World War II (1939-1947)
With the onset of World War II, the National Conventions focused on supporting government decisions to enter the war, aiding soldiers called to serve, and assisting the families of active-duty soldiers. The National Convention programs and badges reflect The American Legion’s attitudes toward World War II during this period.
Though the United States had not officially entered World War II, The American Legion displayed Lady Columbia on the program and Gen. John J. Pershing on the badge.
Lady Columbia played a significant role in personifying liberty in World War I propaganda. By World War II, her dominance as a symbol had waned, but she continued to be influential in shaping public opinion on joining the war efforts. On the cover of the 1939 program, Lady Columbia looks over the National Convention in Chicago.
The badge commemorates Gen. Pershing’s distinguished service in France during World War I and his outspoken support for aiding Britain’s war efforts during World War II, even before the United States joined the Allied forces.
The threat of war weighed on the delegates and distinguished guests during the 1940 National Convention.
In his greeting to The American Legion, National Commander Raymond Kelly reminded Legionnaires of the significance of meeting in Boston where the “forefathers struck the first blow for American Liberty.”
The program and badge portray Paul Revere’s midnight ride during the Revolutionary War, an event that ultimately played a major role in winning the colonies their liberty and freedom. The commemoration of Paul Revere’s ride served as a reminder of past sacrifices.
As the United States teetered on the brink of war, the nation looked to The American Legion for leadership and guidance.
The 1941 convention program motto, “Geared to America,” emphasizes the crucial role Legionnaires prepared to play, whether members fought abroad or on the home front.
The American eagle and flag on the badge symbolize dedication to patriotism and American ideals.
The United States officially entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
As a response to entering the war, The American Legion’s War Credo, written by National Commander Lynn U. Stambaugh, appeared in the 1942 National Convention program.
The front of the 1942 program highlights the Liberty Memorial Museum and Tower (now known as the National World War I Museum and Memorial) in Kansas City, Mo. The memorial, as President Calvin Coolidge said, celebrates “the results of war and victory which are embodied in peace and liberty.” As the nation engaged in World War II, the memorial served as a reminder of the great sacrifices made by veterans of World War I.
After joining the war, the United States government established a rationing system to conserve materials for the war efforts. Some of the rationed items included paper, metal, rubber, fuel, oil, and food, which radically affected daily life. Due to rationing, The American Legion produced plastic badges for the 1942, 1943, and 1944 national conventions.
During the height of American involvement in World War II, the covers of the 1942 and 1943 National Convention programs show The American Legion’s support for soldiers actively in combat and veterans still serving at home.
The programs also emphasize the need for unity as servicemen of different military branches fought for the same cause.
The 1945 badge and cover of the program celebrate winning the war, welcoming soldiers home, and inviting World War II veterans to join The American Legion.
The badge honors comradery between veterans as soldiers shook hands and liberty as the Statue of Liberty stood proudly in the background.
The 1946 National Convention promoted unity and peace as a record number of servicemembers - men and women - gathered at the National Convention. The American Legion became the largest veterans organization in the world with more than 3,300,000 members.
The 1946 badge displays the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building. It opened in 1932 and served as the site of the 1945 United Nations charter drafting.
The 1947 National Convention focused on veterans as membership continued to increase post-World War II.
By 1947, the membership of The American Legion had grown to over 3.3 million in 16,450 posts. 70% of American Legion members were World War II veterans.