December 22, 2011

Who the hell was Eric Fisher Wood?

Filed under: Uncategorized — carrite @ 12:48 pm

Thursday midday.

Excellent question. I’ve been fired up and working on The American Legion since last night and there seems to have been a “gang of four” behind the establishment of the organization — NOT the same four mentioned in later histories, which somehow insert “Wild Bill” Donovan of the OSS and the CIA. I’ve pretty much got it pegged here:

Eric Fisher Wood, Sr. (1889-1962) — a founder of the American Legion.

[The falling morale] situation was a particular matter of concern to Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son of the 26th President. One day in January 1919 Roosevelt had a discussion at General Headquarters with a mobilized National Guard officer named George A. White, a former newspaper editor with the Portland Oregonian. After long discussion, Roosevelt suggested the establishment at once of a new servicemen’s organization including all members of the AEF, as well as those soldiers who remained stateside as members of the Army,Navy, and Marine Corps during the war without having been shipped abroad.

Roosevelt and Green advocated ceaselessly for this proposal until ultimately they found sufficient support at headquarters to move forward with the plan. Orders were issued to a group of 20 non-career officers to report at Paris on February 15, 1919. The selection of these officers seems to have been handled by Roosevelt, later acknowledged as the father of the American Legion plan.

The group of 20 was given the task by Gen. John J. Pershing of providing a set of recommendations aimed at curbing the problem of declining morale. A series of proposals resulted from the day-long session, including elimination of restrictive regulations, organization of additional athletic events and recreational opportunities, and the expansion of leave time and entertainment programs At the end of the day, the group retired to an Allied Officers Club, where Lt. Col. Roosevelt unveiled his proposal for a new veterans’ society.

Most of those present were rapidly won to Roosevelt’s plan. The group decided to declare all of their actions provisional until a duly elected convention of delegates could be convened and made no effort to predetermine a program for the still-unnamed veterans organization. Instead they sought to expand their number through the convocation of a large preliminary meeting in Paris, to consist of an equal number of elected delegates from the ranks of enlisted men and the officer corps.

A provisional executive committee of four people emerged from the February 15 “Roosevelt dinner”: Roosevelt in the first place, who was to return to the United States and obtain his military discharge when able, and then to gather assistants and promote the idea of the new veterans’ organization among demobilized troops there; George White, who was to travel France touring the camps of the AEF explaining the idea in person; as well as veteran wartime administrator Eric Fisher Wood and former Ohio Congressman Ralph D. Cole, who were to establish a central office and to maintain contact by mail and telegram with the various combat divisions and headquarters staffs, as well as to publicize activities to the press.

Anyway, the conventional histories I was working from pretty much just give the names, I had to figure out the functions — the Legion was Teddy Junior’s baby and he did organizing in America, White — an Oregonian — was the field organizer in Europe, and the central office was staffed by one guy who was a former Congressman and………….some dude that didn’t have a Wikipedia page, Eric Fisher Wood.

A quick Google search indicated that this was a fairly big fish in his own right. To make a long story short, I wound up writing his biography.

Meet Eric Fisher Wood.


1 Comment »

  1. Nice summary. Thanks. Helpful on a tangential project. I wanted to expand on one of teh gang of four- MAJ (later MG) George Ared White. He was an editor of the Oregonian for a while, but when the war started he was the Adjutant General of the State of Oregon. He mobilized the Oregon Guard, then was mobilized himself as a Captain (I think) later getting promoted to Major. After WWI he returned to his duties in Oregon and remained the Adjutant General until his death in Nov 1941. He commanded the 41st Division and was the key force in having them prepared for immediate deployment after Pearl Harbor. He apparently remained active in the American LEgion until his death. Unfortunately, that is about all I can find about him. Have been trying to determine what his OFFICIAL duties were at GHQ AEF.

    Comment by George Eaton — January 31, 2013 @ 6:15 am | Reply

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