Armed Forces Day is observed by several countries around the world, each in their own style. In the US the holiday combines celebrations of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Marine Corps.
On August 31st, 1949, President Harry S. Truman established the first Armed Forces Day in the US on the third Saturday in May each year. With each new celebration comes a new theme, as well, the first of which was “Teamed for Defense.”
According to CNN, President Truman declared, “Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”
We’ve been celebrating this holiday for several decades, but there are still a few stories related to Armed Forces Day that we find particularly fascinating. Here’s a chance to bone up on your military trivia and learn something new. Our favorite facts about Armed Forces Day start here:
10. Holiday Season
According to Soldiers’ Angels, “National Armed Forces Day is actually the fifth in a series of holidays celebrating our armed forces during National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM). The first holiday is Loyalty Day, then Public Service Recognition Week and Military Spouse Appreciation Day followed by Victory in Europe Day. Then comes Armed Forces Day and the month culminates in the federally celebrated holiday, Memorial Day.”
9. Origins of Armed Forces Day
Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced Armed Forces Day on August 31st, 1949, and President Truman proclaimed the first Armed Forces Day on February 27th, 1950 to be observed on May 20th that year.
8. National Fly-overs
The first Armed Forces Day saw B-36 bombers flying over every US capital.
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7. Join the Parade
The first Armed Forces Day saw more than 36,000 participants take part in a parade in New York City.
6. Holiday themes
The first Armed Forces Day was themed “Teamed for Defense.” Other past themes include:
- Appreciation of a Nation
- Dedication and Devotion
- Freedom Through Unity
- Power for Peace
- Prepared to Meet the Challenge
- Special Opportunity for Thanks
5. National holiday
President John F. Kennedy issued Proclamation 3399 on March 18th, 1961 making Armed Forces an official national holiday.
4. Showing off
During the celebration, military exercises are held on land, sea, and in the air to show off US military capabilities.
3. Kind of a big deal
Armed Forces Day honors those who work for the United States Department of Defense, the largest federal department in the country, and the largest employer in the world. The Department of Defense employs more than 742,000 civilian personnel, at least 1.3 million troops on active duty, over 2 million retired service members, and 826,000 Reserves and National Guard members.
2. Holiday Traditions
Many US citizens fly the American flag or wear patriotic colored clothing on Armed Forces Day.
1. Armed Forces Day around the world
Other countries that celebrate an all-in-one Armed Forces Day include Armenia, Australia and New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Lebanon, Mali, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, North Korea, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.