Legion pg 1 3-14-19

caption, page 6:

Robert St. Onge, center, commander of Post #13, receives proclamations from R. Roger Brodeur, left, mayor of Putnam and 2nd District Congressman William St. Onge.  The proclamations were in recognition of the Post’s 50th Anniversary in 1969. Courtesy photo.

By Ronald P. Coderre
(On March 15, 2019, American Legion National and on July 7, 2019The Mayotte-Viens American Legion Post #13 will celebrate 100-year anniversaries.  This is the first of a two-part story recapping a brief history of Post #13.  Excerpts in this article have been taken from a history written by G. Stanley Shaw in 1969 and from articles in the 1925 Hartford Courant, 1970 Windham County Observer – Putnam Patriot and the book Sky Pilots.)
During the past decade, from 2008 to 2018, the Mayotte-Viens American Legion Post #13 has regularly been in the news, through its numerous community activities, promoting its mission, “For God and Country.”  In 2019 Post #13 will celebrate its 100th Anniversary.
But have you ever wondered, “How and when did the world’s largest veteran’s organization get its start?”
In the fall of 1916 President Woodrow Wilson, campaigning on the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” won a second term in office.  A few weeks following his inauguration, on April 2, 1917, Wilson addressed a special session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany. 
This war, WWI, “The Great War” famous for its “doughboys,” is eventually what spawned the organization known as The American Legion.  Following the signing of the armistice ending WWI on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the wheels of action began to churn, pressing for an organization in which the doughboys of WWI could find the same sense of unity and camaraderie that they experienced in the military.
Under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the national organization got its start.  A caucus of veterans meeting in Paris from March 15–17, 1919, officially formalized the establishment of The American Legion.   
Soon after the Paris caucus Lt. Alfred N. Philips, who was appointed by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. to establish a Department of Connecticut, arrived in Putnam to enlist the interest of 400 WWI veterans in organizing a Post in the town.
First 50 Years
Putnam’s answer came with the submission of a charter signed by 25 local veterans.  The 25 veteran signers of the original charter were: James P. Ryan, Arthur P. Brodeur, Emilien Breault, Peter J. Magnan, Charles F. Donahue, Lorenzo M. Kennedy, Dr. William Saretski, Edmond Gagne, Eugene Miller, Albert J. Gregoire, John L. Wright, James J. Charron, Michael J. Daigle, Hyde Smith, Archibald Macdonald, Jr., Harold S. Corbin, John Lussier, Alfred L. Gilbo, Lucien Girard, W.D. Favreau, James E. Murray, Dr. Edward F. Perry, Norman E. Warren, A.C. Keith, G. Stanley Shaw.
On July 7, 1919, the National Executive Committee formally certified and granted the charter.  By Dec. 9, 1919, an additional 202 members had added their names to the new Post.  On July 22 Dr. Edward F. Perry was elected president; Harold S. Corbin, vice president; and Whitman S. Danielson, secretary-treasurer.
In August of the same year, more than 100 members assembled at the former Union Hall and unanimously voted to name the Post, Anselm Mayotte Post.  Father Anselm Mayotte was an assistant at St. Mary’s Church.  He was one of 40 young priests who answered the call of Bishop John J. Nilan of the Diocese of Hartford to serve the needs of the young soldiers as a chaplain on the battlefields of France.
Shortly after arriving in France the young chaplain was assigned to the 102nd Infantry Regiment and later transferred to 12th Field Artillery Regiment.  While with both units, which were in the midst of heavy fighting, Chaplain Mayotte not only tended to the spiritual needs of the troops but also assisted with caring for the wounded.  In addition to battling the German enemies, the men also battled what also prove to be a killer – disease.  The real killer became the flu or influenza, which was accompanied by pneumonia.
Shortly before Thanksgiving 1918, just after the signing of the armistice, the chaplain and his unit were in Buchenofe, Germany, when he was transported to a hospital in Echternacht, Luxemburg with full-blown flu symptoms.  He died there, six days before his 30th birthday, on Dec. 5, 2018.
In February 1947, Post #13 officially changed its name to The Mayotte-Viens American Legion.  The Post was renamed in memory and honor of George R. Viens, a Putnam High School graduate and U.S. Marine, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet at Guadalcanal in September 1943 at the age of 21.
During its 100-year existence Post #13 has experienced periods of inactivity where its future was uncertain.  Since its early beginnings when more than 225 men joined the organization, membership witnessed a growth to an all-time high of 280 members.  Just prior to its 50th anniversary in 1969, the Post was almost abandoned due to low membership and poor financial conditions.
A concerted effort to revitalize the Post under the leadership of Commander Gerard “Gerry” Richard occurred in 1965.  From 1966 through 1970 Commanders Richard Turcotte, Leo Beausoleil and Robert F. St. Onge continued the revitalization and growth of the Post.
From its inception in 1919 American Legion Post #13 has been fortunate to have had the leadership of strong veterans throughout the years.  In the very early years such well- known names as its first commander Dr. Edward F. Perry have dotted the roster of commanders.  G. Stanley Shaw Sr. (1928-1929), Arthur Keith (1929-1930), Gilbert Perry (1931-1932), Rosario J. “Dodo” Beausoleil (1935-1936), James J. “Jimmy” Charron (1936-1937), Dr. Henry C. Breault (1937-1938), Sen. Henry Dunleavy (1941-1942), James W. Frost (1944-1945), and John W. Gahan (1949-1950) followed, providing the leadership that kept the Post intact and viable.
During the initial 50 years, two members Rosario Beausoleil and Norman J. Levesque, were accorded life membership awards.  Beausoleil was a WWI veteran who was a prominent businessman and alderman in Putnam.  Levesque, a WWII veteran served as Post Commander on three separate occasions, 1948-1949, 1950-1951 and 1952-1953.
From the pages of the Nov. 12, 1925, edition of the Hartford Courant, the American Legion was cited for its involvement  in a ceremony at the WWI Veterans Memorial Bridge on Pomfret Street.
The headline read, Observance of Armistice Day – Putnam Dedicates Bridge (from the Associated Press), “Putnam paid tribute to its war dead today and honored the living who took part in the struggle, when a memorial bridge across the Quinebaug River was dedicated and appropriate exercises were held.  Between 15,000 and 20,000 persons witnessed the ceremonies which were attended by Governor Trumbull and many other prominent men.”
Today, more than 90 years later, thanks to the initiative of the men and women of Post #13 that same bridge proudly displays the American Flag, the POW/MIA Flag, the American Legion and VFW flags, as well as the flags of the five branches of the military.
Since the first National Convention in 1919, to the 2019 National Convention, both taking place in Minneapolis, Minn., the veteran members of American Legion Post #13 have played a significant role in the establishment of the organization as it is formed today.  Veterans who served in WWI, WWII and the Korean war carried the Post through its first 50 years.


RocketTheme Joomla Templates