The American Legion
The American Legion was founded on March 15th, 1919 at the American Club in Paris France by members of the American Expeditionary Forces, being chartered by Congress September 16th, 1919. The Legion is headquartered out of Indianapolis, Indiana. November 10th through 12th, 1919 found the first convention of the Legion in Minneapolis, Minnesota where much of the foundation of the organization were set; such as nonpartisan orientation towards politics, as well as initiating the Constitution of The American Legion, which went on to form the Preamble to the Constitution and the Four Pillars of the Legion.
The American Legion continued to grow reaching roughly 14,000 posts throughout the world and a membership of 2.2 million Legionnaires by 2018. The Legion continues to support the defined Four Pillars which are veteran’s affairs and rehabilitation, Americanism, s strong National defense and the youth of America. The Legion was instrumental in the development of the modern-day VA as well as the key stakeholder in the formation of what would be come to be called as the GI Bill.
The Legion in Connecticut
May 24th, 1919 veterans of the Great War from Connecticut were granted a temporary charter with the newly formed American Legion. The first Executive Committee for Connecticut met June 10th, 1919 at the Hartford City Club, becoming incorporated as The American Legion Connecticut Branch. On October 11th, 1919 at the State Armory in Hartford the first convention of The American Legion in Connecticut was held; delegates of the first 34 posts throughout the State were present along with eight more posts that were applying for their charters as well. These 34 posts became known as the Charter Posts of The American Legion Connecticut Chapter.
The Legion in Connecticut continued to grow, with Legion Baseball being formed in 1920 made up of mostly Legionnaires and some semi-pro players, by 1925 the program essentially became a youth program. In 1927 the Legion in Connecticut changed the incorporated name to The American Legion Department of Connecticut. In 1932, the Legion in Connecticut saw the formation of The Sons of the American Legion for the male descendants of United States veterans. In 1953 Connecticut sat its only National Commander Arthur J Connell. The Legion in Connecticut continued to grow to a total of 224 posts by 2018, including the addition of Squadrons and Auxiliary and in the early 2000s the Legion Riders.
The Legion in Manchester
In 1924 forty-four veterans of the Great War, which would later be come to be known as World War One Gathered in Manchester at the Congregational Church on center Street, to gather the signature for a Charter in The American Legion. The charter for The American Legion in Manchester was formalized August 26th, 1924 and the Legion found its home in Manchester. The lore to the number of the Post has to do with the 102nd Infantry Regiment that was federalized as part of the 26th Yankee Division part of the American Expeditionary Forces in France; many of the charter members actually served with the unit in France, and they wanted not only pay homage to their service but that Company G of the Infantry Regiment found their home in Manchester, finding a permanent home from 1927 to 2011 prior to a move to Bristol Connecticut. The Legion in Manchester became Dilworth and Cornell Post Number 102, being named after two soldiers from Manchester who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War. These men are discussed in detail later in the text. In 1936 with the growing membership and the need to include families in the activities of the Post, the Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion were chartered in Manchester, taking on the namesake of the Post, Dilworth and Cornell Unit 102 and Squadron 102 respectively.
These charter members met at the First Congregational Church on Center Street for the next 16 years becoming an active part of the community of Manchester, growing the membership to members from all over Manchester and Bolton Connecticut. In 1936, as part of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Post, the original 44 members became known as Charter Members, bestowing the great honor to the first Legionnaires of Post 102. In the late 1930s the Legionnaires of Post 102 purchased a plot of land on Leonard Road in Central Manchester, just a block away from the Manchester Memorial Hospital which had been built in honor of the veterans of the Great War. Construction of the Post Home began, and in 1940 the Post Home was completed. The Post Home consisted of a hall, with an unfinished basement and an apartment for a groundskeeper.
The Legionnaires of Post 102 now had a place to meet and conduct business, becoming an active non-profit business in the community of Manchester. Galas and social events were held at the Post Home allowing a source of revenue for the Post to in turn use to support the splendid work they were doing in the community.
The Legion in Manchester continued to be an active part of the Community and in 1941 as another World War broke out, the Legionnaires again took on a protective roll for the Community of Manchester. Many of the members whom had served in what was now called World War One rejoined the United States Military in some capacity living by the motto “service to the community state and Nation.” Post 102 took an active role in the security of Manchester serving as wardens during the war as well as collecting and supporting missions to aid the troops overseas. As many young men and women from Manchester joined the fight against the Axis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific the Legion worked to assist in the effort, educating and assisting the Selective Service in recruiting and drafting individuals into service.
In the mid-1940s during the war the Post found it necessary to start the process of adding a name to the Post. The Post would work to add a sailor who had been serving in the United States Navy since 1932 who was killed in action during the Battle of Corregidor in the Philippines and was missing in action. In 1947 the Post officially adopted a third name to the charter, that of Mario Quey, and the post became The American Legion, Dilworth-Cornell-Quey Post No. 102 INC. Throughout the remainder of the 1940s and the 1950s the growth of the Post was exponential with the addition of veterans of World War Two; which expanded on the service to the community with each additional member. In 1967, due to the work of the Legion in Manchester, the Town saw it fitting to rename Leonard Rd to American legion Drive, solidifying the Legion in Manchester. As the wars in which the United States were involved with continued in Korea, and then on to Vietnam membership in the Legion also began to grow reaching over 800 members by the early 1980s.
Membership in the 1980s saw a peak, and as the older members of World War One and World War two began to pass on membership numbers began to decline. The veterans of the Korean War and Vietnam stepped in to help keep the Legion as part of the community. The Post was very active in the community even with the reducing membership, supporting American Legion baseball, the children and youth of the Town, conducting an annual Christmas party (which had begun way back in the 1930s) and Halloween assistance and education for the community. The Post home also expanded in the 1950s and 1960 opening a lounge in the unfinished part of the basement, opening to the public allowing for more support of the community.
The 1990s was a challenging time for the Legion in Manchester, which was illustrated in the reduced membership. There were some management issues that caused issues for the Post in the early 1990s, yet due to the steadfast leadership of a Commander, the Post persevered and continued to support the community. This Commander was William “Buffalo Bill’ Pomeroy who was essentially the face of the Post from 1993 until 2017, participating in honor guards, funeral programs throughout the town. Bill’s dedication to the Legion occurred all while he was working full time and still serving in the United States Army up until 2004.
January 23rd, 2016 a sad day clouded Post 102, when the Post Home caught fire and was essentially destroyed. A fire caused by an electrical arc in the expanded Post Lounge burned out the entire basement and destroyed a quarter of the Post Hall. Though the dark days would disappear, and the Post would begin to rebuild. The Post Home started a major renovation to the existing structure in May 2016, in which the entire contents of the building were removed, leaving only the structure of the building as seen in 1940. The renovation would also allow the Post Home to become a handicap assessible building, opening doors for our disabled veterans. The Legionnaires of Post 102 took up temporary residence at the Masonic Lodge at 25 East Center Street to conduct monthly meetings and business, and to work to support the community. As the renovation continued a Legionnaire took on a special role as the go-to-guy for the renovation, he was Peter Lund, a United States Navy veteran of the Lebanon and Grenada Conflicts; Peter spent countless hours working with the town, the Contractor and vendors alike to complete the renovation of the Post Home, which would open to members in April 2018 and open to the other members of the Legion, Auxiliary and Sons in December 2018. The leadership shown by Peter in getting things done and coordinating the effort to rebuild the Post allows the Legion in Manchester to do what it does best… “serve the community, state and the Nation.”