The History of AMVETS, a National Organization

Truly AMVETS was born in the midst of war, for it was in August 1943, with victory still two years away, that a new organization, later to be known as American Veterans of World War II, had its beginning. Overseas the tide of battle was turning. Allies had swept through North Africa and Sicily. In the Pacific fighting raged in New Guinea. Thousands of Americans had made the supreme sacrifice. Hundreds of others were being mustered out of uniform with battle wounds and medical discharges. These men who fought in history's greatest war found it natural to seek each other's company. They were united by similar jungles, in the Arctic, in deserts, in mountains, at sea, and in the skies. Thus, out of such comradeship, AMVETS came to be.

TWO independent veterans clubs in Washington, D.C. - one formed on the campus of George Washington University, the other among veterans employed by the government - joined together to sponsor a servicemen's party. By September 1944 other such veterans clubs organized throughout America - in California, Florida, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas. On November 11, 1944, Veterans Day, an article entitled "12,000,000 in Search of a Leader" appeared in Collier's Magazine. This story, written by Walter Davenport, introduced the clubs and outlined their mutual aims:

  1. To promote world peace
  2. To preserve the American Way of Life
  3. To help the veteran help himself.
In December, 18 leaders, representing these nine groups, met in Kansas City, Missouri. There a national organization was chosen. The word AMVETS, coined by a newspaper reporter, soon became the official name. The "White Clover," a flower which thrives in freedom throughout the world, is symbolic of the struggle during World War II and is the adopted flower of AMVETS.

In October 1945, two months after the end of World War II, the first national convention was called in Chicago. In 1946, AMVETS petitioned Congress for a federal charter. AMVETS, having displayed dignity and sound approach to national problems, won the deep respect of Congress, and on July 23, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the AMVETS Charter. The words of Senate Judiciary Committee echoed throughout the land: "The Veterans of World War II are entitled to their own organization". And AMVETS being "organized along sound lines and for worthy purposes ... having demonstrated its strength and stability is entitled to the stability that a National Charter will afford." President Truman also commented, "Were I a veteran of this War, I would prefer to have a veteran of World War II looking after my affairs, than a veteran of some other war." To this day, no other World War II Veteran's Group has been so honored.

When the war broke out in Korea in 1950 and again during the Vietnam crisis in 1966, AMVETS requested Congress to amend the charter so that those serving in the armed forces would be eligible for membership. On September 14, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Bill redefining the eligibility dates for AMVET membership - "any person who served in the armed forces of the United States of America or any American citizen who served in the armed forces of an allied nation of the United States on or after September 16, 1940 and on or before the cessation the date of hostilities as determined by the government of the United States is eligible for regular membership in AMVETS, provided such service when terminated by discharge or release from active duty be by honorable discharge or separation." On May 7th 1975, President Gerald S. Ford signed Proclamation 4373 terminating the Vietnam era and the cessation of hostilities; effective May 8, 1975 the Armed Forces became a peace time service.

For nearly 10 years, AMVETS did not accept into membership service men and women who served after May 7, 1975, Then, on May 31, 1984 President Ronald Reagan signed a public law 98-304 which amended AMVETS Congressional Charter to open our membership to those who served honorably and actively after May 7, 1975. AMVETS is now the only Congressionally chartered Veterans Organization that honors and recognizes the sacrifices of these veterans and service persons by extending membership eligibility to them.

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