|Silver Legion of America|
The Roman L was the Silver Legion's official symbol.
|Also known as||"Silver Shirts"|
|Leader(s)||William Dudley Pelley|
|Foundation||January 30, 1933|
|Dissolved||December 7, 1941|
|Active region(s)||All United States, mainly the American South and California|
|Size||Ca. 15,000 (1934)|
The Silver Legion of America, commonly known as the Silver Shirts, was an underground American fascist organization founded by William Dudley Pelley that was headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina and announced publicly on January 30, 1933. The group was effectively dissolved on December 8, 1941 when police called for the open arrest of any individuals associated with the group.
A white-supremacist, antisemitic group modeled after Hitler's Brownshirts, the paramilitary Silver Legion wore a silver shirt with a blue tie, along with a campaign hat and blue corduroy trousers with leggings. The uniform shirts bore a scarlet letter L over the heart: an emblem meant to symbolize Loyalty to the United States, Liberation from materialism, and the Silver Legion itself. The blocky slab serif L-emblem was in a typeface similar to the present-day Rockwell Extra Bold. The organizational flag was a plain silver field with such a red L in the canton at the upper left.
By 1934, the Silver Shirts claimed to have about 15,000 members. Circa 1935, a Nazi agent befriended mining fortune heiress Jessie Murphy, convincing her to contribute cash, and the use of her ranch, recently purchased from screen cowboy Will Rogers, to the fascist movement. The Silver Shirts began construction of the Murphy Ranch, situated on a secluded, 55-acre site in the Los Angeles hills, meant to serve as a fortified world headquarters after the expected fascist global conquest.
Silver Shirt leader Pelley called for a "Christian Commonwealth" that would combine the principles of racism, nationalism, and theocracy, while excluding Jews and non-whites. He claimed he would save America from Jewish communists just as "Mussolini and his Black Shirts saved Italy and as Hitler and his Brown Shirts saved Germany." Pelley ran for president of the United States in the 1936 election on a third-party ticket. Pelley hoped to seize power in a "silver revolution" and set himself as dictator of the United States. He would be called "the chief" just like other fascist world leaders who had similar titles. However, the presidency remained in the hands of incumbent Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. By around 1938, the Silver Legion's membership was down to about 5,000.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, local police occupied the "world headquarters" bunker compound and detained members of the 50-man caretaker force. The declaration of war on the United States by Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy led to the rapid decline of the Silver Legion.