On Representing America’s Spirit

Hall of Flags, Boston. Photo credit: George Dow, 1964.

Officers and men of the United States Army:¹ 

In this room through which we are accustomed to pass with uncovered heads, you present today these flags which you have carried with so much credit to yourselves and your country and always to victory. These flags represent not only those who have borne and honored them, but those who may see them and be inspired by them in the years to come, not only those who gaze upon them now, but those who may gaze upon them with appreciation, as we do today. 

We are here to welcome the return of these flags as a memorial of a momentous period in our history. These flags are to remain not only as a memento of the history which is made today, but as an earnest of the history which is to come. Today you bear the voice of the Commonwealth in appreciation of the splendid service which you have rendered. 

Members of the 26th Infantry Division (“Yankee Division”) ascending the steps to the Hall of Flags, June 14, 1919. Photo credit: Leslie Jones Collection.
The “Yankee Division” formed in ranks at the Hall of Flags, June 14, 1919. Photo credit: Leslie Jones Collection.

It is a privilege to me to be here on this day, and to extend the recognition of the Commonwealth for your patriotic achievements by which you have honored your state not only, but also your whole country. Today it is a happy circumstance that you can represent America and the American spirit. It is worthy of the best in our past history. I recall the lines of the poet: 

‘Elect and thrice blest the Roman

Who sees Rome’s happiest day; 

Who sees that long victorious throng

Wind down the sacred way

And round the bellowing forum; 

And through the suppliant’s grove

Up to the everlasting gates 

of Capitolian Jove.’²

It is the true American spirit which you represent today and which you have illustrated and honored in the war. 

I accept these colors in behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I accept them from you who have come back to us from the war where they were borne and honored. They will remind all in the future of the devotion of the sons of the Commonwealth and they will be to all an inspiration to great achievements in the future. 

— Governor Calvin Coolidge, address in the Hall of Flags, June 14, 1919


¹ The 26th Infantry Division (YD, “Yankee Division”), the second division of the American Expeditionary Force to arrive in France following the First Division, the 26th would be the first National Guard unit organized, trained, and sent overseas. The YD spent 210 days in combat between landing in September 1917 and returning in March 1919, earned six campaign streamers for participation in the Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne offensives, the invasion of Ile de France, and Lorraine campaign. The YD also earned U. S. and French citations on nineteen occasions and included two posthumous recipients (PFC Dilboy and PFC Perkins) of the Medal of Honor. 

² “The Prophecy of Capys” from The Lays of Ancient Rome (1842) by Thomas B. Macaulay 


Happy Flag Day!

Calvin Coolidge and his sons, John (right) & Calvin Jr. (left), on Flag Day, 1919. Photo credit: Leslie Jones Collection.

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