Highlights of the Forty & Eight
of 1920, Joseph W. Breen, a member of the newly formed American Legion and an officer of Breen-McCracken Legion Post 297,
met in Philadelphia with fifteen other prominent Legionnaires where they originated the idea of The Forty & Eight. They
envisioned a new and different level of elite membership and camaraderie for leaders of the American Legion. The box car of
the French Railways, so familiar to American ground troops of the First World War, was chosen as the symbolic heart of the
new organization. The French/Railroad theme was applied to officer titles and organizational functions.
was named La Societe des Quarente Hommes et Huit Chevaux (the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses). Its members were called
Voyageurs Militaire (military travelers) and candidates for membership were called Prisonniers de Guerre (Prisoners of War).
The “40/8” cargo capacity sign emblazoned on each French boxcar that had carried American doughboys to the front,
and also the "French horizon blue" color, became symbols of the new society. An initiation ceremony was developed based on
the common wartime experiences of American soldiers, sailors and marines, incorporating fun making with patriotic bonding.
statewide Forty & Eight Promenade (meeting) was held in June, 1920, following the 2nd Annual Convention of the American
Legion’s Department of Pennsylvania. Several prominent Legionnaires were wrecked (initiated) and Joseph W. Breen was
unanimously elected Chef de Chemin de Fer (President of the Railroad).
The new Forty
& Eight organization agreed to send a delegation to the Legion’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, with as
much fanfare as possible in order to introduce the Forty & Eight to the nation and to other Legionnaires. A railroad box
car was rented and in it the Forty & Eight delegation rode the rails to the Cleveland Legion convention. This publicity
stunt gained substantial news coverage for the energetic new elite organization. In Cleveland more than 700 Legionnaires became
members of the Forty & Eight.
Forty & Eight’s Promenade Nationale (national convention) in Kansas City, a national constitution was adopted and
a national headquarters was established in Seattle, Washington.
the Promenade Nationale in New Orleans, a Children’s Welfare project was established, with monies to be raised
via an annual assessment of 50 cents from dues collections, to be used for the care of orphaned children.
The National Headquarters of the Forty & Eight was moved to Indianapolis. The Forty & Eight was integrated
as an equal partner with The American Legion and The American Legion Auxiliary, all with common interests in Child Welfare.
Forty & Eight Child Welfare Program funds ($24,823.91) were safely invested to grow to meet future needs. A joint policy
committee of members from all three organizations was established.
the 6th Promenade Nationale, in Omaha, Nebraska, $25,000.00 was set aside to establish a Child Welfare Fund. (This was a precursor
to today’s Charles Ardery Child Welfare Trust).
Promenade Nationale in Philadelphia, Forty & Eight membership was reported to be 32,449.
A major focus
of discussion was the growth of American Legion membership, which had previously been declining annually since the Legion’s
inception. Much of the Legion’s new growth was attributed to extraordinary recruiting efforts by Forty & Eight’s
Voyageurs who had brought in more than 17,000 new members for the American Legion. Voyageur William Mundt of Voiture 24, Bloomington,
Illinois, was recognized for having signed up 509 new Legion members.
& Eight programs expanded in concert with The American Legion. Membership, Child Welfare, Junior Baseball, Americanism
and Emergency Relief became key Forty & Eight programs. Annual donations continued to the Child Welfare Fund, with $18,960
earmarked for 1928. Additionally, Voiture Locales devised their own charitable programs, such as Voiture 220 of Chicago sponsoring
a youth summer camp.
depression years, the Forty & Eight and The American Legion grew steadily. Forty & Eight Voyageurs enrolled 27,000
new members in the Legion during 1928-1929, and were instrumental in helping The American Legion to pass the one million members
Forty & Eight declared War on Childhood Diphtheria. Vaccination toxin was distributed via Voiture Nationale to children
whose parents could not afford it. Physicians donated their services, and educational campaigns were carried out to combat
through 1936, the Forty & Eight sought to influence Congress regarding veteran's benefits. These were the “Bonus
March” Depression years when WWI veterans and the federal government were at times in open conflict. The Forty &
Eight sponsored national radio programs, featuring well know political figures, to bring equitable treatment of war veterans
to the national forefront. Realizing that power came with numbers, the Forty & Eight brought in 111,159 new American Legion
members. The efforts of the Forty & Eight ultimately helped convince Congress to pass, over a presidential veto, the compensation
act for America’s war veterans.
17th Promenade Nationale was held in Cleveland with a huge parade lasting nearly three hours. Membership reached 34,809.
Forty & Eight began sponsoring Boys State in 20 states. Charitable efforts increased as Voitures provided iron lungs,
sponsored anti-juvenile delinquency programs, and supported Legion Baseball and Scouting. Many Legion leaders are members
of the Forty & Eight.
the Second World War, the Forty & Eight rolled up its sleeves. While continuing to support its existing charitable and
patriotic programs, the Forty & Eight expanded its efforts to meet wartime needs. Individual Forty & Eight members
volunteered for military service, served as air raid wardens and in other civil defense capacities, aided in salvage drives,
bond drives, blood drives, visited hospitals, and helped recruiting efforts for the Armed Services.
& Eight made a special effort to insure every serviceman on transport ships overseas had a deck of cards. Over 60,000
decks were initially distributed, 610,498 decks in the second year, and a million decks in 1943-1944. Ultimately, over 4 million
decks of card were distributed.
& Eight also began issuing Nursing Scholarships. By September of 1942, over 100 nurses had been received education grants.
Legion membership was deemed vital to organizing veterans to help the war effort. The Forty & Eight exceeded its goals
by gaining 211,301 new Legion members, thereby helping to bringing the Legion to an all time high in membership.
25th Anniversary of the Forty and Eight coincided with the end of World War II.
began a new program to provide free telephone calls home for returning wounded servicemen. This successful program was seeded
by Grande du Kentucky contributing $50,000 and Grande du Indiana providing $39,000. With the end of rationing and travel restrictions,
Forty and Eight members were able to meet more frequently.
hundred veteran organizations sprouted up across the country. Veterancy was booming. The Forty and Eight brought more than
half a million new members to The American Legion. The Forty & Eight continued to bring influential Legionnaires together
from various posts, thus strengthening unity within the Legion. Forty & Eight membership exceeded 70,000.
& Eight’s annual contribution to the Legion’s Child Welfare Fund continued throughout the war. Due to an increase
in numbers of World War II veteran's children, the Forty & Eight increased its annual Child Welfare contribution to $30,000
in 1945 and to $50,000 in 1946.
Forty & Eight began its long association with the Hanson’s Disease (leprosy) research hospital in Carville, Louisiana,
by funding all publication costs for the hospital’s patient-published magazine "The Star". The Forty & Eight purchased
a printing press and other equipment to help the patients carry on “their fight against the ignorance which surrounds
Eight membership rose to 95,000.
Forty & Eight welcomed the French Gratitude Train. French railroad boxcar were sent to each American state, filled
with gifts from the French people who wished to say “merci” for America freeing the French from Nazi tyranny.
The Forty & Eight, being an elite corps of American veterans with its symbol being the WWI French boxcar, was instrumental
in welcoming these WWII boxcars. Voyageurs in each state participated in ceremonies, and in many states took responsibility
for maintaining the boxcar in museum or display settings.
& Eight formally established its Nurses Training program.
& Eight severed ties with the Legion and became an independent organization.
been ripples of discontent for several years. The organizations were fundamentally different. The Legion was large, easy to
join and non-fraternal. The Forty & Eight was elite, by-invitation and racially restrictive. The Forty & Eight had
monetary resources many in the Legion deemed theirs. Conversely, the Forty & Eight objected to funding Legion programs
with large amounts of money, without adequate recognition in return. The Legion pressed the Forty & Eight to change its
constitution to be racially inclusive. These differences brought the two organizations to logger heads. Eventually, the American
Legion refused to allow the Forty and Eight to hold its Promenade Nationale in the same city with the Legion’s National
& Eight thus became independent, but with many vestiges of its parent organization remaining intact, including the Forty
& Eight continuing to only accept Legion members.
Nurses Training Program sponsored 2,129 nurses for a total of $248,047 in scholarships.
of Forty & Eight members organized the auxiliary, La Societe de Femme. Cabanes (units) were formed in 15 states
with over 1,000 initial members. The purpose of the affiliate organization was to, "further the programs of the Forty and
that its previous donations to the Legion’s Child Welfare Fund had amounted to over 1.2 million dollars, the Forty &
Eight established the new Charles W. Ardery Child Welfare Fund as an irrevocable trust, seeded it with $300,000 and
drew up rules governing the dispersal of its funds as reimbursements to Voitures for local instances of rendering aid/assistance.
listed for the year were; Flag Education, Memorial Day Programs, Boys State, Girls State, Scouting and the Christmas Tree
of Lights program.
At the Promenade
Nationale in Baltimore, Maryland, it was announced that 51 Voitures had aided 770,086 children with a total Child Welfare
expenditure value of $2,690,296.
W. Ardery Child Welfare Trust Fund granted over $400,000. The trust’s growth was attributed in part to a 50 cent assessment
for Child Welfare in members’ annual dues.
Trust Fund presented a $10,000 grant to the University of Kentucky for research into Cystic Fibrosis. A $4,363 grant was made
to the University of Illinois for research into the causes of Childhood Diabetes. Total Ardery trust expenditures for the
year were over $37,000.
The Forty & Eight, by a vote of 1,280 to 467, amended its constitution to prohibit any Voiture
from restricting its membership by race.
gas shortage made it difficult for many to travel to the proposed 55th Promenade National in Anaheim, California.
The Promenade site was changed to St. Louis, Missouri.
A Child Welfare
grant of $10,000 was made to the University of Wisconsin for Juvenile Diabetes research. The Nurses Training program reported
2,475 nurses received financial help, with $291,000 spent on nursing grants.
& Eight established the George Boland Nurses Training Trust Fund, with a $100,000 start up grant, in honor of
Nebraska’s George B. Boland, who had served as Chef de Chemin de Fer in 1952 and as Avocat National (national attorney)
for many years.
& Eight established the Outstanding Law Officer of the Year award program. John C. Wodetzki, Chief of Police of Lincoln,
Illinois, was selected as the first recipient of the award.
The Charles W. Ardery Child Welfare Trust Fund grated $15,600 to the National Jewish Hospital in Denver
to purchase special medical equipment. A second grant of $10,000 was made to Children's Hospital of St. Petersburg, Florida
for Newborn Intensive Care Unit equipment. $16,600 was granted to Saint Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to purchase a
new spectrophotometer. $6,329,276 was reported expended in money, materials, mileage and man hours throughout the Forty &
Eight for the Child Welfare program.
contributed a total of 6,481 pints of blood. The Carville Star program had 100 percent participation and contributions exceeded
& Eight began its partnership in the Veterans Administration Voluntary Service program. By 1985, Voyageurs were participating
in 230 medical facilities serving veterans.
Forty & Eight adopted, as a Child Welfare subsidiary program, AAU/USA Junior Olympics.
Forty & Eight revised its Preamble to reflect its charitable, non-profit nature. --- ”For God and country we associate
ourselves together for the following purposes: To create a charitable and non-profit veterans organization; to uphold and
defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to assist and promote the welfare and well-being of those who served
in the Armed Forces of the United States, during all wars and conflicts, recognized the Congress of the United States, and
their widows and orphans; to participate in all memorial services for and to be part in and to encourage others to participate
in the proper observance of all days honoring veterans' to preserve the memories of our Services in the Armed Forces of our
Country; to actively participate within our membership in projects relating to (a) the welfare of the children of America;
(b) the health of our Nation by fostering a nurses training program; and (c) selected charitable endeavors."
response to hurricanes in Florida, the Forty & Eight responded with donations of clothing, household goods and medical
supplies. In Florida City alone, 255 children were provided food vouchers, clothing and household goods and $11,000 was granted
to needy families. Relief teams of Voyageurs traveled into disaster areas to distribute clothing and supplies. In Hawaii,
where a hurricane had come ashore on Kauai, the Ardery Trust assisted 80 children.
& Eight’s Flags for First Graders program is found to be popular among Voyageurs who conduct flag education programs
in elementary schools. The program is responsible for educating thousands of American youth in the flag history, respect and
to it conducting its many ongoing charitable program efforts, the Forty & Eight assisted victims of natural disasters
in Michigan and Missouri. $30,000 in aid was given to families of children in flooded areas. A $3,070 grant was given to the
Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home. Voyageurs of Washington state were applauded for contributing in excess of $150,000
annually (since 1985) to charitable projects in their community.
year marked both the 100th year founding of the Gillis W. Long Hanson's Disease Center (leprosy research) in Carville, Louisiana,
and the 50th anniversary of the Forty & Eight's sponsorship of the patient-published Carville “Star” Magazine.
& Eight established a national Youth Sports program, to encompass and expand beyond the narrower scope of the existing
Junior Olympics program.
11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon occurred one day before the Forty & Eight Promenade Nationale
was scheduled to begin in Hagerstown, Maryland, not far from Camp David. Terrorists crashed a civilian airliner just north
of town. Voyageurs already at Hagerstown were briefly isolated by security forces. Many Voyageurs and spouses were stranded
at airports, some were mid-air during the attacks, and several found it impossible to reach Hagerstown. The organization voted
total support for America in its war on terror.
& Eight immediately began around-the-clock delivery of relief goods to New York and Washington, D.C. 215 tons of relief
goods valuing $881,000 were reported delivered in the aftermath of the attacks. 11 trips by truck we made over 24 days to
“ground zero” in NYC.
become eligible to join the Forty & Eight. Like their male counterparts, women too must be members of the American Legion
and be invited to join the Forty & Eight.
on this issue was between honoring the all-male battle past that created the founders of this organization and honoring today's
male-and-female battle veterans who are America's modern military. It was decided that the best way to honor the past, is
by honoring the male and female battle veterans who are American's future.
National brought a major change to the Constitution of La Societe. You no longer have to belong to the American Legion to
join La Societe. With two-thirds of the members at the National Promenade in Orlando, Florida voting yes to remove the requirement
it opens up our membership to any honorably discharged veteran or anyone on active duty. It is still by invitation only. How
this will change La Societe only time will tell.