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The Forty and Eight is an organization of veterans of the United States armed forces. Its official name is "La Société des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux," which is French, and translates as "The Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses."

The official emblem of the 40 & 8. The triangular shape suggests Veterans who served in the air, on land and at sea.


40 & 8 boxcar in Independence Day parade, Ypsilanti, Michigan

The organization (also known as "La Société") can trace its roots back to 1920, when Joseph W. Breen and 15 other members of the American Legion, who were veterans of World War I, came together and founded it as an honor society for certain Legion members.

The title "40&8" comes from the box cars that were used to transport troops to the front in France. Each car had the emblem 40/8 stenciled on the sides, which meant that it could carry 40 men or 8 horses. These cars were known as forty-and-eights. They were seen by the troops as a miserable way to travel, and the new organization was thus called the 40&8 in an attempt to make some light of the common misery they had all shared.

In 1929 it was described as "the fun-making organization of the American Legion."[1]

In 1959 the 40&8 became independent of the American Legion, although still required membership in the American Legion. In 2008 the 40&8 dropped the membership requirement in the American Legion.[2]


Membership is by invitation and open to all Honorably Discharged Veterans and all Military Personnel currently serving our country, per a recent change to Article IV of la Societe's constitution. Combat service is not required for membership. From the beginning, La Société only allowed men into its ranks, even though many women were veterans in their own right and thus, could have been eligible. But that changed at the 2006 National Convention, when the majority of delegates present voted to allow women into the ranks for the first time.


The Forty and Eight is involved in several charitable aims.

Child Welfare

La Societe's first program was designed to provide care and scholarships for the children of servicemen not returning home after WWI. Today; the Child Welfare program is mostly involved with providing help for any family with children under 18 that have been devastated by some disaster.

Nurses' Training

La Société provides scholarships to people desiring to become nurses under the Nurses' Training program. A prospective nurse need not be a military veteran to receive aid under this program.

Youth Sports

La Société also helps to finance sports programs for children who are disadvantaged in some way, such as through mental or physical challenges or lack of money. People who receive this aid need not be military veterans.

Carville Star

As one of their ongoing programs, the Voyageurs Militaire offer continuing support of the publication, "The Carville Star," which disseminates the information regarding the research into Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) taking place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There they have been successful in isolating, controlling and soon, through their research, the development of a vaccine to prevent Hansen's Disease. "The Star" is published at the former United States Public Health Service Hospital located in Carville, Louisiana. This patient-published publication carries the research works of not only this center, but those of the rest of the world, and is translated into and forwarded to 128 countries in addition to a circulation of more than 60,000 in the United States.


The local unit of the 40&8 is the Voiture (boxcar). It often covers a specific city, county, or American Legion post. Above that is the Grande (state) level. Each state has its own Grande, as well as the District of Columbia, and there are grandes for Mexico, France, Latin America and several other locations where US military veterans make their homes abroad. 40&8 National Headquarters is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. 40&8 members refer to each other as "Voyageurs" (voyagers), in that all members have shared the demands and hardship of military service and have taken the same journey. The 40&8 is down significantly from its membership numbers of years back. But it is still very much in existence. Although the 40&8 is not a classical secret society, much of the ritual is a secret to non-members. Some veterans' organizations are like this. A member can disclose that he or she belongs to said organization, but not all of what goes on at its meetings. An official meeting of the 40&8 is known as a Promenade. It has its own set ritual.

The ceremony to initiate a new member, known as a Voyageur, into the 40&8 is known as a wreck. Anyone wishing to enter the 40&8 must be wrecked.

The 40 & 8 as a whole is divided into regions. These regions follow geographical lines and each region encompasses multiple states. For example, the Central States includes Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. The MinnDakota region includes Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Other regions include Heart of Dixie and Northwest.

Notable members


External links

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