History of the Franco-American War Veterans
In March 1932 seven French veterans of World War I met for the purpose of formulating plans to organize a Veteran’s organization for veterans of French decent. These men were joined by other French veterans and met until September 1932. When they declared themselves associated together as “La Légion Franco-Americaine des Etats-Unis d’Amérique”. From September 1932 this group of Franco-American War Veterans continued to gather names of individuals who would ultimately sign the charter and become incorporators of the organization. In early 1933, one hundred forty-four incorporators, who we call our chartered members, requested the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to grant them corporate status. On the 16th day of May 1933 corporate status was granted to the organization retroactive to March 22, 1933. The corporation’s legal name was “La légion Franco-Américaine des Etats-Unis d’Amérique”.
From the mill city of Lawrence, MA, where Post #1 is located the organization quickly expanded to the neighboring city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, where Post #2 was formed. Post #3 was formed in Amesbury, Massachusetts and Post #4 was founded in Lowell, MA. The organization was also successful in forming Posts outside of the Merrimack Valley. Posts were also formed in Fall River, New Bedford and Worcester as well as in other Massachusetts cities.
In Lowell, Post No.4 of the Franco-American War Veterans was reanimated, after a 20-year hiatus, in September of 1988, largely due to the efforts of Raymond J. Barrette and Richard Sawyer, with the admission of a dozen new members. At the time of this writing, June 2008, they remain an active group.
In September 1934 Wilfred J. LaPlante of Lawrence, MA was elected the first National Commander with headquarters located in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
In 1948, French-speaking veterans outside Massachusetts were organized in the State of Rhode Island on May 10th. After the organization rooted itself in Connecticut, the National headquarters granted it a State Charter on July 19, 1957.
Although New Hampshire has never had a State Charter, there were posts started in Manchester and Dover, which have since disbanded.
In 1949 the Organization changed its name to the present “Franco American War Veterans, Inc.” With English being the official language of all government agencies within the United States of America, it also supplanted French as the official language of this organization. However, any member has the privilege, at all times, to express himself in French.
In October of 1986, Post #31, the latest to become part of the organization was founded in Lewiston, Maine. Since Maine does not have a State Department yet, Post #31 runs under the Department of Connecticut.
[Editor’s Note: Information for this article was taken, with permission, from the Spring/Summer 2006 issue of Le Forum, published by Le Centre Franco-Américain, Université du Maine, Orono, Maine.]