A History of the Order of Elks Involvement in World War I and World War II
The entrance of our country into World War I was faced by the members of the Order of Elks with coura-geous loyalty and devotion in the support of our great country’s efforts.
Anticipating the desire of the Grand Lodge to take appropriate action, the Grand Exalted Ruler, on June 2, 1917, appointed a special committee to ascertain the manner in which the Elks’ resources might most effectively be employed. On July 11, 1917, this committee presented a report to the Grand Lodge convention then in session at Boston, MA , recommending that a special war relief fund be provided. The report was adopted and one million dollars was appropriated to this fund. The Elks National War Relief Commission then was appointed with control to administer this fund.
The first activity of the Commission was to provide for two Base Hospitals. These were the first base hospitals to reach the battle area in France.
As the maimed and wounded of our forces returned home in ever-increasing numbers, their treatment and rehabilitation was essential.
The Commission, after securing the grateful approval of the US Government, purchased a commanding site on Parker Hill, in the city of Boston, and erected thereon a reconstruction hospital with a seven-hundred bed capacity. It was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies and turned over to the US Government on November 16, 1918, by the order of Elks. It was he first of such hospitals to be established in the United States.
At the Grand Lodge Convention at Atlantic City in 1918, an additional one million dollars was appropriated by Elks. Plans were drawn for another hospital to be erected in New Orleans. Shortly thereafter the Armistice was signed ending World War I, which made unnecessary the construction of this building.
Upon his triumphant return to America from the battlefields of France, General John J. Pershing, who had long been an Elk and had given many evidences of his interest in, and loyalty to, the Order of Elks, was tendered a formal public reception in the city of New York on September 9, 1919. On that eventful occasion he withdrew for a time from his public appearance in order to greet officials and members of the Order of Elks in the lodge room of New York Lodge No. 1. In an address there, he graciously referred to his membership in the Order, and said:
No one knows better than an Elk what the Order stands for; and realizing, as I do, just what the vows of an Elk require him to do, prescribing in many ways the conduct of his life, I can readily appreciate, and do appreciate, the great work that has been accomplished by the Order of Elks.
World War II found our Government better equipped to meet emergencies than World War I. It was unnecessary for civilians to send medical units overseas or to build hospitals at home, but there was much to be done on the home front. Among the outstanding contributions of the Elks to the country was their effective cooperation with the armed service in recruiting programs.
Over one hundred thousand Elks wore the uniform of our armed forces in World War II. Eighteen hundred died for our country. They were our Brothers carrying on in the front lines to preserve our country and our homes. The wartime activities of the Elks were inspired by the spirit of patriotism, which is the Order’s proud heritage, a heritage enriched by the sacrifices of those who, in two world wars, offered “their all” to their country.
Chico Lodge #423 was actively supportive during both of these world wars. During World War II. The Chico Air Base was located here from 1942 thru 1945. Chico Elks Lodge offered its complete facility located at 330 Wall Street to be used as headquarters by the Corp of Officers Club from early 1942 until the end of the war.
By Charlie Carroll, PDDGER—Lodge Historian