Military personnel marching in a 1920 Memorial Day parade
This is a silent, black and white film of a 1920 Memorial Day Celebration in Cornwall, N.Y. Various groups of uniformed military personnel are filmed riding horses, carrying flags, weapons, and musical instruments in the parade. Resource location: archive.org (formally Prelinger Archives).
Explanation and Origin of the Memorial Day holiday
This U.S. holiday, once called Decorations Day, is both an observance and mourning of those who died when serving in uniform. It is recognized as a U.S. federal holiday, annually scheduled for the last Monday in May. In Washington DC, the nation's capital, one can see the largest, televised, National Memorial Day Parade rolling down Constitution Avenue.
There are many places that claim the origin location of the holiday. Here is an excerpt from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs describing when President Johnson declared an official birthplace for the holiday:
"In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community- wide or one-time events. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays." Read the whole article HERE
On Memorial Day, there is a designated time for pausing and remembering American's fallen heroes, 3:00 pm local time. This was established in December 2000 as part of “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579
There are many articles and videos about Memorial Day, its history, and how people in the U.S. memorialize those who died while serving in the military.
- Almanac website
- Kolb, Richard K. "Meaning of Memorial Day." VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine, vol. 88, no. 9, 05 2001, pp. 18. Proquest elibrary
- Story Corps has a listing of audio interviews of memorial day remembrances LINK to animated audio telling of 1st Squad, Third Platoon
- Washington DC Memorial Day activities LINK to parade trailer video; LINK to weekend activities