Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. envisioned as early as 1915 a national organization of U.S. military veterans who would be ready to serve in the event of war. The first American Legion was incorporated that year in the State of New York and grew to more than 25,000 members whose military and technical skills were documented for potential wartime use. Roosevelt was its director, and several founders of the future American Legion were members. The administration rejected the organization’s offer to help the federal government on its war preparedness program but took over the organization’s records for use by the Council of National Defense. The first American Legion was out of business in late 1916. But the idea was merely on hold. The American Legion name, Roosevelt, Jr., later said, had been coined by his father years earlier in reference to U.S. citizens he had assembled who were qualified to serve in the Army in case of emergency.

In late January 1919, Roosevelt, Jr., and three other line officers of the American Expeditionary Forces met casually in Paris to discuss their imminent homecoming, the Bolshevik revolution and its threat to the United States, along with the need to form an organization of veterans specifically to help those who had served in the Great War. The four in attendance were Roosevelt, Lt. Col. George S. White, Lt. Col. William Donovon and Maj. Eric Fisher Wood. Gen. John Pershing, commander of the AEF, later called a personal meeting with Roosevelt to discuss low morale among the troops still occupying postwar Europe. Roosevelt’s solution was to call a morale-building conference in Paris, an event that would be the first caucus that gave birth to The American Legion. To set up the conference, Pershing authorized a meeting of 20 officers in mid-February 1919 and, following that, granted travel orders for the March gathering. Officers and enlisted personnel alike would be invited from their duty stations across Europe. The number of those in attendance is unknown. Only a fraction of those who came to Paris for the caucus signed attendance sheets.

The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.

Hundreds of local American Legion programs and activities strengthen the nation one community at a time. American Legion Baseball is one of the nation’s most successful amateur athletic programs, educating young people about the importance of sportsmanship, citizenship and fitness. The Operation Comfort Warriors program supports recovering wounded warriors and their families, providing them with “comfort items” and the kind of support that makes a hospital feel a little bit more like home. The Legion also raises millions of dollars in donations at the local, state and national levels to help veterans and their families during times of need and to provide college scholarship opportunities.

The American Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with great political influence perpetuated by its grass-roots involvement in the legislation process from local districts to Capitol Hill. Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington. The Legion stands behind the issues most important to the nation’s veterans community, backed by resolutions passed by volunteer leadership.

The American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives.

Preamble to the Constitution


To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America;

To maintain law and order;

To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism;

To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars;

To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation;

To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses;

To make right the master of might;

To promote peace and goodwill on earth;

To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy;

To consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.

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