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American Legion, McGROARTY-STAMBAUGH POST NO. 124 — 1924

Falls Church, Virginia

American Legion, 1924

On April 8, 1920, in the Old Congregational Church building, Falls Church, Va., a group of ten veterans of the World War, William Middleton, Francis H. Styles, Ernest H. Hinkins, Thomas M. Hodgson, James A. Swift, O. H. Waldvogel, Charles A. Pendleton, Milton T. Birch, Charles E. Marshall and Edward H. Henry, under the direction of Adjutant William F. Franklin, of the Vincent Costello Post, Washington, D. C., formed a temporary organization. But it was not until May 19th that the permanent organization was formed and in memory of the only two men in Falls Church who made the supreme sacrifice, Lieutenant Stephen Patrick McGroarty and Ralph Stambaugh the name of the McGroarty-Stambaugh Post No. 124 was formally adopted.

Lieutenant McGroarty was a native of Washington, D. C., where he was born December 30, 1894, the son of Charles N. McGroarty, Chief of the Division of Loans and Currency in the Treasury Department. He received his education in the public schools of the district and was graduated from the Western High School in 1913. He was graduated from the University of Virginia in the 1917 class of engineering and was commissioned a lieutenant in the Engineer Corps shortly after leaving the institution.

Receiving his training at American University Camp, Camp Gordon, Atlanta, Georgia, and at the Engineer school at Belvoir, he was sent overseas attached to the Second Engineers, Second Division. His regiment was on active duty at the front when he joined it at Verdun.

He died in France June 15, 1918, as a result of wounds received in the battle of Belleau Wood, when a section of his regiment, the Second United States Engineers, fought with the Fifth and Sixth Marines.

He was posthumously cited by the General of the American Expeditionary Forces for gallantry in action.

Interment of his body was held with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, July 26, 1921.

Ralph Stambaugh volunteered early in the war and was sent to Camp Lee, Va., December 18, 1917. He was transferred to Camp Greene, N. C., where he was assigned to Company L, Thirty-eighth Regiment, Third Division, National Army. He was assigned to Remount Training School for teamsters from which, on March 11, 1918, he obtained a Certificate of Proficiency. On that same day the regimental train started north toward Hoboken, New Jersey, for the embarkation at Camp Merritt.

On March 29th he boarded transport No. 36, which was the old German liner, “President Lincoln.” He landed at Brest on April 14, 1918. It was the practice to teach the new troops to fight by putting them into the trenches in quiet sectors. Now there were no quiet sectors and the Thirty-eighth had to learn to fight by actual fighting.

It was those weeks during June and July that prepared the Thirty-eighth for its famous historic defense of July 15th against that mighty German assault.

The night of July 14th began the same as any other night, perhaps a little less action, a little less shelling on the front. At ten minutes after midnight, a flash-a roar-a jumble, then a thousand flashes, and the great attack was on.

The unfortunate subject of this history sketch was a short distance from his Company Headquarters working on some defenses, when the cannonade began. He was mortally wounded by a shell fragment and apparently died from loss of blood, due to lack of attention. His body has been reinterred at the Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

On the afternoon of Armistice Day, 1921, the Post members at the request of a committee of ladies in charge of the affair assisted in the planting in the graveyard of the Old Falls Church, two Ginko trees as memorials to the two men for whom our Post is named. Alan F. Garner, vice- commander, spoke on behalf of the Legion.

On September 27, 1920, a brief of by-laws was presented before the Post by the chairman of the by-laws committee and was formally adopted. During the year 1920 they membership of the Post was increased from ten members to a total of thirty-two paid-up members. Also during this year the Boy Scouts were fostered by the Legion members; Commander William Middleton accepting the position of scoutmaster and the interest in that organization was greatly increased.

In February, 1921, the Post in co-operation with the civic organization, took over the work of canvassing the town for increased taxes, which income was to be used for the rebuilding of the main streets of the town. The canvass proved most successful and by the end of the summer, 1921, this improvement was completed.

On July 4, 1920, the Post held its first large celebration. The program was divided into three distinct parts, a military carnival including fireworks, a series of addresses, and a number of athletic events. The military features consisted of a drill and sham battle conducted by a portion of the Third Cavalry from Fort Myer, Va., some maneuvers by the “whippett” tanks from Camp Meade and an exhibition by a detachment from the First Gas Regiment from Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. The addresses were delivered by Colonel Rivers, commandant at Fort Myer. Representative R. Walton Moore, of this Congressional District, and Major Morgan, of the Adjutant General’s office.

On Labor Day, 1920, the members of the Post, under the direction of the chairman of the Lawn Party Committee, put over a most successful entertainment on the grounds of the residence of Mr. Guy N. Church. Refreshments, prizes and dancing were the main features of the evening and music was furnished by the Fort Myer band.

On the evening of February 17, 1921, in the Odd Fellows’ Hall, the Post showed before a large audience a moving picture secured from the Signal Corps called “The Flash of Action” and on Easter Monday night, several weeks later, a dance was given by the Post at the same hall.

The use of the Odd Fellows’ Hall for the meetings of the Post was donated by the Odd Fellows free of charge and the Legion continued to use these quarters until January, 1921. With the meeting of the Post, January 24, 1921, the headquarters of the Post were taken up at the Old Star Tavern on Broad Street.

This old tavern was an important inn during the time of George Washington on the road from Alexandria to the Valley of Virginia.

The past commanders and adjutants:

1920-William. Middleton, commander; Francis H. Styles, adjutant.
1921-Guy N. Church, commander; Ernest H. Hinkins, adjutant.
1922-Alan F. Garner, commander; John R. Browning, adjutant.
1923-Inman F. Eldridge, commander; William Middleton, adjutant.

The following are officers for the year 1924: Ernest H. Hinkins, commander; William M. Cobb, vice-commander; Inman F. Eldridge, adjutant; Phillip M. Talbott, finance officer; Guy N. Church, service officer; Francis H. Styles, historian; William Middleton, chaplain; Charles A. Pendleton, sergeant-at-arms.

This Post was organized with the specific purpose of making itself useful as a constructive village organization. The early purpose of the Post was to endeavor to stimulate improvements and progressive ideas in the community uniting the citizens in a number of common projects. After some accomplishments in this line the amount of work necessary and the lack of binding influences, such as entertainments of the Post membership, resulted in a loss of interest in a number of Legionaires and retrogression of strength. This left the Post poor in membership with a small number of active workers. Consequently a change in policy was deemed indicated and the nucleus that was left are now considering methods of restrengthening the Post even at the expense of its progressive activities. We believe that this condition exists throughout the Legion as a whole and is the most serious problem to be met at the present time. Some strong, binding influence must now be found if this Post is going to remain a permanent institution.

As a consequence our Post is unable at present to outline definitely its future objectives.