Comparing and Contrasting the VFW and the American Legion?

How are the VFW and the American Legion alike and different?

By wmarr


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September 7, 20146 found this helpful
Best Answer

I've noticed some not so accurate answers. The American Legion is not for peacetime veterans. Criteria for joining is serving in certain time frames during wars and certain conflicts. You don't have to actually have been in theater, rather the correct TIMES as set by congress. Many places veterans deployed do not qualify for the VFW. Places like Okinawa, Germany, Guam, Japan, maybe embassy duty such as other places around the world, not considered in a war zone, so it is not accurate to claim that American Legion members are for U.S. soil members only. American Legion was established as a WAR TIME post and their bylaws require that a member have served DURING a time of war or certain conflicts established by congress.


The VFW is not ALL for veterans of a foreign war. There are many members of the VFW that served on Korean soil for more than 30 days (After the Korean War), that qualify for VFW. They may have never fired or heard a shot in anger. The VFW criteria is also based on hazardous pay and imminent hostile fire. Many VFW members also qualified as occupational forces after WWII that never saw combat action. Many military exercises in the Indian Ocean, or Thailand or Cuban missile crisis qualify for VFW by method of a certain medal received for that "action". The VFW has the highest proportion of combat veterans of either American Legion or Amvets. Many join all if they qualify. VFW was a product of the Philippines or "Bamboo Wars" during the aftermath of the Spanish American War in late 1800's.


The American Legion accepts members of the Merchant Marines, whom were given Veteran Status in the 1980's. The VFW continues to NOT accept Merchant Marines for membership.

The American Legion is far larger organization with more members and more resources. There are many more Legions than VFW's. Many combat veterans join the American Legion too.

And just because someone can join the VFW doesn't mean that they automatically can join the American Legion. Example being Lebanon in 1958, when Marines landed in Lebanon they got a campaign or expeditionary medal qualifying for VFW, but during those dates, they don't fit into the American Legion criteria. Another example would be campaigns in Nicaragua and Haiti in the early 1900's or 1920's and 30's. The American Legion has no qualifying dates under those years.

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September 9, 20160 found this helpful

Ugh, quite simply, as long as you've served honorably you can join American legion (few caviots). And serving in the armed forces during a time of war, not imminate threat.


VFW, You stand ready in a theatre of operational opposition to an imminate and oposing force. Whether a shot is fired or not, the circumstances is imminate and a REALITY.

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January 24, 20191 found this helpful

Regarding service in Korea that qualifies for membership in the VFW. Korea is still considered a combat zone since there has never been a peace treaty signed only a truce/cease fire.
There are still US troops being killed by the North Koreans in Korea and even in 1970 and 71 when I served in South Korea the Korean F4 were coming back from the DMZ with their tail shot up.
Post World War II occupation forces in Europe and Japan for a while were also eligible for the VFW because even though Japan and Germany surrendered the occupational forces was still under fire under certain circumstances.

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March 13, 20190 found this helpful

I am a Merchant Marine who received the Expeditionary Award for direct support to the US Navy, USMC for action during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The VFW granted me membership.

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March 18, 20190 found this helpful

American Legion doesn't accept El Salvador vets but VFW does never understood that. I served Korea, El Salvador, Grenada.


I belong to the American Legion, VFW, and DAV. I actually got Life Membership in all three. Got tired of paying dues.

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March 31, 20210 found this helpful

If any military person follows his/her orders and serves in support capacity, such as Germany where many combat troops were airlifted to, why they are not eligible for VFW. They were following their orders.

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May 8, 20210 found this helpful

I would like to know the oldest afro American Legion and VFW in the State of Georgia

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May 27, 20210 found this helpful

So ,if I was in Germany in the late 70's ,can I join The American Legion?

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October 25, 20210 found this helpful

Something about your statements didn't quite jive with me so I looked it up. According to the official site of the American Legion, from Dec 7 1941 to the present time ALL service men and women that served, even for just a day, are eligible for membership.


So yeah those marines you're referencing to are eligible to join.

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January 21, 20220 found this helpful

From the American Legion website:

If you have served at least one day of active military duty since December 7, 1941 and were honorably discharged or you are still serving active military duty honorably, you are eligible for membership with The American Legion.

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January 22, 20220 found this helpful

Just visited the American Legion website. Any service from Pearl Harbor to present is accepted. Of course, you must have been honorably discharged.

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March 29, 20220 found this helpful

Congress in 2014 finally expanded eligibility for all veterans, regardless of service dates, for American Legion membership.
Primary difference is VFW requires wartime service in a designated theater of war or hostilities. VFW members can be members of both organizations, but not all legion members can join VFW.

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April 2, 20220 found this helpful

Im a veteran and those that call me back I call them now. Do not ever sir. In the call I will ask you to admit your service. All to many times I have gauged the worthless. I have at my age accepted that some may try to take that which they do not deserve. Do not ever

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October 26, 20160 found this helpful

Both organizations have specific dates of service that determine eligibility. All VFW members can also be American Legion members but not the other way around.

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