The Story of The American Legion Part 2

Colonel Gibbs, S.O.S.

Sgt. McElow, Paris Command Major Horace Rumsey, 35th Division Sgt. C.E. Sommers, Paris Command Major D.D. Drain, 3d Army Sgt. G.F. Fleming, Paris Command Lt. Markoe, 2d Army Major Dwight, S.O.S.

Sgt. Barnard, Paris Command

The names of these committees are given because they are more than just names. They show the first bubbles of the melting pot into which all rank and titles in the American Army have been cast and out of which comes the one word "Comrade."

There were three outstanding features of the Paris caucus which were evident by midnight of March 15th. The first was the desire to get together and form an organization quickly and a willingness to forego personal prejudice and opinion to arrive at that end. The second was the determination to make the man who didn't get across as much a component part of the legion as his more fortunate brother-in-arms; while the third was the avowed intention to take no action at the caucus which could be deferred until the winter convention in America, when the home brother and the navy could be jointly represented and a permanent organization could be effected. I say that these things were evident by midnight of March 15th for those who have attended many conventions know that from the casual word heard here and there, the whispered conference of a few leaders, and from the general tenor of discussions carried on by delegates gathered together in little groups, the spirit of the body politic is most perceptible.

After the adjournment of the afternoon session on that day, members of the committees closeted themselves and started work on their special functions, while those who were to pass on the committee's actions, the "hoi polloi" were here and there in groups, in the "Y"

huts or in boulevard cafes discussing the real meaning of the gathering. A colonel in the Officers' Club said there must be no disagreement on this or that question; a private in the Bal Tabarin told his buddies the same thing.

And so it came to pass that on the following day in the Cirque de Paris, where the final meetings were held, the delegates formally gathered, sensed the gossip of the clubs and boulevards, and acted accordingly. One of the things done was to endorse the action of the temporary committee in appointing itself and in calling the caucus.

Another was to adopt a tentative constitution. It is in reality little more than a preamble, but it gave a working basis, expressing enough and yet not too much.

Newspaper men have told me that the Sermon on the Mount is the finest bit of reporting in the history of writing because it tells a long story succinctly. Lieutenant Colonel Buxton and his committee on constitutions are certainly entitled to credit of the same type--for they tell a great deal in a few lines.

[Illustration: Henry D. Lindsley Temporary Chairman, who presided at St. Louis]

[Illustration: The Paris Caucus This gathering had no time for official photographers. A half hour before a session began one slipped in and took this picture with more than half the caucus delegates absent]

Here's the tentative constitution under which the Legion worked--it was read by Lieutenant Colonel Bolles:

"We, the members of the Military and Naval Service of the United States of America in the great war, desiring to perpetuate the principles of Justice, Freedom, and Democracy for which we have fought, to inculcate the duty and obligation of the citizen to the State; to preserve the history and incidents of our participation in the war; and to cement the ties of comradeship formed in service, do propose to found and establish an association for the furtherance of the foregoing purposes:

"Those eligible to membership shall be: All officers and enlisted personnel in the Military and Naval Services of the United States of America at any time during the period from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918, inclusive; excepting however, persons leaving the service without an honorable discharge or persons who having been called into the service refused, failed, or attempted to evade the full performance of such service.

"The society shall consist of a national organization with subsidiary branches; one for each State, territory, and foreign possession of the United States as well as one in each foreign country where members of the national society may be resident and who desire to associate themselves together.

"The officers of the society shall be a President, one or more Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, a Treasurer and a Board of Directors, which shall consist of the President, the Vice-Presidents, together with the chief executive of each subsidiary branch.

"The subsidiary branches shall organize and govern themselves in such manner as the membership of such subsidiary organizations shall determine upon except that the requirements and purposes of the permanent national constitution as adopted shall be complied with.

"The representation shall be on the basis of the actual enrollment in the subsidiary branches at all conventions after the adoption of a permanent constitution.

"Members present at the meeting of this committee as follows:

"Lt. Col. G. Edward Buxton, Jr., Chairman "Lt. Col. T.W. Miller, Secretary "Major Redmond C. Stewart "Col. E.A. Gibbs "Lt. Col. W.H. Curtiss "Major J. Hall "Col. C.L. Ristine."

There were many, many men in the A.E.F. respected and beloved, but none perhaps more than he who seconded a motion made by a private from S.O.S. base section, No. 4, that the constitution be adopted. The seconder asked to speak on the question. When he began he got the rapt attention which Bishop Brent, Senior Chaplain of the A.E.F., always won whether he talked to buck privates knee deep in trench water or the King in Buckingham Palace.

"It was a great soldier who said that the army has not merely a body but a soul and a conscience as well," he began. "I believe the conscience of the army is speaking in this committee's report. I believe the army's soul is speaking in it. I was present on Saturday, at the beginning of this caucus and I will tell you frankly that I was fearful at that moment lest you should create a great mechanism without adequate purposes. My fears have been wholly allayed and I see in the report of your committee the ideals not only of the army but of the nation adequately expressed and I wish to tell you gentlemen that so far as I have any ability to promote this great movement I give you my most hearty support. I believe that the army of to-day, when it goes back to citizen thinking and citizen acting, will be capable of contributing to the commonwealth of the United States so as to change the character of the whole country and lift it up to a higher plane of political, industrial, and religious life. I happen to be at this moment leading in a movement in the army to promote the various ends that are so well expressed in the committee's report, in what is known as the 'Comrades in Service.' There are two ways of creating an organization; one is by forming the principles and leaving the body to take its own shape; the other by creating a machinery without stating your end and reach that end through the machinery. According to our democratic conception we have adopted the former or idealistic method.

We are prepared to contribute to this army wide organization which is now brought into existence, all that we have to contribute. We are entirely loyal to your principles and methods of approach and we are quite willing to forego any attempt to make an organization which might become a rival to you. Between now and the time of demobilization there is a great opportunity for us to promote the principles which actuate you. We have already a temporary and provisional organization for the promotion of such principles; the creation of better citizenship along the lines so well expressed. We would like everyone who can to give support to that which we are endeavoring to do, while we ask all who come in with us to be prepared to throw in their lot with this organization when it is perfected in the United States."

"The creation of better citizenship," Bishop Brent says. He wants every one who can, to give support to that; to "what we are trying to do."

If everyone could see just that in the Legion, if everyone will work for just that--better citizenship--the Legion's aim will be realized in its deepest and truest sense. Bishop Brent has a knack of hitting the nail on the head with such force that the sparks fly and by their light comes insight--ask anyone from out Manila-way if it isn't so.

The short address was greeted with thunderous applause. The newly born Legion knew it had a champion and a worker in the Bishop.

Col. Wm. J. Donovan of the 165th Infantry, Forty-second Division headed the committee of fifteen which gave the final report on resolutions and organization. This report is reproduced here in full because it presaged the action of the American caucus and brought about the form of the Legion Government until November.

"RESOLVED: That an Executive Committee shall be selected, two (2) from each unit (as recognized in this caucus) and eight (8) to be selected by the Executive Committee; the two members, one officer and one enlisted man, to be selected from each unit to be named by the respective delegations attending this caucus.

Each unit shall present the names of committeemen who shall as far as possible represent, in point of residence, each State, Territory and possession of the United States and the District of Columbia.

"This Executive Committee shall have general power to represent the units now in foreign service, to determine its own quorum, to confer with committees from a similar caucus in the United States, to secure one general convention of persons entitled to membership under the tentative constitution, to elect its officers and appoint such sub-committees and give them such powers as may be proper and necessary.

"This Executive Committee acting in conjunction with the committee of the United States is specifically charged with the duty of fixing a date and place for holding a national convention, issuing a call for the holding of county and State conventions and providing a unit of representation and method of selection of delegates to the national convention, by the State conventions.

"The powers of this committee shall expire upon the organization of the permanent national convention.

"The committee is further charged with the duty of making known the existence and purpose of this organization, of stimulating interest in it, and of inviting the support of all those entitled to membership.

"No policy except in furtherance of the creation of a permanent organization having in mind the desirability of unity of action in organizing all the American forces shall be adopted or carried out by the committees.

A meeting for the temporary and preliminary organization of the Executive Committee shall be held at this place immediately upon the adjournment of this caucus.

The Executive Committee may receive and add to its number two representatives from any division or equivalent unit not represented at this caucus."

As the result of the passage of this report it is interesting to note the personnel of the Executive Committee which the delegates selected and which is controlling the American Legion of the A.E.F., observing especially the large number of enlisted men; large in view of the difficulties experienced in getting such men to Paris.

1st Div., Capt. Arthur S. Hyde 2d Div., Lt. Col Harold C. Snyder 26th Div., Sgt. Wheaton Freeman 26th Div., Lt. Col. Wm. J. Keville 27th Div., Lt. Col. Edward E. Gauche, N.Y.

27th Div., Reg. Sgt. Mjr. Samuel A. Ritchie, N.Y.

28th Div., Brig Gen. Wm. G. Brice, Jr., Penn.

28th Div., Sgt. Ted Myers, Penn.

29th Div., Lt. Col. Orison M. Hurd, N.J.

29th Div., Color Sgt. Andreas Z. Holley, Maryland 31st Div., Captain Leon Schwarz, Ala.

33d Div., Col. Milton A. Foreman, Ill.

35th Div., Lt. Col. B.C. Clark, Mo.

35th Div., Sgt. Fred Heney, Kans.

36th Div., Col. Chas. W. Nimon, Texas 36th Div., Sgt. Mjr. L.H. Evridge, Texas 41st Div., Col. Frank White, N. Dak.

42d Div., Col. Henry J. Reilly, Ill.

42d Div., Sgt. Rowe, Iowa 77th Div., Major Duncan Harris 77th Div., Sgt. Lawrence Miller, N.Y.

79th Div., Lt. Col. Stuart S. Janney, Md.

79th Div., Sgt. Benjamin R. Kauffman, Pa.

80th Div., Capt. Arthur F. Shaw, Mich.

81st Div., Major Theodore G. Tilghman, N.C.

81st Div., Reg. Sgt. Mjr. Wm. S. Beam, N.C.

82d Div., Capt. Frank S. Williams, Fla.

82d Div., Sgt. Alvin T. York, Tenn.

83d Div., Lt. Col. Wayman C. Lawrence, Jr., W. Va.

83d Div., Cpl. Thoyer 86th Div., Major John H. Smale, Ill.

88th Div., Lt. Col. George C. Parsons, Minn.

88th Div., Wagoner Dale J. Shaw, Iowa.

89th Div., Lt. Col. Frank Wilbur Smith, Pa.

91st Div., Lt. Col. John Guy Strohm, Oregon 91st Div., Sgt. Mjr. Hercovitz, Calif.

S.O.S. Hq., Col. James H. Graham, Conn.

Adv. Sec., S.O.S. Capt. David A. Uaurier, Wash.

Base Sec. No. 1, S.O.S., Pvt. W.L. Thompson, N.Y.

Base Sec. No. 3, S.O.S., Lt. Col. Carle Abrams, Oregon Base Sec. No. 5, S.O.S., Major Orlin Hudson, Kans.

Chapter end

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