The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization. Focusing on service to veterans, service members and communities, the Legion evolved from a group of war-weary veterans of World War I into one of the most influential nonprofit groups in the United States. Membership swiftly grew to over 1 million, and local posts sprang up across the country. Today, membership stands at over 2.4 million in more than 14,000 posts worldwide. The posts are organized into 55 departments: 50 state programs, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico and the Philippines.
Over the years, the Legion has influenced considerable social change in America, achieved hundreds of benefits for veterans and produced many important programs for children and youth. The following is a chronologic timeline of significant dates in our Legion history.
March 15-17, 1919
Members of the American Expeditionary Force convene in Paris for the first American Legion caucus.
Sept. 16, 1919
Congress charters The American Legion.
Nov. 10-12, 1919
First Legion convention convenes in Minneapolis. The Constitution and preamble are adopted. Delegates vote to locate the Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. A resolution is passed in support of Boy Scouts of America. Today, the Legion is the chartering
Aug. 9, 1921
The Legion’s efforts result in the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, forerunner of the Veterans Administration. Today, the Legion continues to lobby for adequate funding to cover medical, disability, education and other benefits for veterans.
June 15, 1923
The first “Flag Code” is drafted during a Legion conference in Washington. Congress adopts the code in 1942. Today, the Legion is at the forefront of efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag from physical desecration.
July 17, 1925
The Legion creates the American Legion Baseball program. Today, more than 50 percent of Major League Baseball players are graduates of the program. About 82,000 youths play on Legion-sponsored teams each year.
June 23, 1935
The first American Legion Boys State convenes in Springfield, Ill., to help youths gain an understanding of the structure and operation of the federal government. The first Boys Nation, bringing together youth leadership from all the Boys State programs, convenes
June 1, 1938
The final round of the Legion’s first annual National High School Oratorical Contest is conducted in Norman, Okla. Today, more than 3,400 high-school students from around the country compete annually in the contest, which promotes a greater understanding of the
Dec. 15, 1943
Past National Commander Harry W. Colmery starts to write in longhand, on Mayflower Hotel stationery in Washington, the first draft of what will later become the “GI Bill of Rights” – considered the Legion’s single greatest legislative achievement.
June 22, 1944
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the original GI Bill, or Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, ushering in monumental changes in U.S. society. Higher education becomes democratized after 8 million veterans go to school on the GI Bill, get better jobs,
May 29, 1946
The Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary present a small, struggling organization called the American Heart Association with a $50,000 grant. The grant inaugurates a nationwide program for the study, prevention and treatment of rheumatic heart disease.
May 4, 1950
The Legion votes to contribute funds to the field of mental health, thereby playing a key role in launching the National Association for Mental Health.
July 9, 1954
The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation is formed. Today, more than $11 million has been awarded to youth organizations and projects designed to help America’s children.
Aug. 24, 1969
The Legion’s National Executive Committee establishes the National Emergency Fund as a result of the effects of Hurricane Camille.
April 1, 1975
The Legion-sponsored Freedom Bell goes aboard the Freedom Train during its tour of the country in celebration of the U.S. Bicentennial. Six years later, the bell is dedicated at its permanent home in Columbus Plaza, opposite Union Station in Washington.
Aug. 26, 1982
The Legion presents a $1 million check to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for construction of the Wall in Washington, becoming the largest single contributor to the project.
July 21, 1983
The Legion announces its sponsorship of an independent study on the effects of exposure to Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans. Congress receives the results of the “American Legion-Columbia University Study of Vietnam-era Veterans” in 1989.
Jan. 1, 1989
The Veterans Administration is elevated to Cabinet-level status as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Legion fought hard for the change, arguing that veterans deserve representation at the highest levels of government.
Oct. 16, 1989
The long-standing objective of the Legion to improve adjudication procedures for veterans claims is achieved when the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals becomes operational. Most of the provisions contained in the law creating the court were originally included in the
Oct. 11, 1990
The Legion creates the Family Support Network to assist families of service members deployed for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Middle East. Through local posts, the network offers a wide range of assistance, including financial assistance, mowing
Sept. 16, 1996
The Legion awards a $20,000 college scholarship to each of the 10 inaugural Samsung American Legion high school scholars.
June 11, 1997
The National Emergency Fund surpasses the $1 million mark in cash grants given to flood victims who belong to the Legion family. Most grant recipients reside in the flood plains of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota.
Sept. 3, 1997
The Legion presents its first National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award at the 79th National Convention in Orlando, Fla.
Sept. 12, 2001
The American Legion reactivates the Family Support Network following terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Oct. 10-11, 2001
The American Legion creates the American Legacy Scholarship Fund for children of military members killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
Sept. 11, 2002
The American Legion takes lead in conducting “A Day To Remember” events to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the nation.
The Legion launches the national “I Am Not A Number” campaign to identify and document the delays veterans face in obtaining medical care from VA.
Oct. 17, 2003
American Legion efforts on Capitol Hill break the deadlock on the Disabled Veterans Tax when Congress creates a 10-year phase-in for service-connected disabled retirees to receive military retired pay and VA disability compensation without subtraction from either. Legion efforts also
Sept. 3, 2004
American Legion lobbying leads to more progress in elimination of the Disabled Veterans Tax with passage of PL 108-375 that eliminates the 10-year phase-in for 100 percent service- connected retirees, allowing them to immediately begin receiving both retired pay and
Sept 19, 2004
The American Legion launches a national program, the Blue Star Salute, where posts across the country hold public events to recognize troops, their families and local businesses on Armed Forces Day.
Oct. 17-18, 2007
The American Legion National Executive Committee passes Resolution 35 and adopts The American Legion Riders as a national program of The American Legion. The first American Legion Riders chapter was established by American Legion Post 396 in Garden City, Mich.,
June 30, 2008
President George W. Bush signs into law the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, a next-generation GI Bill strongly supported by the Legion. The bill renews the federal government’s commitment to veterans by providing them with substantially better education benefits. The
Oct. 22, 2009
President Obama signs the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act of 2009, guaranteeing “advance funding” for VA appropriations, a formula that The American Legion has strongly supported for many years. The new law sets funding for VA one year in
The entire Legion family bands together and wins $250,000 for Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) in PepsiCo’s Refresh Everything Project, submitting the most votes in an online contest and beating out hundreds of other groups and charities to take first place
Continuing a long-standing tradition of advocating for timely and adequate medical care for veterans, the Legion forms a PTS-TBI Ad Hoc Committee to both examine current methods by VA and the Department of Defense of treating the two conditions, and
VA guarantees its 20 millionth home loan. 1936-1937 National Commander Harry Colmery and 1943-1944 National Commander Warren Atherton escorted the original GI Bill of Rights through Congress in 1944, arguing passionately for veterans educational benefits, government-assured health care and what
Aug. 30, 2013
National Commander James E. Koutz announced that the American Legion family raised more than $1.1 million for Operation Comfort Warriors during the 2012-2013 fundraising year. It easily surpassed his original goal of $500,000.