We celebrate Armed Forces Day on May 18, 2013. Fly your flag. Download a copy of the poster here.
Fly your flag Saturday, May 18, for Armed Forces Day.
A bit of history, as we’ve noted earlier: After President Truman’s administration brought the management of the armed forces under the umbrella of one agency, the Department of Defense, Truman moved also to unite what had been a separate day of honor for each of the branches of the military, into one week capped by one day for all uniformed defense services.
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department — the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders was asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.
In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman “praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas” and said, “it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.” In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman stated:
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.
Celebrations like Armed Forces Day offer good opportunities to promote history. I suspect that the day’s coming always in the middle of May suppresses some of the teaching moment value, as teachers make a final push for end of course tests, finals, and in high schools, for graduation — and as many colleges are already out for the summer. Good materials are available that can be sprinkled throughout a course.
President Truman and other dignitaries on the reviewing stand during an Armed Forces Day parade, (left… – NARA – 200222 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (Is that Eisenhower on the left?)
For example, this list of world-wide events at the first Armed Forces Day, in 1950, gives a good picture of four years into the Cold War, and would make a good warm-up exercise or even an entire lesson, or offer opportunities for projects:
The first Armed Forces Day came at a time of increased world tensions, political volatility and communist aggression. Some notable events that marked America’s first Armed Forces Week were as follows:
- Bolivian police broke up “alleged” revolutionary communist-led general strike in LaPaz.
- Two U. S. government buildings in Canton, China were taken over by the Chinese Communist Government. The buildings were U. S. property acquired prior to the Communist takeover.
- The Burmese Army recaptured the city of Prome, a strategic communist-rebel stronghold.
- Nicaraguans elect General Anastasio Somoza to a regular six-year term as president.
- French and West German governments expected to talk shortly on the merger of the coal and steel industries of the two countries.
- Communist China lifted the ban on daylight shipping along the Yangtze River due to the decline of Nationalist air activity.
- Norway receives first US military aid in the form of two Dakota planes.
- U. N. Secretary General Trygive Lie seeks West’s acceptance of Red China in the U. N.
- Iran announced close range news broadcasts to the Soviet Union with $56,000 worth of Voice of America equipment.
- Cuba celebrated the 48th anniversary of the establishment of its republic.
- The Red Cross celebrated its 69th birthday.
- Britain ended rationing of all foods except meats, butter, margarine, and cooking fat.
- The U. S. Congress voted to extend the draft. “A Bill to extend registration and classification for the Draft until June 24, 1952 passed the House 216-11.”
- The Allied Command announced it would “ease” the burden of occupation on Austria and would name civilian high commissioners to replace present military high commissioners.
- Soviet authorities in Berlin withdrew travel passes of the U.S. and British military missions stationed at Potsdam in the Soviet zone of occupation.
- The Soviets returned 23 East German industrial plants to East German authorities. The plants had been producing exclusively for the benefit of reparations to the USSR.
- Twenty-eight Soviet vessels, consisting of tugs, trawlers, and supply ships remained in the English Channel as the Western Alliance prepared for air and naval maneuvers. Observers noted that many of them carried rollers at their sterns for trawling nets although no nets were visible.
- Pravda denounced Armed Forces Day, calling it the militarization of the United States. “The hysterical speeches of the warmongers again show the timeliness of the appeal of the Permanent Committee of Peace Partisans that atomic weapons be forbidden.”
- Western Powers renewed their promise to help Mid-Eastern states resist communism. They also announced an agreement to sell arms to Israel as well as to the Arabs.
Veterans Day honors veterans of wars, and those who served in the past; Memorial Day honors people who died defending the nation; Armed Forces Day honors those men and women serving today. Service with two wars, in an “all volunteer” military, is a rough go, especially in times of federal budget cuts. Say a good word about active duty military on Saturday, will you?
A photo from Defense archives, of Armed Forces Day 1952 — also on May 17; DOD caption: QUOTING BENJAMIN FRANKLIN – Servicemen and women comprise this poster, which features cautionary words of Benjamin Franklin. (AFD-1952) [Franklin quote: Let us beware of being lulled into a dangerous security, and of being weakened by internal contentions and divisions . . . of neglect in military exercises and discipline, and in providing stores of arms and munitions of war, for . . . the expenses required to prevent war are much lighter than those that will, if not prevented, be necessary to maintain it. Benjamin Franklin, 1784. Franklin’s words were in a letter to Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the 2nd Continental Congress, on May 13, 1784, written from his station in Passy, France.]