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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS (VFW)

VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS (VFW)

VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS (VFW), a national organization for military veterans formed in Columbus, OH, in Apr. 1899, first appeared in Cleveland in 1920 with the formation of Post No. 84, commanded by George Collyer. Soon there were 3 posts in the area, with about 800 members dedicated to perpetuating the memory of those who had died in service abroad, assisting their widows and orphans and veterans in poor health, promoting legislation of benefit to veterans, and fostering "true patriotism" and loyalty to the U.S. government. During 1931-32, the Cuyahoga Council of the VFW participated in the national organization's campaign to gather signatures supporting immediate payment of war veterans' bonuses. "Comparatively small" prior to the end of World War II, the local VFW grew in 1945-46, with 13,000-14,000 members in Cuyahoga County by late 1946. Several local posts reported memberships of more than 1,000. The county council had established a Rehabilitation & Service Headquarters in 1944 to help veterans determine their rights under the law and to assist in filing disability and allowance claims. These services, as well social functions, contributed to the VFW's popularity. In 1950 the VFW began to sponsor annual Loyalty Day parades and ceremonies to counteract the May Day celebrations in Communist nations. The VFW-sponsored Voice of Democracy competition, with scholarships as prizes, became another popular program. Cleveland hosted national VFW conventions in 1947 and 1964. Between 1953-67, the number of area posts increased from 54 to 65, with 42 ladies' auxiliaries in Cuyahoga County. Through the 1980s-1990s membership remained stable at around 7,200. In 1995 there were 44 VFW posts in Greater Cleveland.