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Provisional South Dakota American Legion established in Vermillion | South Dakota History

Rapid City Journal
Clip of the May 20, 1919 edition of the Rapid City Journal

After a committee of South Dakota veterans attended the first national meeting to organize the American Legion on May 15, 1919, they created a provisional South Dakota American Legion at Vermillion with Theodore Johnson of Sioux Falls as chair. Vermillion is now the home of American Legion Post number 1. The Vermillion Post Namesake is Colonel Elmer Wallace. He was an Elk Point native who was killed in battle during WWI.

The idea for the American Legion organization was offered in March 1919. Members of the American Expeditionary Force were meeting in Paris for the first American Legion caucus at the close of WWI. Their intent was to create an organization to improve troop morale.

Excerpt from the May 20, 1919 edition of the Lead Daily Call
Lead Daily Call
Excerpt from the May 20, 1919 edition of the Lead Daily Call

Two months later in early May, a caucus was held in St Louis, and "The American Legion" was adopted as the organization's official name. The American Legion was then chartered by Congress later in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization.

The American Legion's mission is: To enhance the well-being of America's veterans, their families, our military, and our communities by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.

The American Legion is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization. And there have been many milestones for the organization in the last century. In 1921, a Legion-led effort resulted in the creation of the U.S. Veterans Bureau, which later became the Veterans Administration. But its most notable accomplishment came in 1944. The American Legion wrote the first draft of what later became the "GI Bill of Rights".

But it was May 15, 1919, a committee of veterans created the provisional South Dakota American Legion and sent in the official application a month later to establish an American Legion Post in Vermillion.

Production help is provided by Doctor Brad Tennant, Professor of History at Presentation College.