In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you, from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders fields.
The History of the Buddy Poppy
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was the first veterans organization to promote a nationally
organized campaign for the annual distribution of Poppies assembled by disabled and needy veterans.
The poppy movement was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,”
written by Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian forces before the
United States entered World War I. Distributing replicas of the original
Flanders Poppy originated in some of the Allied countries immediately
after the Armistice.
No definite organized distribution of Poppies on a nationwide scale was
conducted in America until 1921, when the Franco-American Children’s
League distributed Poppies ostensibly for the benefit of children in the
devastated areas of France and Belgium.
Madam Guerin, who was recognized as “the Poppy lady from France,”
sought and received the cooperation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of
the U.S. in early 1922, after the Franco-American Children’s League was
dissolved. The VFW conducted a Poppy campaign prior to Memorial
Day 1922, using only Poppies made in France. In the 1923 Poppy campaign, due to the difficulty and delay
in getting Poppies from France, the VFW used French Poppies that were on hand and the balance was provided
by a firm in New York City manufacturing artificial flowers.
During the 1923 campaign, the VFW evolved the idea which resulted in the VFW Buddy Poppy fashioned by
disabled and needy veterans who were paid for their work. This plan was formally presented for adoption to
the 1923 Encampment at Norfolk, Virginia. Immediately thereafter the VFW Buddy Poppy factory was established
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where all VFW Buddy Poppies for the 1924 campaign were assembled
by disabled veterans. General Frank T. Hines, Director of the U.S. Veterans’ Bureau, endorsed the plan and
pledged the cooperation of his department. All men employed in assembling Buddy Poppies for the 1924
campaign were sent to the VFW Poppy workshop by the Veterans’ Bureau regional manager in Pittsburgh.
The designation “Buddy Poppy” which originated with the men themselves, was adopted at that time. In
February, 1924, the VFW registered the name “Buddy Poppy” with the United States Patent
Office, and a certificate was issued on May 20, 1924, granting the VFW all trademark rights
in the name of “Buddy” under the classification of artificial flowers. The VFW has made that
trademark a guarantee that all Poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the
work of disabled and needy veterans. No other organization, firm or individual can make legal use of the
name "Buddy” Poppy.
Following the 1924 campaign, a number of the larger VFW Departments (States) believed it would stimulate local distribution if the Poppies they used were assembled by disabled veterans in hospitals within their own jurisdiction.
The 1924 VFW Encampment at Atlantic City granted this privilege,
under the provision that all Poppies would be produced according to specifications set forth by the National Buddy Poppy Department, and that all Poppies would be assembled by disabled veterans in government hospitals and by needy veterans
in workshops supervised by the VFW. VFW has steadfastly adhered to the policy of veteran assembled Poppies. The VFW organized the first nationwide
distribution of Poppies by a veterans organization in May 1922. The Poppy was adopted by the National Encampment held in Seattle during August of that year as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
In September 1920, the national convention of the American Legion held at Cleveland passed a resolution 129 adopting the Poppy as the official flower of that organization. However, at the third national convention of the American Legion held in Kansas City in October 1921, the American Legion repudiated the Poppy and adopted the daisy as its official flower.
In October 1922, following the first nationwide distribution of Poppies by the VFW during May of that year, the
fourth national convention of the American Legion held at New Orleans in October, adopted the following resolution:
“Resolved, that the Poppy is hereby declared to be the official American Legion flower, instead of the
daisy, which was adopted by the 1921 convention of the American Legion”.
Following the successful Poppy campaign conducted by the VFW in May 1922, the American Legion realized
the financial possibilities of the Poppy movement. In the spring of 1923, following the New Orleans encampment
and one year after the first VFW Poppy campaign on a nationwide scale, the American Legion conducted
its first Poppy distribution using Poppies supplied by a French manufacturer.
The records are clear, however, on the subject of the first nationwide distribution of Poppies by the Veterans of
Foreign Wars of the U.S. in May 1922.
From the very beginning, the Buddy Poppy project of the VFW has received the endorsement and cooperation
of the director of the Veterans Administration, and the support of administrators and medical officers of government
hospitals. All Presidents since Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) have conveyed to the nation at large,
endorsement and recognition of this VFW effort.
Today, VFW Buddy Poppies are assembled by disabled, needy, and aging veterans in VA rehabilitation centers.
The majority of proceeds derived from each campaign conducted by VFW Posts and Ladies Auxiliaries is
retained locally to provide for veteran services and welfare. The minimal assessment (cost of Buddy Poppies)
to VFW units provides compensation to the veterans who assembled the Poppies, provides financial assistance
in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs, and partially supports the
VFW National Home for children, a community of children and families of veterans and active-duty military.
Buddy Poppy proceeds represent no profit to any VFW unit. All money contributed by the public for Buddy
Poppies is used for members of the Armed Forces, veterans’ welfare, or for the well-being of their needy
dependents, widows and the orphans of veterans.