The American Legion is turning 100 and American Legion Post 148 in Savanna is planning to celebrate.
The post located in Savanna was chartered on Sept. 15. 1919. The organization as a whole traces its roots to March 15-17, 1919, in Paris, France, in the aftermath of World War I.
The American Legion was federally chartered on Sept. 16, 1919, and quickly became an influential force at the national, state and local levels, dedicated to service to veterans, strong national defense, youth and patriotism.
A year after it was formed, the American Legion had chartered more than 5,400 local posts that continue to operate today. Since then it has grown to more than 13,000 posts around the world, and more than 2.2 million wartime-veteran members.
Throughout its first century, the American Legion built a legacy on such accomplishments as leading the way to create U.S. Flag Code, helping start the Veterans Administration, drafting and getting passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (the GI Bill), which transformed America in the second half of the 20th century, and helping veterans receive benefits for health-care conditions based on their honorable service, including acceptance of Agent Orange exposure as service-connected.
Today, the American Legion has nearly 3,000 accredited service officers worldwide who assist veterans with their benefits claims and other concerns.
The Savanna American Legion meets the first Wednesday of the month in the Manny’s Pizza banquet room. Members gather around 5 p.m. and the meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.
Any veteran of the armed forces from World War II to present is eligible to join the American Legion. Anyone interested in joining may call Adjutant Bill Hanna at 818-744-2601. Annual dues are $35.
Savanna American Legion Post 148 has a 100-year legacy of supporting the community. The first Post 148 Commander was Dr. J.B. Schreiter in 1919.
The Van-Bibber-Hansen Post 148 is named after two Savanna natives who were killed in action during World War I.
Arling C. Van Bibber was born July 7, 1893, in Savanna. He was a private in the U.S. Army with the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He entered the service from Montana. He died Oct. 8, 1918, in the Argonne Forest in France and is buried in Plot A Row 05 Grave 26, Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France
Peter M. Hansen, son of Mrs. Andrew Sanholt of Savanna, was born Nov. 11, 1895, in Savanna. He volunteered for service March 29, 1918, at Camp Grant, Ill. He served in the 356th Infantry 89th Division, taking part in the offensive at St. Mihiel and in the Argonne. He was killed in action near Hoopice, France, on Nov. 11, 1918.
Months of uncertainty about Peter’s death were finally ended when the news came in the form of a letter from another Carroll County soldier who actually saw Peter fall in battle.
Charles Schuman of Chadwick wrote the following letter from Cordel, Germany, on March 8, 1919:
I just received your letter the other day asking if I knew anything about your brother. He was killed in action on the morning of 11th of November. He fell just 10 feet in front of me. You wanted to know if I had any of his personal belongings. All I was able to get from him was his wristwatch. I don't know what became of the other things he had with him.
He told me just four days before he was killed that if anything happened to him and I got through alright that he wanted me to get his watch and take it back to his mother.
So when I get back I will bring the watch to you and tell you all about him. He sure was a fine soldier and was liked by all the boys in the company that knew him. I was not surprised to get a letter from you for I was looking for one from you regarding Peter.”
This news item appeared in the Savanna Times-Journal on April 25, 1920: “Mrs. Andrew Sanholt on Friday received a testament and letters from France, part of the effects of her son, Peter Hansen, who was killed in the World War on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. These will be prized by the family, especially the testament which "Pete" carried with him on the battlefield.”
Peter M. Hansen's body was returned from France in March of 1921. On March 23, 1921, Peter's body was returned to Savanna and a military funeral was in charge of Major J. B. Schreiter, MRC.
Peter's body was conveyed to the cemetery on a military caisson drawn by four horses and with six pallbearers. Nearly 400 soldiers, sailors and marines marched in four-abreast to the cemetery.
On Feb. 16, 1978, Savanna Mayor Donald H. Nehrkorn forwarded a check for $200 so the names of Pvt. Peter M. Hansen and Pvt. Arling Van Bibber could be memorialized on the Wall of Honor at the Pershing Park Memorial Association in Laclede, Mo.
Current Savanna American Legion Commander Paul Mayer is excited to announce that with the 100-year anniversary of the American Legion, the "Legion Act" was signed into law.
In a significant legislative victory for the American Legion, President Trump signed a bill on July 30 that declares the United States has been in a state of war since Dec. 7, 1941.
“The American Legion sought the declaration as a way to honor approximately 1,600 U.S. service members who were killed or wounded during previously undeclared periods of war,” said Mayer.
The LEGION Act (Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service Act) also opens the door for approximately six million veterans to access American Legion programs and benefits for which they previously had not been eligible.
"Recognizing the service of these wartime veterans is the right thing do and it is long overdue," National Commander Brett Reistad said. "The families of those who were killed or wounded during these wartime acts should take pride in knowing that we recognize their sacrifice and service. Moreover, we are proud to welcome any of the six million living veterans from the previously unrecognized periods into our organization and call them 'Legionnaires.'"
Now that the legislation has been signed, the American Legion's eligibility criteria immediately changes from seven war eras to two: April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941, to a time later determined by the federal government. No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.
This new legislation means that all veterans from World War II up to present are now eligible for American Legion membership as longs as they had an honorable discharge. Post 148 welcomes all newly eligible veterans.