Soldiers Back Home: The American Legion in Illinois, 1919-1939


This first political and social history of the American Legion in Illinois from its formation in 1919 to the onset of World War II focuses on the organization's influence of the two political parties and on public opinion at the state and local levels. Gauging the singular influence of the organization in a particularly turbulent time in Illinois and American history, Thomas B. Littlewood argues that the local orientation of individual posts was more important to most Legionnaires than the activities of the organization's national leaders. At the same time, he shows how the conflicts within the Legion mirrored those in the larger society. Soldiers Black Home: The American Legion in Illinois, 1919-1939 traces the origins of the organization, showing it to be the biggest and most politically committed of the World War I veterans organizations. Littlewood details how the organization worked to influence public policy on behalf of veterans and their families. Concentrating at first on the welfare of children who had lost their fathers in the war, the Legion later became involved in a variety of community service activities. Littlewood traces the Legion's impact on politics, community life, labor relations, race relations, and the struggle for veterans' benefits in Illinois. He maintains that the Legion experienced significant divisions along regional lines, with tension between rural and urban populations. Littlewood also discusses the careers of famed Illinois leaders such as Scott Lucas, William Dawson, and Everett Dirksen and their involvement with the Legion.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Carbondale, IL
Publication year:
  • 2004


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