The American Legion was born in Paris, France. It was weaned in St. Louis, Mo., and it was baptized in the blood of martyrs at Centralia, Wash., on the first anniversary of Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1919.
The newly organized Grant Hodge Post 17 at Centralia was marching in its first annual Armistice Day parade when it was fired upon from ambush by
members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical organization incited by the propaganda of class hatred. Four Legionnaires, including Post Commander Warren O. Grimm who was leading the parade, fell dead in the hail of bullets.
The tragic news reached Minneapolis as the American Legion was marching in a snowstorm on its own first national convention parade. Word that their new organization had suddenly become a target, not for words, but for bullets, stunned the delegates. It brought home to the baby American Legion the full evil potential of subversive and un-American elements then inspired by Bolshevism and later by Fascism, Nazism and Communism.
The impact of the Centralia tragedy provided the needed impetus at the first national convention of the American Legion for the creation of a National Americanism Commission dedicated to leading the fight against all un-American influences. The American Legion has never faltered in this fight in its entire 95 years.
The Americanism Program of the American Legion can be broken down in four main groups of activities. They are:
• The protective activities
This is a program of militant and aggressive opposition to all subversive and un-American influences and activites. This is the fighting phase of our Americanism Program. In this phase, we man the ramparts. In this field we attack.
• The educational activities
This is a program to educate all in America, young and old, to appreciate fully the blessings of our free American way of life. In this field we teach.
• The youth training program
This is a program to inculcate American ideals and principles into the youth of America as the basis for future good citizenship. We make use of activities popular with youth to accomplish this objective. In this field we build.
• The community service activities
This is a program to make every community in America a better neighborhood, as a stepping stone toward making all the world a good neighborhood. In this field we serve.