The American Legion has given residents of Greater Boston just cause for indignation in the past few years, but in the ludicrous handling of the last rites for Louis Gaeta it has surpassed itself. Yesterday the Legion draped with an American flag the coffin of a confirmed racketeer, gambler, political grafter, and all-round public enemy.
Because for a brief period during the war he served in the United States Navy, the Legion furnished a guard of honor to one of the men responsible for the current gang warfare in Revere. When Gaeta was slain on Tuesday by East Boston gangsters who were trying to "muscle in" on his number pool and bookmaking monopoly, Revere Post No. 61 of the Legion stepped willingly forward to claim its glorious dead. On Wednesday Revere's flags, which twelve days before had honored America's 400,000 World War dead, flew at half-mast again in honor of their latest fallen "Buddy". All day long, on schools, libraries, and even the police station, the lowered flags taught puzzled adults and children of Revere that there are times when even a gangster is glorious: namely, when he is a member of the Legion.
Twenty years ago an association of A. E. F. men was synonymous with an association of public servants, but self-interest and over-emphasis on comradeship have at times threatened to alienate the Legion from the public's best interests. Their unpopular ceremoniousness cannot now hope to whitewash Gaeta. He is beyond that. But the Legion, in disgracing the nation's colors in Revere this week, has shown its own colors and ideals to be perverted.