Polish Legion of American Veterans

Polish Americans often proudly point to the service of American Revolutionary War heroes Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski as models for later Polish military service in America. At times during the twentieth century, wars in Europe complicated the allegiances of American Poles.

During World War I, some first-generation immigrants saw themselves primarily as fighting to free their homeland, a position that sometimes created tensions with America's own war effort. By the time of the Second World War, the generation of young Polish American men who served felt themselves to be more unambiguously American, fighting in part to help their ancestral homeland but always intending to return home to the United States.

A formal portrait of men in uniform outside a building.
Members of the Polish Legion of American Veterans outside the old firehouse, c. 1948.

Courtesy of Joseph Kulik

After World War I, the Polish American Veterans Association (PAVA) occupied more than one location in the Derby Street neighborhood, including the old firehouse at 128 Derby Street and a waterfront building that was vacated after the creation of Salem Maritime National Historic Site in the 1930s. PAVA was one of many different groups of Polish World War I veterans, several of which amalgamated in 1931 to form the Polish Legion of American Veterans.

The Polish Legion of American Veterans (PLAV) met for many years at the old firehouse. After it burned in the 1960s, they relocated to 9 Daniels Street, the former home of the city's Polish citizenship organizations. The PLAV is still based in this location, the last active Polish organization in the Derby Street neighborhood.

Part of a series of articles titled Salem's Polish Community.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Last updated: August 27, 2021