|As could be expected, the new century started off with much activity. In the
United States, the Spanish American War veterans worked on building harmony, not discord.
In the space of thirteen years, the American Veterans of Foreign Service, the Colorado
Society Army of the Philippines, and three newer veteran's organizations would all resolve
their differences and merge into one association. United under the name of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars of the United States, these veterans would go on to jointly pursue their
dream of better treatment of all American veterans.
in the creation of the VFW was one sorely lacking in European politics of the day -
compromise. Before the major reorganization of five veteran's organizations into one could
take place, several minor mergers and changes in organizational structure had to occur.
Thousands of members of the existing organizations also had to concede that one large
national organization could serve their interests better than the more specialized, but
smaller ones to which they already belonged.
From the first meeting of the American Veterans of Foreign Service, it
was evident that its founders had far more than a local society in mind. But although
their enthusiasm and aspirations were great, their planning often did not keep pace with
their ideas. It took the pragmatism of Jim Romanis to turn the ideas into reality.
Several weeks before the encampment of 1904, Romanis persuaded a group
of Spanish American War veterans based in Pennsylvania to send a representative to the
AVFS's encampment. This veterans group, which was coincidentally also known as the
American Veterans of Foreign Service, had responded by sending their National Junior Vice
Commander, Dr. George Metzger. When he appeared before the assembled delegates in
Columbus, Metzger made an unexpected proposal. He suggested that the Columbus officers
attend his group's National Encampment the following week in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, for
the purpose of discussing a possible merger of the two veteran's groups. Without
hesitation, the delegates voted to send their President, James Romanis, and empowered him
to take any action he felt necessary to expedite the merger. The merger eventually
happened in 1905.
After the 1905 merger, it was quite some time before the AVFS once
again made headlines. From 1905 to 1908, the organization worked mainly on structuring and
consolidating this newly merged, larger group. The group grew both in political power
membership. In 1910 an AVFS membership report showed thirty-four posts in good standing
with approximately 1,200 members.
General Irving Hale, president of the infant Colorado Society Army of
the Philippines, dreamed of building a national veteran's organization that would rival
the FAR in size and power. This was a dream he shared with Jim Romanis, cofounder of the
American Veterans of Foreign Service. But unlike his Eastern Counterpart, whose dream was
clouded only by minor procedural problems in getting his organization up and running, Hale
needed to overcome two major obstacles - one natural, one man-made - that stood in the way
of his goal.
Geographical factors presented the first stumbling block to growth of
the Army of the Philippines. The East had many more towns large enough to support a camp,
and veterans who lived outside of town had less distance to travel to camp meetings. To
complicate matters, cowboys, sheep herders, and men who worked in the mining camps out
west were continually moving about.
The second hindrance to recruitment of new members was one that the
Army of the Philippines had imposed on itself: its restriction of membership to men who
had served in one theater of one war.
Thanks to Hale's outreach efforts, almost one thousand Philippine
veterans, representing nineteen military units of the Eighth Army, attended the reunion in
Denver on August 13, 1900. They came from Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, the
Dakotas, and all of the western states. In the business session, a constitution and bylaws
were swiftly adopted for the national body. So too was a name for the organization:
"The National Association of the Army of the Philippines." Although General Hale
was the most popular and logical candidate to head the national association, he was not
elected as president. Instead the honor went to General Francis V. Greene of New York
City. Historians believe he was elected to help attract more veterans from the East as
members. Even with an Easterner at its helm, the Society found its recruiting efforts
hampered by the requirement that members must have served in the Philippines.
Many attempts were made to merge with other veterans organizations, but
up till now, all were voted down. At the 1912 reunion in Lincoln, Nebraska, several
representatives from the AVFS who were in attendance suggested a merger of the two
organizations. The Army of the Philippines promptly invited these members to attend the
next year's reunion in Denver to discuss the possibility further.
In fact, the entire AVFS National Encampment would end up meeting with
the Army of the Philippines in Denver, thanks to the scheming of one man. That man, Gus
Hartung, was the commander of the Denver-based John S. Stewart Camp of the Army of the
Philippines. During the 1912 reunion, he proposed that the next reunion of the Army of the
Philippines be held in Denver, and the delegates agreed. After the possibility of a merger
was raised, Hartung contacted Robert Woodside, Commander-in-Chief of the AVFS and
suggested that the AVFS, too, hold its next convention in Denver. When Woodside accepted,
the way was paved for the joint meeting of 1913.
The convention opened with both groups meeting separately. Each group
had a certain amount of old business to handle, and undoubtedly wanted to discuss in
private what they would and would not concede in a merger. While rivalry between the
groups arose in part from local pride in their unit's "feats of arms," the main
dissension came over choosing a name for the new group. Because of the heated discussions
and lingering resentment over issues that had passed despite objections from substantial
minorities, the delegates postponed most organizational changes to a later meeting or left
them to the newly elected officers to make. One major change, however, was silently
approved when the Army of the Philippines agreed to merge. It was also decided that the
new association would go by the name of "Army of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto
Rico" until a referendum could be held and a name be chosen by a vote of all members
and all posts. Henceforth, membership in both groups would be open not just to veterans of
the Philippine Campaign, but to veterans who served honorably in any war on foreign soil.
There were many who were not satisfied with the merger. In many camps,
the legality of the merger topped the list of the most discussed items. In an attempt to
take charge of the situation, on September 12, 1913, Commander-in-Chief Rice Means issued
General Order Number One. In it, Means appealed to the members' loyalty and patriotism in
asking them to set aside their dissatisfaction with the merger. He also announced that
local units would henceforth be known as "posts" rather than "camps."
Several camps on both sides of the Mississippi continued to protest the merger.
In February 1914, Commander-in-Chief Rice Means sent all posts a
message suggesting that they agree on a name that was so comprehensive that every veteran
would realize that this new organization was not like any other previous veteran's
organizations. This one would not die out with the founding generation, but would be
available to veterans as long as the United States was forced to fight wars. Official
approval of the selected name was later given at the 1914 Convention in Pittsburgh. This
approval, coupled with the adoption of the constitution, made that convention the first
annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.