming.

          The founding Legionnaires faced uncertain futures in a U.S. economy that had stormed forward while they were fighting in the muddy trenches of Europe to protect others, both foreign and domestic.

          And then, coming home greatly altered by their experiences, many of these early Legionnaires knew they would face racism, sexism, elitism, deficient health care, scant transition programs and public misunderstanding – even ridicule and scorn.

          The American Legion was determined to change the culture and public perception, no matter what it took, about veterans and the honorable nature of military service.

          These veterans would spend the next century – as each war era begat a new generation of Legionnaires – devoted to community-building, the welfare of children, patriotism, education, peace and goodwill.


                 Follow this amazing story in a future post on this website.

                                Muskego American Legion Post 356

                               P.O. Box 92, Muskego, WI  53150