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The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States (MOFW) is one of the oldest veterans' and hereditary associations in the nation with a membership that includes officers and their hereditary descendants from all of the Armed Services.[1] Membership is composed of active duty, reserve and retired officers of the United States Armed Services, including the Coast Guard, and their descendants, who have served during one of the wars in which the United States has or is engaged with a foreign power.[2]


The Order was founded on December 13, 1894 in the office of Frank M. Avery in the Tribune Building in New York City. The first signer of the Order's "Institution" (founding document) was Major General Fitz John Porter who was a veteran of both the Mexican War and the Civil War. Eighteen others signed the Institution of which five were Mexican War veterans, nine were descendants of American Revolutionary War officers and four who were descendants of officers who served in the War of 1812.

The resultant Order was initially known as the Military and Naval Order of the United States and was organized and later incorporated under that name. Its hereditary line of descent spans the period of American history since national independence during the Revolutionary War. Initially membership in the Order was limited to officer veterans (and their hereditary descendants) of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. Although there were many individuals who served as officers in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars who were living at the time of the Order's founding, that service did not qualify them for membership as those wars were considered to be domestic rather than foreign wars.

In April 1895, the name of the Order was officially changed to its present name - The Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States (MOFW).

The MOFW was patterned after the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) which was a military society for officers, and their descendants, who had served the Union during the American Civil War. As MOLLUS had restricted its membership to officers who had served in one particular war, the need was felt to have an organization for the descendants of officers who had served in the American Revolution, War of 1812 and the Mexican War - as well at the few surviving Mexican War veterans who were officers.

The influence of the Order spread rapidly and soon commanderies (state level organizations) were formed in other states. It was deemed advisable to form a National Commandery to centralize and coordinate the activities of the various state commanderies, and which would have general supervision and control over the policies and activities of the Order. The National Commandery was founded at a joint meeting of the individual state commanderies in March 1896 and General Alexander S. Webb was elected as the first Commander General.

For the first two years of the MOFW's existence, membership categories were limited to Veteran and Hereditary companions. In 1896 the membership category of Honorary Companion was created for presidents of the United States and officers who had attained the rank of major general or rear admiral. President William McKinley, President Grover Cleveland and Lieutenant General John M. Schofield were among the earliest honorary companions. By the end of 1896, commanderies had been formed in seven states.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 provided the Order with a great number of new Veteran Companions - particularly the Pennsylvania Commandery which, according the MOFW Register published in 1900, accounted for over half of the Order's membership. Among the individuals who joined the MOFW between 1898 and 1900 were Admiral George Dewey, future president Theodore Roosevelt and future General of the Armies John J. Pershing. Most senior officers who served in the Spanish-American War were also veterans of the Civil War, and many belonged to both the MOFW and MOLLUS.

In 1928, a fourth membership status (junior companion) was created for sons of companions who had not reached the majority age of 21. In 1969, companionship was extended to those who served in an enlisted status during a foreign war and were later commissioned.

The membership of the Order and the number of state commanderies over the 100 years of the Order's existence has fluctuated typically increasing after the end of a war and declining during times of peace. The Order's stringent and high eligibility requirements make it difficult for the Order to recruit members in large numbers. However, this selectivity has enabled the Order to sustain itself for over 100 years because it continues to fill its ranks with individuals of the highest caliber, patriotism, loyalty, and character.

The motto of the Military Order of Foreign Wars is the Latin phrase, Deus et Libertas meaning God and Liberty.

The War and Navy Departments, and later the Department of Defense, under various resolutions of Congress, gave recognition to the Order and permitted the wearing of its insignia on uniforms.

Past Commanders-General[]

Recent Commanders-General[]

  • Colonel Richard H. Love (1977–1979)
  • Major General James C. McElroy (1987–1989)
  • Commander Thomas F. Wiener (1989–1991)
  • Colonel Charles H. Bechtold (1991-1993)
  • First Lieutenant Charles F. Dale (1993-1995)
  • Colonel Versel Case, Jr. (1995–1997)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Ronald R. Sommer (1997–1999)
  • Colonel Joseph P. Kirlin (1999–2001)
  • Captain Ronald E. Fischer (2001–2003)
  • Major General John J. Salesses, USMCR (2003–2005)
  • Duane Bartrem (2005-2007)
  • Arthur J. Nattans (2007-2009)
  • Lewis L. Neilson, Jr. (2009-2010)
  • Major Wulf Lindenau (2011-2013)
  • Colonel David H. Russell (2013–2015)
  • Captain Richard A. Coutermarsh (2015-2017)

The listing above is incomplete.

Noteworthy Companions[]

Note - The rank listed is the highest held by that individual in their career.[3]

Veteran Companions[]

United States Army

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Hereditary Companions[]

  • Governor and Senator Morgan G. Bulkeley - President of Aetna Insurance, Governor of Connecticut and United States Senator.
  • The Honorable Amos Madden Thayer - Eighth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals judge.
  • Rear Admiral Richard Worsam Meade - Veteran of the Civil War.
  • Rear Admiral Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr. - Veteran of the Civil War and son of Rear Admiral Thomas O. Selfridge, Sr.
  • Rear Admiral John Grimes Walker - Descendant of Lieutenant Aaron Walker who served in the American Revolution.
  • Brevet Major General Theodore S. Peck - Medal of Honor recipient.
  • Brevet Major General Alexander S. Webb - Medal of Honor recipient, Civil War general, signer of the Original Institution of the MOFW in 1894 and first President General of the MOFW.
  • Brigadier General (New York National Guard) James M. Varnum - Surrogate of New York County and socialite.
  • Colonel Louis R. Cheney - Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Major Augustus P. Davis - Founder of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
  • Major Russell Benjamin Harrison - Great Grandson of President and Major General William Henry Harrison. (Also a Veteran Companion.)
  • Brevet Major Rufus King, Jr. - Medal of Honor recipient and descendant of Major and Senator Rufus King who was a signer of the United States Constitution.
  • Reverend Alexander Hamilton - Direct descendant of Secretary of the Treasury and Major General Alexander Hamilton.

Honorary Companions[]

Presidents of the United States and the MOFW[]

Five Presidents of the United States are known have been companions of the MOFW. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower joined the MOFW as Veteran Companions. Presidents Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley joined the MOFW as honorary companions. (Presidents Harrison and Cleveland could also have joined the MOFW as hereditary companions.)

The following presidents were eligible to join the MOFW as veteran companions but are not known to have joined the Order - Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. President Truman was also eligible to join as a hereditary companion.

Former president George W. Bush is eligible to join the MOFW as a hereditary companion by right of his father's service during the Second World War. Presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were also eligible for hereditary companionship as they had ancestors who served as officers during the American Revolution.

Of the presidents who have served since the Order's founding in 1894, six presidents - William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - have been ineligible for neither veteran nor hereditary companionship as they are not known to have qualifying ancestors. (All of the above, except Wilson, had ancestors who served as soldiers during the American Revolution. However, none of their ancestors have been proven to be officers.)

Of the presidents who lived prior to the Order's founding, eight had military service which would qualify their descendants for hereditary companionship in the Order. These presidents were George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce and Ulysses S. Grant.

Five other presidents who lived prior to the Order's founding - John Tyler, James K. Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur - had ancestors who had served as officers during the American Revolution or the War of 1812 and, thus, their descendants are eligible for membership in MOFW.

See also[]


  3. Register of the Military Order of the Foreign Wars of the United States. National Commandery MOFW. 1900.

External links[]

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