A group of twenty officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in France during World War I is credited with planning the Legion. A.E.F. Headquarters asked these officers to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale. One officer, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., proposed an organization of veterans. In February 1919, this group formed a temporary committee and selected several hundred officers who had the confidence and respect of the whole army.
When the first organization meeting took place in Paris in March 1919, about 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended. The meeting, known as the Paris Caucus, adopted a temporary constitution and the name The American Legion. It also elected an executive committee to complete the organization‘s work. It considered each soldier of the A.E.F. a member of the Legion. The executive committee named a subcommittee to organize veterans at home in the U.S.
The Legion held a second organizing caucus in St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1919. It completed the constitution and made plans for a permanent organization. It set up temporary headquarters in New York City, and began its relief, employment, and Americanism programs.
Congress granted the Legion a national charter in September 1919. The first National Convention, held in Minneapolis, adopted a permanent constitution and elected officers to head the organization. The National Headquarters chartered the Department of Maine on August 1, 1920.
Fifteen individuals signed the Charter Rolls and the National organization chartered Post 79 on January 9, 1920. The Charter Members included John D. Amos, R. N. Boucher, Benjamin T. Bragdon, Harold E. Clark, John E. Downes, Clarence E. Foss, Roy Goodwin, Elliott E. Hodson, Perley H. Jellison, Merle K. Johnston, Henry E. Leach, William Leach, William R. Mathews, Clyde H. Randall, and Lester R. Whitaker.The Post elected Harold E. Clark to the position of Commander and Clyde H. Randall to be the Adjutant.On February 11, 1920, by vote of the Post, a formal resolution was passed to officially name the Post after the first resident of Berwick to die in the service of his country in World War I, Charles Sidney Hatch.
Charles Sidney Hatch was born in Calais, Maine on May 2, 1891, the son of Calvin A. & Lucy (McQuillen) Hatch and he was raised in Berwick.He enlisted in the US Navy at Boston, MA, on February 24, 1916, rising quickly to the rank of Yeoman First Class and, with only 502 days of naval service, he was promoted to the rank of Chief Yeoman on June 30, 1917.He was assigned to the USS Wheeling on April 1, 1918 and died of influenza at the Naval Hospital, Fort Lyon, Colorado on August 21, 1918.His remains rest in Evergreen Cemetery in Berwick.
Berwick has a proud tradition of providing support to the wars and battles of this nation. The Town, in Town Meeting on July 1, 1776, voted to advise the Colonel Gerrish, chosen to represent them in the next General Court that “should the Hon[ora]ble Congress for the safety of said Colonies declare them independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, they the said inhabitants will solemnly engage with their lives & fortunes to support them in the measure.” The Town subsequently provided a greater percentage of its population to those military endeavors that followed than any other town in New England and lost nine of them.And, once again, in the Civil War, Berwick sent some 200 of his sons to the war out of a population of about 1,000 persons with sixteen making the “supreme sacrifice.”Berwick men and women have answered the call in every conflict from 1675 to date.