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The American Legion
George Seay Wheat
The Birth of the Legion
The first of a series to be issued after each
Annual National Convention
G. P. Putnam's Sons
THE American Legion was conceived by practically the entire personnel of the army, navy, and marine corps! Every man in the military and naval establishment did not think of it in just such terms, but most of them knew that there would be a veterans' organization of some tremendous import, and here it is!
"A veterans' organization of some kind will be formed.” I heard that identical remark not once, but a dozen times on board a transport en route to France as early as September, 1918. In fact, one night in the war zone a group of officers were huddled around a small piano trying to make the best of a lightless evening, and, having sung every song from Keep the Home Fires Burning to You're in the Army Now, paused, longingly toyed cigarettes which were taboo by ship's order, and then began to spin yarns.
"Reminds me of a G. A. R. reunion," one second lieutenant from Maine remarked, after a particularly daring training camp adventure had been recounted.
“Just think of the lying we'll all do at our reunions when this war is over," chirped a youngster from South Carolina. And then spoke a tall major from Illinois:
“The organization which you young fellows will join won't be any liefest—at least not for forty years. Don't forget there's some saving to do for the United States when this European mess is
Us fellows won't ever get out of Uncle Sam's service."
How well the Illinois major hit the nail on the head! The incident on the transport seems worth recording not only because of the major but because it shows the general anticipation of what is now the American Legion. Perhaps it was this general anticipation which is responsible for the cordial reception that the Legion has had ever since its very inception in Paris.
No one can lay claim to originating the idea of a veterans' association, because it was a consensus among the men of the armed forces of our nation. A certain group of men can take unto themselves the credit for starting it, for getting the ball rolling, aiding its momentum, and, what is more important, for guiding it in the right direction, but no one man or group of men "thought up" the American Legion. It was the result of what might be called the "spontaneous opinion” of the army, navy, and