In 1933, the Sons of the American Legion started to carry out local community service and patriotic work of The American Legion. The goal was to transmit the ideas and values of the Legion to posterity. At the time, the Keystone Legion (now known as Pennsylvania American Legion) was involved in this nationwide endeavor of the Sons of the American Legion, in which the male descendants of Legion members were organized.
At that time the Sons were thought of as, “logical candidates to succeed us” and it was the Legion’s duty to see that they were trained, not only in the principles and ideals, but also the actual program of the parent organization. In the beginning, it was a difficult challenge to persuade many Legion posts to organize squadrons. The organization of the SAL squadrons was considered too time-consuming and distracting by some post commanders.
Edwin B Yeich, the first Chairman of the SAL organizing committee wrote a pamphlet, “A Program for the sons of the Legion, Department of Pennsylvania.” He presented the SAL philosophy and a plan for “organizing and administering the individual squadron, and a suggested list of activities for its members.” This pamphlet was supplemented throughout the year by bulletins, letters, and personal visits. By the late 1930’s, our state SAL membership varied between 6,000 and 9,000, with an average of 364 squadrons reporting in yearly. Squadrons were given names such as Fort Pitt or Fort Washington to emphasize the military heritage of the nation and give young men something to identify with.
The significance of the Keystone SAL was soon seen when the nation was engulfed in World War II. Many members served in the military and afterward joined the Legion. One was Edward McCoy (1922-81), son of Joseph McCoy, a former doughboy and long-time Legionnaire from a Post in Bradford. McCoy earned the Bronze Star in 1944, was honorably discharged in 1945, and returned to the Bradford area where he joined his father’s Post and served as Post Adjutant and Commander over three decades of Legion membership. He credited his participation in Legion youth activities with “setting him on the straight and narrow” from an early boyhood of hard times.
After languishing from the end of World War II to the 1980s, Sons of the American Legion has made a comeback. There are now department-wide “detachments” or convention on a regular basis. And Pennsylvania has maintained being the largest detachment in the nation.
Information is from the History of the Pennsylvania American Legion by Terry Radtke