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History Of The Veterans of Foreign Wars

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States traces its roots back to 1899.  That year, Veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service.  In Columbus, Ohio, they founded the American Veterans of Foreign Service.  In Denver Colorado, they organized the Colorado Society, Army of the Philippines.

In 1901, Philippine Veterans in Altoona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, started the Philippine War Veterans.  The following year, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became the home of the American Veterans of the Philippine and China Wars.  In 1905, these three groups merged with the American Veterans of Foreign Service.

In 1913, the American Veterans of Foreign Service was amalgamated with the Colorado Society, Army of the Philippines and became the Army of the Philippine-Cuba and Puerto Rico, then changed their name to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

The VFW was chartered by Congress in 1936.


Current Size 1.9 million plus members
War Service World War II, 1.1 million
Korean War, 441,000
Vietnam War, 504,000

Remainder from Haiti, Somalia, Persian Gulf War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon and many other expeditionary campaigns and occupation duties.

Eligibility VFW membership is available to all U.S. Citizens, honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces and who have earned an overseas campaign medal (Note:  A 1995 VFW Congressional Charter amendment makes eligible all those who have served 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days on the Korean peninsula or in its territorial waters from June 30, 1949 until the present day).


The National Convention is the VFW's supreme governing body.  Each August, thousands of VFW members gather to elect new officers, adopt resolutions and handle important business affairs.

National officers,, who serve one year, are elected by delegates to the National Convention.  The officers include the Commander-in-Chief, Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief, Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief, Quartermaster General (similar to a corporate treasurer), Judge Advocate General (provides legal counsel), Surgeon General and the National Chaplain.

Traditionally, at each National Convention, the Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief becomes the Commander-in-Chief, while the Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief assumes the role of Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief.  For this reason, interest and activity centers around election of the new Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief.

Appointed officials include the Adjutant General (similar to a corporate CEO), National Chief of Staff and the National Inspector General.

The National Council of Administration serves as the VFW's Board of Directors.  It comprises elected national officers, the immediate past Commander-in-Chief, three appointed officials and elected members from each of 29 national districts comprising one or more Departments.

Approximately 10,000 Posts comprise 55 Departments in the 50 states plus Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands, Panama, the Pacific Areas, Europe and Washington, D.C.

The election, functions and titles of elected and appointed officers in Posts, Districts, County Councils and Departments parallel the national level.