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Armed Forces Day

A joint services color guard leads off an annual Armed Forces Day parade (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Joe Juarez.)
A joint services color guard leads off an annual Armed Forces Day parade (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Joe Juarez.)

Among the many military holidays celebrated each year is Armed Forces Day. Celebrated the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day falls during Military Appreciation Month and joins Memorial Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) as another May military-themed holiday.

The History of Armed Forces Day

On Aug. 31, 1949, Defense Secretary 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 agency -- the Department of Defense.

In a speech announcing the creation of the day, President Truman "praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas." He 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, 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, toward 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."

Video: Armed Forces Day Tribute

Armed Forces Day Themes

Each year, Armed Forces Day has a new theme. The very first theme was "Teamed for Defense."

Over the years, other themes have included Appreciation of a Nation; Arsenal of Freedom and Democracy; Dedication and Devotion; Deter if Possible, Fight if Necessary; Freedom; Freedom Through Unity; Guardians of Peace; Lasting Peace; Liberty; and Patriotism.

How to Celebrate Armed Forces Day

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions, and air shows. In Washington, D.C., 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets and veterans marched past the president and his party. In Berlin, 1,000 U.S. troops paraded for the German citizens at Tempelhof Airfield. In New York City, an estimated 33,000 participants initiated Armed Forces Day "under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types."

Today, Armed Forces Day is celebrated in American communities and on military bases throughout the world with parades, picnics, shopping discounts, festivals and parties.

Related Topics

Military Holidays Military Appreciation Month

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