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May - Armed Forces Day Parade

Armed Forces Day was created by President Truman in 1949 after the consolidation of the military services in the Department of Defense and is celebrated on the third Saturday in May in the United States. It replaced the separate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard days, but observance of these days, especially within each particular service, continues to this day. Armed Forces Day is usually celebrated with parades, open houses, receptions and air shows to honor Americans serving in the five services -- the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

The Armed Forces Day Parade paid special tribute to the men and women of the armed forces as well as celebrating the unification of all the military services. In the first parade in 1950, 35,000 marchers in Manhattan included fifteen bands. All around the country, eight B-36 bombers from Carswell AFB overflew the capital of each state of the Union. The Bolling AFB, DC celebration attracted a throng of a quarter million, who watched the flyover of 90 aircraft.

In later years, parades multiplied, with massive air armadas. As part of a nation-wide program, New York observed the second Armed Forces Week, with more than 35,000 marchers in the parade. according to one account, the 1951 celebration in New York went on without the planned 175 plane flyover, which was cancelled due to bad weather.

On 19 May 1951 President Truman and other high Government officials sat in a light, drizzling rain for an hour and fifteen minutes as a 10,000 man sample of the nation's military might paraded by with tanks, guns and gadgets of mechanical warfare. A few feet from the President's reviewing box were foreign military attaches, including Generals of the Red Army and Air Force, and a Navy Commodore.

Without benefit of "flyovers" - military and naval planes whizzing overhead - the 1952 Armed Forces Day parade down Fifth Avenue was the major feature of a broad demonstration throughout the metropolitan area of what the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard can do. The following year, New Yorkers got their first view of the Army's new 280-mm atomic cannon at the Armed Forces Day Parade down Fifth Avenue on 16 May 1953. An estimated 1,250,000 New Yorkers got an impressive capsule demonstration of the might of American armed forces when 25,000 marchers swept down Fifth Avenue in the fourth annual Armed Forces Day Parade.

The Secretary of Labor proclaimed in 1953 that the "soldier in the fireld and the worker at the machin are inseparable in plan and action." In 1955 Democrat Senator Stuart Symington warned that, thanks to Ike, the United States lagged the Soviets in developing long range missiles.

The event became a Free World counterpart to the annual Soviet May Day parades. One account of the 1950 Armed Forces Day parade denied that "the strength of American equipment and materiel emphasized as the Russians stressed theirs in Moscow demonstrations." But from 1951 on, Soviet military attaches sat on the reviewing stands in Washington, reciprocity for American attendance in Moscow. The Navy's Skyray interceptor debuted in 1951, the Nike missile was first shown in 1954, with the Snark and Redstone missiles following in 1956.

Truman attended all three Washington parades during his second term. But Ike managed to avoid the annual event in DC. And in 1956, after what one observer called "on of the briefest and least warlike" May Day parades "ever see in Red Square", the Eisenhower Administration cut the number of B-47s in the flyover from 216 aircraft to 45 bombers. But the 1956 parade in New York featured a fly-over of 240 air Forca and Navy planes. Formations followed at three minute intervals, with all the country's front line aircraft.

Although the Armed Forces Day parades were a fixture of American life, over time, interest declined. Through 1958 the New York City parade averaged 25,000 marchers and over a million specatros. But by 1959, only 13,000 marchers appeared, with only a hundred thousand spectators.

By 1962, 10,000 service members marched in the New York Armed Forces Day parade, which featured Nike Zeus, Nike Hercules, Nike Ajax, Bomarc, and Polaris missiles. Only 50,000 spectators watched the parade. A leaden sky and a damp, chilling breeze 19 May 1963 failed to dim the luster of the annual Armed Forces Day parade of 10,000 service members down Fifth Avenue. Thin lines of spectators and guests of honor who huddled on soaked benches in the stands along Central Park made up in spirit for what they lacked in numbers.

Thousands of the 10,000 servicemen marching in the 17th Annual Armed Forces Day Parade on 22 My 1966 were forced to mark time for five minutes when antiwar demonstrators sat down in their path on Fifth Avenue. A crowd of 20,000 lined the parade route.

In 1972, Armed Forces Day was the occasion for a series of nationwide antiwar demonstrations. The 23d annual Armed Forces Day Parade, which had been scheduled to start 19 May 1972 upper Fifth Avenue, was canceled because of the possibility of violence. The decision to call off the event was made by the parade sponsors, the Military Order of the World Wars. In a statement issued by the group's spokesman for the New York area, Col. Benjamin Fowler, who is retired from the Air Force, said: “We see no reason to expose innocent citizens to any danger.” Citing the possibility of extensive antiwar demonstrations, Colonel Fowler said there was the fear that “some nut will throw something and maybe kill four or five babies sitting on the curb.” The sponsors said 3,000 servicemen and veterans had been expected to take part in the parade.

With pomp and pageantry that were traditional, the Armed Forces Day parade moved briskly down Fifth Avenue 19 May 1974 past thousands of spectators basking in the warmth of a beautiful spring afternoon. The crowds lining the avenue were not the great throngs that once attended the parade.

The Annual Armed Forces Parade, held in Downtown Bremerton, is the largest and longest running Armed Forces Day Parade in the nation, first held in 1958. A joint service color guard carries each service flag along with the American flag at the Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade at Torrance, CA. The annual parade, which originated in 1960, is hailed as being the nation's longest running military parade sponsored by any city in the United States. The parade came about when, Mayor Al Isen, with the help of the Torrance Chamber of Commerce, organized the first parade as a tribute to friends and fellow Americans who had served in the Armed Forces. The parade had grown over the years to become one of America's most eagerly awaited demonstrations of patriotism.

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Page last modified: 13-05-2018 17:48:39 ZULU