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, 20143 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 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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