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The Story of The American Legion Part 13

"Now, as Mr. Sullivan has suggested, let it not be said that when these boys that raised their right hand and took the oath of allegiance to the American flag return, that these contemptible skunks that demanded exemption under the law shall occupy the positions, which these truly loyal men should have. Let's give those positions to the returning American soldiers and the returning alien soldiers that fought for the American flag and helped us win the great victory." The applause given Sullivan was repeated.

Then the "Silver Lining," Chaplain Inzer, strode upon the stage. This time he was a very stern Silver Lining, and what he had to say he said with a vigor which characterized his speeches all during the convention.

"I want to offer an amendment," he said. "Mr. Sullivan's resolution does not cover the whole ground. As Naturalization Officer of the 14th Infantry, I happen to be observing enough to know that there are other men that ought to be included in this list. Often we called certain foreigners together who had been drafted and said, 'Now, men, we are going to go overseas in a short while. How long have you been in this country?'

"One said, 'fourteen years.'

"'How long have you been here?' to another.

"'I have been here so and so,' he answered.

"'All right, now,' we said, 'this has been your country. If we hadn't gone to war, you would have expected to be here.'

"'But we want to go home now.'

"'If you go home will you fight for your country?'

"'We don't know.'

"And they absolutely refused to take out citizenship papers. How do we know them? As Naturalization Officer I marked on every one of those papers. 'This man, though he has been here for four years or ten years refused naturalization in the hope that he might avoid overseas service.' Now, then, I move that we include in that motion that the files be gone through and every man who refused citizenship, who was a native of any other country, but adopted this country and refused to take out the citizenship papers we offered him, after he had been brought into the army by the draft, also be deported."

Before the applause began Colonel Luke Lea had the floor. He is tall and imposing and a powerful speaker.

"I want to see this made a complete and thorough job, and to that end I desire to offer a further amendment," he said. "We further demand the immediate deportation of every alien enemy who, during the war, was interned, whether such alien enemy be now interned or has been paroled. I merely want to say this: That any alien enemy who is too dangerous to be at large and bear the burdens of war, is too dangerous to be at large and participate in the blessings of peace."

This brought down the house. It was what everybody thought and wanted.

It was what everybody had hoped for since the very first day during the war that the Department of Justice had made its first internments.

There have been all sorts of stories telling about these interned aliens getting rooms with baths, tennis courts, swimming pools, and playgrounds, and everyone had consistently hoped that they would all be sent back to Germany or Austria at the earliest possible moment after the war. The same hope was expressed in regard to certain Scandinavians and Hollanders here who were active in behalf of Germany. One thing is certain and that is that none of the delegates present were opposed to this enemy alien deportation, or if they were they didn't or couldn't make themselves heard above the thunderous approbation.

Chaplain Inzer at this juncture jumped to his feet and heightened the applause by shouting, "There are four million men back of this organization. If I were a Bolshevik, I'd pack my grip and beat it."

The culmination of this particular phase of the caucus was most dramatic. A wounded soldier on crutches, and bearing two wound stripes on his arm, was helped to the stage beside the chairman. "I am Private Sossin of Kentucky," he shouted. "I was born and reared in Poland, and came to this country and began to enjoy all the freedom of the American Constitution when I was thirty-seven years old. I left my business and my family to fight for this country. And if any of my native countrymen are so despicable as not to want to fight for the grandest flag the world has ever seen, the flag which gives freedom to all who are oppressed, I say, damn him and kick him out of here so that we can show that we despise such slackers."

THE CHAIRMAN: "All those in favor of the motion as finally amended will vote 'Aye."' That "Aye" shook the theater.

The caucus then passed a resolution that every naturalized citizen convicted under the Espionage Act should have his citizenship revoked and should be deported.

Another telling blow for Americanism!

The caucus next went on record with a resolution calling for the protection of the uniform. Those firms and individuals who had used the uniform as a method of peddling their wares were scored in the resolution and it was the sense of the motion that everything possible should be done to prevent panhandlers and peddlers on the streets wearing the uniform of the United States.

The caucus also indorsed Secretary Lane's plan for the "Reclamation of arid, swamp, and cut-over timber lands." The resolution to that effect follows in full:

"WHEREAS, the reclamation of arid, swamp, and cut-over timber lands is one of the great constructive problems of immediate interest to the nation; and

"WHEREAS, one of the questions for immediate consideration is that of presenting to discharged soldiers and sailors an opportunity to establish homes and create for themselves a place in the field of constructive effort; and

"WHEREAS, one of the purposes for which the formation of the American Legion is contemplated is to take an energetic interest in all constructive measures designed to promote the happiness and contentment of the people, and to actively encourage all proper movements of a general nature to assist the men of the army and navy in solving the problems of wholesome existence; and

"WHEREAS, the Department of the Interior and the Reclamation Service have been engaged in formulating and presenting to the country broad, constructive plans for the reclamation of arid, swamp, and cut-over timber lands:

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: By the caucus of delegates of the American Legion in convention assembled, in the City of Saint Louis, Missouri, that we endorse the efforts heretofore made for the reclamation of lands, and we respectfully urge upon the Congress of the United States the adoption at an early date of broad and comprehensive legislation for economic reclamation of all lands susceptible of reclamation and production."

CHAPTER X

THE REeMPLOYMENT PROBLEM

We are now coming to the consideration of a subject that was nearer to the heart of every delegate than any other. That is the reemployment of one-time service men. This matter is of the most intimate and direct concern to the Legion and its leaders and because of its importance I believe the details of the discussion are sufficiently interesting to permit me to quote them verbatim from the minutes.

THE CHAIRMAN: "The secretary will read the next resolution."

SECRETARY WOOD: "Reemployment of ex-service men."

"WHEREAS, one of the most important questions of readjustment and reconstruction is the question of employment of the returning and returned soldiers, and

"WHEREAS, no principle is more sound than that growing out of the general patriotic attitude toward the returning soldier, vouchsafing to him return to his former employment or to a better job, therefore, be it

"RESOLVED: That the American Legion in its first national caucus assembled, declares to the people of the United States that no act can be more unpatriotic in these most serious days of readjustment and reconstruction than the violation of this principle announced which pledges immediate reemployment to the returned soldiers, and be it further

"RESOLVED: That the American Legion in its national caucus assembled does hereby declare itself as supporting in every proper way the efforts of the ex-service men to secure reemployment, and recommends that simple patriotism requires that ex-soldiers or ex-sailors and ex-marines be given preference whenever additional men are to be employed in any private or public enterprise, and be it further

"RESOLVED: That the American Legion recommends to Congress the prompt enactment of a program for internal improvement, having in view the necessity therefor and as an incident the absorption of the surplus labor of the country, giving preference to discharged ex-service men."

MR. WALSH (Pittsburgh): "I move, Mr. Chairman, that we adopt the resolution."

The motion was seconded by Colonel Jones, of Washington, D.C.

MR. LEVEREE: "Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Convention, I desire to present to you a substitute for this resolution. As one who has been endeavoring to give a post-war service to these men who are coming back here and need to be replaced in the industries of this country, as a volunteer dollar-a-year man in the United States Employment Service and one who has accomplished results in the work to the extent that the bulletin of the National Chamber of Commerce has commented on the work, I desire to call your attention to the fact that the resolution as presented is not concrete. It says nothing. It talks in generalities, and I want to present to you a concrete proposition based on the experience of the Bureau in New Orleans."

"WHEREAS, it is desirable both for the welfare of the soldiers, sailors, and marines, now rapidly being discharged from the service of the United States of America, and for the industrial readjustment of the country that the process of returning these men to productive occupations in civil life be speeded up as much as possible;

"AND WHEREAS, by reason of the failure of the Congress of the United States to appropriate funds for the purpose the said process has been retarded and left to private initiative; now, therefore, be it

"RESOLVED: That the American Legion in caucus assembled calls upon the Congress of the United States to promptly appropriate funds to be administered for the benefit of existing coordinated Bureaus for the Employment of Returning Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, to the end that there may be no interruption in the service now being rendered and that it may be broadened and speeded up, be it further

"RESOLVED: That each local post or organization of the American Legion is urged during the period of demobilization to constitute itself a committee of the whole, which shall cooperate with the local Employment Bureau and shall establish and maintain a liaison between such Bureau and every employer in the community through members of the local post or organization who are already employed in such establishment to the end that it may be made easy for the employer to avail himself of the service of the Bureau by communicating with someone in his own establishment, and that every soldier, sailor, and marine already replaced in industry may have an opportunity to assist his comrades to become likewise."

"Gentlemen, this is the crux of that whole business--getting somebody close to the employer where you can bring about that liaison which is suggested in this substitute motion."

The motion to adopt the substitute resolution was made by Mr. Leveree and seconded by Mr. Luss.

MR. DESMOND (of Pennsylvania): "What has been said, in my estimation, is not comprehensive enough. In the city of Philadelphia which is known as the Cradle of Liberty, when the men who had given up positions in the educational system--I mean teachers--returned from the service of their country they were not, as promised, given the exact positions which they left. Neither were they given positions of parallel importance. They were actually demoted in grade so that these motions do not cover such circumstances. In many cases, in municipalities, men have returned from the service and have been forced to take positions not of a parallel grade but positions of a lower grade.

"Men, Americanism depends on America's school systems, and if the ones who are directing our school systems are so unpatriotic as to demote those who go forth to serve their country, what is going to become of America and Americanism? And I wish to make an amendment to the effect that municipalities and boards of education in those municipalities be forced to give men their parallel positions if not positions of better grade and that in no instance will they be allowed to demote a man because he has gone forth to serve his country. I put that forward as an amendment, that the municipal governments and boards of education in our municipalities be forced to give men positions of equal grade if they cannot give better grade."

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