Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Birth of the Legion by George Seay Wheat, Chapter III, (post #4)



Once home again it didn't take a Solomon to tell Colonel Roosevelt that he had a man's size job on his hands in starting the American Legion on its way in the United States. Dispatches more or less accurate had told the service men on this side something about the Legion activities of the A.E.F. in France. As late as mid-April, however, a great many men in this country knew nothing whatever about the American Legion, while the majority of those who did were not at all sure it was to be The Veteran's Organization. What I have said previously about the "spontaneous opinion" of the men in France on the question of a veteran's organization proved to be equally true among service men on this side of the water. Consequently, it wasn't long after the armistice before several veteran's organizations and associations were in the process of formation. As it was a pertinent news topic, the newspapers gave a great deal of prominence in their columns to several of these [Pg 32]organizations. They were of various types and characters. One was for enlisted men only. Another was for officers only. There was an organization for officers who had fought in France, Italy, or Russia and there was one or more organizations which had the breadth of vision to see that men of all ranks and all branches of the military and naval establishments must be eligible.
Such was the situation confronting Colonel Roosevelt when he arrived home to help start the American Legion in its own country. The fact of his arrival and his announced intention to aid in the organization of the Legion was duly heralded in the press of the United States.
There were those who did not like the American Legion. There were those who were willing to let a past political prejudice deter them from aiding in the most important movement in American life to-day. There were those who stated that Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was prominent in organizing the American Legion for his own political advancement. The answer to that misapprehension will develop later and will prove one of the most striking incidents in this story.
Colonel Roosevelt has a peculiarly happy faculty of keeping those who work with him cheerful and optimistic. He gathered around him, to launch the movement in America, a set of cheerful, competent optimists, prominent among whom were Colonel Richard Derby, Colonel Franklin D'Olier, who figured in the Paris Caucus, Major Cornelius W. Wickersham, Assistant Chief of Staff of the Twenty-seventh Division, Captain Henry Fairfield Osborne, Lieutenant Colonel Granville Clark, Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Kincaide, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Fisher Wood and Captain H.B. Beers. One of Colonel Roosevelt's first duties as temporary chairman of the Legion over here was to create the nation wide organization. He needed committeemen in every State to work the State organization up, and to start the machinery for the election of delegates to the St. Louis Caucus, [Pg 34]for it had been decided that the representation in St. Louis must be by duly elected representatives from congressional districts in so far as that was possible. Each such district was awarded double its congressional representation, in addition to the delegates at large. It was no easy task to pick these committeemen. The decision of the Paris gathering that the organization must be non-partisan and non-political had to be adhered to in its fullest sense. There were soldiers and sailors enough in all the States who would have been willing to have started the organization in their respective localities, but how not to get politicians of the lower order, men who would gladly prostitute the Legion, its aims and ambitions to their own selfish advantage—that was the problem which faced the temporary committee in America.
About three weeks before the St. Louis Caucus the following names were chosen from the various States as committeemen:


Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., New York, Chairman
Lt. Col. Bennett Clark, Missouri, Vice-Chairman
Lt. Col. Eric Fisher Wood, Pennsylvania, Secretary.
Lt. H.M. Badham, Jr.,Birmingham
Pvt. W.M. Cosby, Jr.,Birmingham
Sgt. Edwin Robertson,Birmingham
[Pg 35]
Pvt. Ned Bernard,            Tucson
Lt. Col. J.C. Greenway,      Bisbee
Pvt. P.R. Graybill, Democ. Pub. Co.Little Rock
Major J.J. Harrison,Little Rock
Pvt. Walter J. Wilkins,Pine Bluff
Sgt. L.P. Adams,San Francisco
Corp. Chas. A. Beck,San Francisco
Lt. Col. Benjamin H. Dibblee,San Francisco
Chaplain Joseph D. McQuade,San Francisco
Major Stewart Edward White,Santa Barbara
Lt. G.W. Cutting,Florence
Sgt. C.C. Neil,Greeley
Major H.A. Saidy,Colorado Springs
Sgt. Phil. G. Thompson,Denver
Maj. Morgan G. Bulkeley,Hartford
Lt. Col. Jas. L. Howard,Hartford
District of Columbia
Pvt. L. Clarkson Hines,Washington
Col. E. Lester Jones,Washington
Major Thomas W. Miller,Wilmington
Capt. John P. Nields,Wilmington
Brig Gen A.H. Blanding,Bartow
[Pg 36]
Col. Alexander R. Lawton, Jr.,Savannah
Capt. Landon Thomas,Augusta
Major C.M. Booth,Pocatello
Pvt. John Green,Twin Falls
Major Hawley, Jr.,Boisé
Pvt. D.H. Holt,Caldwell
Chf. Petty Officer B.J. Goldberg,Chicago
Maj. Owsley Brown,Springfield
Rear Admiral Frederick B. Bassett,Great Lakes
1st Cl. Pvt. Edw. J. Czuj,Chicago
Maj. Thomas Gowenlock,Chicago
1st Cl. Pvt. Hy. Hickman Harris,Champaign
1st Cl. Pvt. Geo. Kendall Hooton,Danville
Ensign Allen M. Loeb,Chicago
Capt. Clark Nixon,East St. Louis
Maj. John Callan O'Laughlin,Chicago
Capt. Joseph Medill Patterson,Chicago
1st Cl. Pvt. C.J. Schatz,Wheaton
Brig. Gen. Robt. E. Wood,Chicago
Sgt. David S. Wright,Oak Park
Col. Solon J. Carter,Indianapolis
Ensign Win. L. Hutcheson,Indianapolis
Sgt. R.J. Leeds,Richmond
Sgt. Chas. A. Doxsee,Monticello
Major H.H. Polk,Des Moines
Gen. Chas. I. Martin,Topeka
Gen. Wilder S. Metcalf,Lawrence
Sgt. Fred C. Stanford,Independence
Sgt. Mahlon S. Weed,Lawrence
[Pg 37]
Pvt. Samuel J. Culbertson,Louisville
Lt. W.C. Dabney,Louisville
Capt. Shelby Harbison,Lexington
Major James Wheeler,Paducah
Capt. Allen Cook,New Orleans
Lt. John M. Parker, Jr.,New Orleans
Lt. Col. Arthur Ashworth,Bangor
Col. Frank W. Hume,103d Inf.
Capt. A.L. Robinson,Portland
Pvt. Daniel J. Smart,
Sgt. Wm. H. Whalen,103d Inf.
Sgt. Freeman Wheaton,107th Inf.
Lt. James A. Gary, Jr.Baltimore
Sgt. Alexander Randall,Baltimore
Major Redmond Stewart,Baltimore
Brig. Gen. W.S. Thayer,Baltimore
Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cole,Boston
Sgt. Edw. J. Creed,101st Inf.
Sgt. Ernest H. Eastman,104th Inf.
Major J.W. Farley,Boston
Lt. Col. Louis Frothingham,Boston
Sgt. Geo. Gilbody,101st Inf.
Sgt. Daniel J. Nolan,
Lt. Col. Fredk. M. Alger,Detroit
Sgt. Rand F. English,Detroit
1st Sgt. Wm. King,Detroit
Lt. Commander Truman H. Newberry,Detroit
[Pg 38]
Pvt. Gordon Clark,Duluth
Major Paul B. Cook,St. Paul
Pvt. Wm. D. Mitchell,St. Paul
Pvt. W. Bissell Thomas,Minneapolis
Lt. John N. Alexander,Jackson
Sgt. Maj. C.J. Craggs,Greenville
Major Alex. Fitzhugh,Vicksburg
Corp. Isador A. Frank,Clarksdale
Sgt. Elmer Price,McComb
Brig. Gen. H.C. Clarke,Jefferson City
Pvt. David R. Francis, Jr.,St. Louis
Corp. Sestus J. Wade, Jr.,St. Louis
Col. J.J. McGuiness,Helena
Corp. Chas. S. Pew,Helena
Major P.F. Cosgrove,Lincoln
Pvt. T.T. McGuire,Omaha
Sgt. R. Scott,Imperial
Lt. Allan A. Tukey,Omaha
Sgt. E.L. Malsbary,Reno
Lt. Col. Jas. G. Scrugham,Reno
New Hampshire
Sgt. Herve L'Heureaux,Manchester
Major Frank Knox,Manchester
New Jersey
Col. Hobart Brown,Newark
Sgt. Allan Eggers,Summit
1st Lt. Geo. W.C. McCarter,Newark
Corp. Roger Young,Newark
[Pg 39]
Capt. Bronson M. Cutting,Santa Fé
Col. Debjemond,Roswell
Pvt. Canuto Trujillo,Chimayo
New York
Lt. Col. Robert Bacon,New York
Lt. Col. Grenville Clark,New York
Brig. Gen. Chas. I. Debevoise,Brooklyn
Pvt. Meade C. Dobson,New York
Col. Wm. J. Donovan,New York
Lt. Samuel Gompers, Jr.,New York
Seaman Jos. F. Healey,New York
Chaplain Francis A. Kelley,Albany
Lt. Col. J. Leslie Kincaid,Syracuse
Ensign Jerome H. Larger,Brooklyn
Ensign W.G. McAdoo, Jr.,New York
Sgt. Major Howard H. McLellan,Yonkers
Ensign R.H. Mitchell,New York
Major General John F. O'Ryan,New York
Lt. D. Lincoln Reed,New York
Col. Henry L. Stimson,New York
Lt. Col. Chas. W. Whittlesey,New York
Major Cornelius W. Wickersham,New York
Sgt. Clarence E. Williams,New York
North Carolina
Lt. R.W. Glenn,Greensboro
Lt. Cyrus D. Hogue,Wilmington
Capt. Matthew Murphy,Fargo
Sgt. Jas. K. Campbell,Shreve
Lt. Col. Jas. R. Cochran,Columbus
Lt. Col. Ralph D. Cole,Columbus or Findlay
Lt. Col. Isadore H. Duke,Cincinnati
[Pg 40]
Sgt. Eugene Atkins,Muskogee
Brig. Gen. Roy Hoffman,Oklahoma City
Pvt. Harry Critchlow,Portland
Sgt. Carl B. Fenton,Dallas
Lt. Col. Geo. Kelley,Portland
Col. F.W. Leadbetter,Portland
Lt. Col. Geo. A. White,Portland
Major Chas. J. Biddle,Philadelphia
Lt. Joseph F. Frayne,Scranton
Lt. Col. Robt. E. Glendinning,Philadelphia
Lt. Col. John Price Jackson,Harrisburg
Pvt. George Jones,Scranton
Maj. Alexander Laughlin, Jr.,Pittsburg
Col. Asher Miner,Wilkes-Barre
Lt. John R. Sproul,Chester
Lt. Bernard J. Voll,Philadelphia
Rhode Island
Major Geo. E. Buxton, Jr.,Providence
Col. Everitte St. J. Chaffee,Providence
Sgt. W.C. Kendrick,Pawtucket
South Carolina
Sgt. W.C. Coward,Cheraw
Lt. Chas. C. Pinckney,Charleston
C.T. Trenholm,Charleston
Major W.D. Workman,Greenville
South Dakota
Capt. Lawrence R. Bates,Sioux Falls
Capt. Royal C. Johnson,Aberdeen
Sgt. Ruble Lavery,Vermilion
Sgt. Jos. F. Pfeiffer,Rapid City
[Pg 41]
Col. James A. Gleason,Knoxville
Sgt. Major Keith J. Harris,Chattanooga
Sgt. John Hays,Memphis
Col. Luke Lea,Nashville
Major T.C. Thompson, Jr.Chattanooga
Pvt. C.W. Tomlinson,Chattanooga
Capt. Stanley E. Kempner,Galveston
Col. H.D. Lindsley,Dallas
Col. H.B. Moore,Texas City
Sgt. Maj. H.H. McCartney,Salt Lake City
Gen. R.W. Young,Salt Lake City
Pvt. Frank G. Christian,Richmond
Lt. C. Francis Cocke,Roanoke
Col. Stuart McGuire,Richmond
Pvt. Donald J. Emery,Newport
Sgt. Eugene V. Finn,St. Albans
Major H. Nelson Jackson,Burlington
Capt. Redfield Proctor,Burlington
Lt. Col. R.W. Llewellen,Seattle
Major P.P. Marion,Seattle
Brig. Gen. Harvey J. Moss,Seattle
Sgt. John J. Sullivan,N. Seattle
Sgt. Major R.H. Winsor,Tacoma
West Virginia
Capt. Fleming W. Alderson,Charleston
Sgt. Walter S. Moore,Huntington
Sgt. Thomas Schofield,Wheeling
Lt. Col. Jackson A. Weston,Charleston
[Pg 42]
Edward F. Ackley,Milwaukee
Pvt. David Bloodgood,Milwaukee
Sgt. Elmer S. Owens,Milwaukee
Col. Gilbert E. Seaman,Milwaukee
Pvt. John P. Szulcek,Milwaukee
Major A.S. Beach,Lusk
Sgt. Morris A. Dinneen,Cheyenne
Pvt. I.H. Larom,Valley Ranch

United American War Veterans,Warren S. Fischer, Commander-in-Chief
Comrades in Service,Bishop Brent, President,
National Legion of America,Major Elihu Church,
American Army Association,Lt. Haywood Hillyer, General Secretary.

Just about this time it became most necessary to properly present the Legion to those men who had remained at home and who had gotten out of the Service, and to those who were incoming from France and rapidily being demobilized, as it was upon them that the success of the Legion depended. Furthermore, their opinions were the soil upon which the various State organizations had to work, and at that particular time it was vital that the Legion should be widely known and thoroughly understood; that its aims and ambitions should not be misconstrued either willfully [Pg 43]or unintentionally, nor its precepts perverted. To this end the temporary Chairman proceeded to publicize it in the most thorough fashion. One-page bulletins briefly outlining the Legion's aims and ambitions were distributed in every center where soldiers and seamen gathered. Such places as Y.M.C.A. and K. of C. huts and War Camp Community recreation centers were thoroughly informed, and bulletins also were sent to every ship in the navy with the request that they be placed on the ship's bulletin board.
Literature about the Legion was placed on transports when they left empty for France so that the men might read it in their leisure hours returning home. In order to make sure that every soldier and sailor would have the opportunity to know about the Legion this literature was again placed on the transports as they arrived in New York harbor. Various demobilization camps throughout the country were widely placarded and in each instance the names of the Temporary State Secretaries were given, and service men were invited to write to the Secretaries in their particular States. Camp publications, newspapers, and periodicals published for service men throughout the country were bountifully supplied with Legion information and scores of them carried special stories in regard to it. Bulletins and pamphlets [Pg 44]were distributed in hospitals, placed on bulletin boards, and given to the patients. Every mayor of a town or city with a population above nine hundred got a letter containing literature about the Legion with a request that it be given publicity in the local press and then turned over to the Chairman of the Welcome Home Committee. Certain national magazines devoted a great deal of space to special articles explaining the Legion.
Three or four times a week the Foreign Press Bureau of the United States Government sent stories about the Legion and its activities by wireless to the ships on sea and to the men of the A.E.F. in connection with its "Home News Service." In addition to the foregoing, articles appeared almost daily in the press throughout the entire country, and by the time the convention was ready to meet those who ran and cared to read were fully informed that the American Legion was an organization for veterans of the army, navy, and marine corp; that it was non-partisan and non-political; that it stood for law and order, decent living, decent thinking, and true Americanism.

The wide publicity given to the Legion and its aims brought into the Temporary Committee many amusing letters. Scores of them complained of the published statement that it was non-partisan and non-political. "Damn it all, we want it to be [Pg 45]political and partisan," one angry Westerner wrote. Another correspondent insisted that in view of the fact that sons of Theodore Roosevelt, and Speaker Champ Clark were interested, the Legion must be bi-partisan and bi-political. But most of the letters were of a highly commendatory character, expressing the deepest and widest possible interest. I recall that one of them came from Junction City, Kansas, another from Old Town, Maine; one from Delray, Texas, and others from Wolf Creek, Montana, Orlando, Florida, and Ray's Crossing, Indiana, while a postal card making frantic inquiries was dated Nome, Alaska, and arrived a week after the caucus at St. Louis. I have mentioned these towns and localities because they indicate how widespread and deep is the interest in the Legion. No matter where a man came from to go into the army, the Legion will go to him in his home now. Its members will range from fishermen on the Florida Keys to the mail carriers on the Tanana in Alaska, from the mill hands of New England to the cotton planters of the Mississippi delta. All who wore the uniform may enroll just so long as the word Americanism was inscribed in their hearts between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918.

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