The Department of Indiana branch of the American Legion is a statewide veterans organization affiliated with the American Legion and headquartered in Indianapolis. Indiana veterans of World War I, joining the veterans’ movement popularized by Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and others, met in Indianapolis on April 24, 1919, before attending a national caucus at St. Louis. Another statewide gathering on June 6 voted to affiliate with the American Legion, which met in its first national convention in November in Minneapolis.

Cars are parked in front of long, stone, three-story neoclassical building with a centrally-place columned entry.
American Legion Building, 1951 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

The Indiana delegation convinced the convention to locate the Legion’s headquarters in Indianapolis. This decision, in turn, prompted Indianapolis, Marion County, and the State of Indiana to construct the distinctive, five-block Indiana World War Memorial Plaza to include the Legion’s headquarters at the comer of Meridian and St. Clair streets. The Department of Indiana initially occupied an office in this building. In the early 1950s the national headquarters moved into a new building at the comer of St. Clair and Pennsylvania streets, and the Department and the National Women’s Auxiliary expanded throughout the original building.

The Department enrolled nearly 45,000 World War 1 veterans in 320 local posts its first year and implemented programs of service to hospitalized and disabled comrades and dependents of those who had died in war service. The posts provided honor guards for veterans’ funerals, established women’s auxiliaries and adopted community projects and Boy Scout troops.

A formation of people, the first two rows of which are holding flags, is in the middle of a street.
A group of veterans march in the American Legion Parade in downtown Indianapolis, 1933 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

In the early 1950s the Department opposed the new Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) using the state’s World War Memorial auditorium. In 1973 the state Supreme Court ruled for the ICLU. More recently, the Department protested plans for the Cuban flag to be displayed on the American Legion Mall during the Pan American Games in 1987. That ground had been dedicated, the Department stated, to American veterans, including the post commander in Havana executed in 1961 by a Cuban firing squad for alleged anti-Castro activities.

The Department offers Legion services to veterans, communities, and the nation, including aiding the Soldiers and Sailors Children’s Home in Knightstown. Its ongoing child welfare activities include the state’s Special Olympics, Hoosier Boys’ State, American Legion baseball, and high school oratorical contests. Veteran-specific programming includes monitoring the POW-MIA and Agent Orange issues. The Department’s lobbying efforts have produced many state laws providing benefits to veterans and their dependents and to children and the general populace. In the early 1990s the Department had approximately 140,000 members. By 2020, this number had fallen to 70,777.

In 2014 the Department vacated its building in the American Legion Mall and took residence at 5440 Herbert Lord Road, near the former Fort Benjamin Harrison, in nearby Lawrence. Department officials moved from downtown with the aim of improving services to Indiana veterans. They also cited increased maintenance costs at the American Legion Mall as a reason for the move. In April 2018, the Department opened the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame next door to its headquarters at 5360 Herbert Lord Road. Honoring the stories of dozens of Indiana veterans dating back to World War I, the Hall of Fame is the only freestanding building of its kind in the U.S.

Revised February 2021

Help improve this entry

Contribute information, offer corrections, suggest images.

You can also recommend new entries related to this topic.