Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Karen Petrone


The public tends to think of war memorials as fixed monuments, but I argue that the American and Canadian Legions served as living memorials that acknowledged veterans’ war-time service by providing service to veterans and to the public. This dissertation focuses on how Legionnaires interacted with one another and with their local communities during the interwar years to construct memories of the First World War. By analyzing local chapter records from Michigan, New York, and Ontario, Canada, this case study highlights the contrast between the organizations’ national and local activities. The local posts’ and branches’ wide range of activities complicated the national organizations’ collective memories of the First World War. A new way to construct a holistic depiction of veterans’ organizations is to study them as living memorials. From this perspective, all of their day-to-day activities fulfill the larger purpose of preserving and perpetuating the memory of their war experiences. At the national level, the American and Canadian Legions advocated for legislation to benefit veterans, but it was primarily at the local level where rank-and-file members shaped the Legions’ collective memories of the war. This study explores elements of those memories, including sacrifice, service, and camaraderie, through the tensions that sometimes arose between the national leadership and the local chapters and compares the American and Canadian Legionnaires’ experiences.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)