of Disabled American Veterans followed the wake of World War I, when thousands of American doughboys came home to an America
that was not prepared to care for the carnage of war. More than 4.7 million Americans
served, 53,500 were lost in combat. Accidents and illnesses (mostly from the
deadly Spanish flu pandemic) took the lives of 63,000. More than 200,000 soldiers
were wounded during the war.
The History of Disabled American Veterans
No Matter The Need
the war, whatever the politics, whatever the injury,
the DAV marches to the mandate of the veteran’s need.”
America was not prepared to go to war or face its aftermath, especially caring for the
sick and wounded. Months after returning home, half of the 4 million soldiers
were released from military service. With the country drained of its economic
resources due to the war, there was little funding available to help war veterans in search of employment and medical care.
Within a year, 4 million Americans were jobless, broke and past hope. Recession and unemployment crippled the American economy. As a result, veterans were left to fend for themselves,
especially those who were disabled. Jobs were almost nonexistent for these men.
few government agencies charged with responsibility for veterans were under funded, often working at cross-purposes and required
veterans seeking help to complete an abundance of bureaucratic paperwork, much to the dismay of veterans. Many gave up, finding themselves having to look to each other for help. It
was in this environment that groups of disabled veterans gathered together across the country, some for social purposes, others
working to raise money and create jobs for their comrades.
The Ohio Mechanics Institute (OMI), a training school for
disabled veterans, asked for help from celebrated disabled veterans. Enter Cincinnati-born
Captain Robert S. Marx, a wounded veteran who upon recovery returned to his law practice in Cincinnati, won a Superior Court
judgeship and became the champion of the disabled veterans cause. He was an exceptional organizer, a captain of industry and
a natural born leader.
In 1920, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Disabled American Veterans of the World
War (DAV/WW). A year later, he called a caucus of disabled veteran groups from
around the nation. The caucus of 250 veterans met in Cincinnati and created a
national organization, which was divided into state and local chapters. Judge
Marx traveled to some 32 states to build local chapters.
His tireless efforts in this endeavor earned him the title
of the “Father of the DAV.” The history of the DAV is the story of victory and defeat, success and near disaster,
but always the commitment to build better lives for disabled veterans and their families. By holding to this single purpose
the DAV is today the finest veterans service organization in the world—offering free services to millions of veterans
It’s often been said that “what is past, is prologue.” For
the Disabled American Veterans, the outstanding achievement of its past 85 years is a remarkable testimonial for its future.
James Wise, Captain, USN Retired