The town of Peterborough in the Monadnock region of southwest New Hampshire has been the home of Cheney-Armstrong American Legion Post #5 since 1919.  Members who currently belong to this Post include those residing in neighboring towns, as well as various states. Over the past 275 years, 900 known Peterborough residents have served in the military during periods of war to protect America, our freedom and the Constitution.  Unfortunately, at least 99 of those brave men and women lost their lives. Before organizations like the American Legion existed, the first large scale fraternal organization for veterans was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), established in 1866 and existing until 1956, which formed to support Union veterans of the Civil War.  In 1837, a building was erected to serve as the Peterborough Academy on Grove Street. In 1888 it was bought by the town, but delegated to the Aaron F. Stevens Post 6, G.A.R., to serve as their hall.  After 1917, it became the headquarters of William H. Cheney Post No. 5 of the American Legion, named in honor of the first Peterborough resident to die during WWI.  1st Lt William H. Cheney was attending Harvard University when he abruptly left to join the Army.  He attended the Military School of Aeronautics at Urbana, Illinois, in March 1917 and graduated that July.  After following further flight training in Italy and becoming the first American to receive an Italian military brevet, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant on November 23, 1917 in the U.S. Army Air Service. On January 20, 1918, just five days after his 21st birthday, 1st Lt Cheney was killed when the plane he was piloting collided with another aircraft.  His body rests in the crypt at All Saints Church in Peterborough.  In his honor, the Cheney Award was established in 1927.  This aviation award of valor, presented by what is known today as the U.S. Air Force, is awarded for extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest performed in connection with aircraft, but not necessarily of a military nature.  The first Peterborough resident to die during World War II was Navy lieutenant John Parkhurst “Jock” Armstrong.  Lt Armstrong graduated from Harvard in 1940, joined the Naval Reserve and was commissioned as an ensign the following November.  He survived Pearl Harbor, as well as the Battle of Guadalcanal and then later transferred to naval aviation, where he became a pilot assigned to a bomber squadron.  On November 1st, 1943 at age 26, Lt Armstrong was killed when his bomber crashed.  He is laid to rest at the Pine Hill Cemetery here in Peterborough.



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