History of Armed Forces Day

History of Armed Forces Day

May 10, 2021
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Celebrated on the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day is a day reserved for the celebration of the living members and ex-servicemen of the various armed forces divisions.[1] The day is marked by parades, military displays, exhibitions, and various other tributes. Below is a little more about how Armed Forces Day got its start, as well as some fun and interesting facts about the holiday.

How the Celebration Got Its Start

Prior to the formation of Armed Forces Day, there were separate days set aside to celebrate each distinct branch of the Armed Forces; Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.[2] Eventually, all the branches were combined under the Department of Defense, and so it followed that the celebrations could be joined together as well. On August 31, 1949, the Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, combined three of these days into one day of celebration. While the Army, Navy, and Air Force gave up their day in favor of Armed Forces Day, the Marine Corps League declined to drop their original day but still supported—and continues to support—the new holiday.[3]

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on May 20, 1950, and involved a parade combining all the United States military branches.[4] The holiday was officially moved to the third Saturday in May by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.[5]

Unique Themes Celebrated Each Year

Each Armed Forces Day involves a specific theme, and the demonstrations, education, and celebrations reinforce the specific theme of the year. The first theme chosen was "Teamed for Defense," which represented the forces' coming together under The Department of Defense. The theme focused on showing the civilian public the role that the military will play in their lives and the specific equipment the military utilized to protect the civilian population.[6]

How the First Armed Forces Day Was Celebrated

The original Armed Forces Day was marked by exhibitions, receptions, parades, and shows in Washington D.C. In addition to the national celebration, states also celebrated with B-36 bombers flying over every state capital and their own variety of celebrations. New York also featured a large celebration with more than 33,000 Armed Forces personnel participating in the event. Precision flying teams held demonstrations in almost every major city in the United States.[7]

While days like Remembrance Day and Memorial Day were designed to celebrate and remember members of the Armed Forces who gave their lives in service to their country, Armed Forces Day was created to celebrate the current members of the military who are still protecting the civilians in the country.[8]








[1]Armed Forces Day Fast Facts - CNN

[2]AFDHistory (defense.gov)

[3]AFDHistory (defense.gov)

[4] https://www.govinfo.gov/features/armed-forces-day

[5]Proclamation 3399—Armed Forces Day | The American Presidency Project (ucsb.edu)

[6]A brief history of Armed Forces Day (afba.com)

[7] https://www.cnn.com/2013/08/16/us/armed-forces-day-fast-facts/

[8]When is Armed Forces Day? · United Service Organizations (uso.org)


Armed Forces Day Fast Facts - CNN

AFDHistory (defense.gov)


Proclamation 3399—Armed Forces Day | The American Presidency Project (ucsb.edu)

A brief history of Armed Forces Day (afba.com)

When is Armed Forces Day? · United Service Organizations (uso.org)

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