Erwin Prieskorn and American Legion Post 46
They were a small but determined group of veterans - led by Pat Walsh, Adolph Wiese and Cornelius Tuomy - who met in late November 1919 in the Washtenaw County Courthouse to organize American Legion Post 46, and they unanimously decided to name their post in honor of a brave young man who had died from battle wounds in the defeat of enemy forces in World War I.
Within 40 years of its founding, Post 46 had grown to 1,023 members, with a Post Memorial Home on Main Street that throbbed with activity.
The local veteran's action followed the founding of The American Legion March 15-7 in Paris by officers from the American Expeditionary Forces and the first annual convention of the national American Legion in Minneapolis November 10-12, 1919. National headquarters awarded Post 46 its charter August 15, 1923.
Now nearly three million veterans are Legionnaires in 15,000 posts worldwide, making the Legion the largest veterans organization in the world. Post 46, while its membership has fallen to just over 200 and its home was sold several years ago, remains committed to helping and honoring both veterans and active military personnel and their families.
The officers and executive committee of Post 46 hope to inspire today's younger veterans to join the Post and continue its outstanding history of service to the men and women hospitalized at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Ann Arbor, and all veterans and their families.
A Young Ann Arbor Soldier Dies in France
Far from Ann Arbor near the small French community of Soissons some 70 miles northeast of Paris, 21-year-old Army Corporal Erwin (Hap) Prieskorn was on patrol on August 31, 1918.
His unit, Company E of the 126th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Brigade, 32nd Division, had arrived in France seven months before and soon found itself fighting in three major offensives of World War I - the Aisne-Marne, Oisne-Aisne, and Meuse-Argonne.
During the Oisne-Aisne offensive east of Soissons, in an area where wheat and oats were grown, the young Ann Arbor soldier suffered severe shrapnel wounds. He lived for 26 days before dying in a military hospital, and was buried in a national cemetery in France. Only a month and a half later, on November 11, Germany signed the Armistice agreement to end the war.
Corporal Prieskorn, the youngest of five sons of Gustave and Mary (Schultz) Prieskorn, was just one of approximately 14,000 casualties in the 32nd Division, which is known today as the Red Arrow Division.
So he was not among the troops from the 32nd Division who marched in front of cheering crowds down Woodward Avenue in Detroit on May 12, 1919. But by naming the new Post 46 in his honor, Ann Arbor veterans have perpetuated the name of that brave young corporal. And his nephew, Robert Prieskorn, is today one of the Post's members.