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Navy Day

Navy Day posterThe US Flag Code offers a list of especially appropriate flag-flying days, and today is one of them—Navy Day, a civilian holiday established on October 27, 1922 by the Navy League of the United States.

Founded in 1902, the Navy League of the United States is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating American citizens about the importance of sea power to the national security of the United States, and to supporting the sea services—U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. flag Merchant Marines. Since the Navy League’s founding, it has grown to become a worldwide organization with nearly 70,000 members in almost 300 councils, and includes more than 250 corporate and community affiliate members.

The date of October 27 for a honorary celebration was suggested by the Navy League in recognition of Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. Roosevelt had been an Assistant Secretary of the Navy and supported a strong Navy as well as the idea of Navy Day. In addition, October 27 was the anniversary of a 1775 report issued by a special committee of the Continental Congress favoring the purchase of merchant ships as the foundation of an American Navy.

Navy Day 1945

President Harry S Truman presides over Navy Day, Oct. 27, 1945, in New York harbor.

The idea of Navy Day was to focus attention on the importance of the U.S. Navy. Throughout the decades, Navy Day was a huge celebration, but in the 1970s, the Oct. 27 date was finally passed over in favor of the Navy’s own birthday, Oct. 13, which commemorates the founding of the Continental Navy in 1775. However, Navy Day remains listed in the U.S. Flag Code as a special flag-flying day.

The vintage Navy Day poster image is used courtesy of the Navy League of the United States. The photograph of President Harry S Truman comes from the National Archives.

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Armed Forces Day is Saturday, May 19

Harry S Truman

Harry S Truman

If you have been watching Wheel of Fortune this week, then you know it is Armed Forces Week and that tomorrow is Armed Forces Day. If you fly the flag on holidays and special occasions, then tomorrow is a day to remember. Military personnel from this area are heavily deployed, and there no special public activities planned that I could locate.

President Harry Truman proclaimed the first Armed Forces Day (AFD) on May 20, 1950. Every year since then, on the third Saturday in May we’ve honored the men and women who have served in uniform—in war and in peace—since the nation’s founding.

Department of Defense SealOn 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.

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.

The theme of the first Armed Forces Day was “Teamed for Defense.” It was chosen as a means of expressing the unification of all the military forces under a single department of the government. Although this was the theme for the day, there were several other purposes for holding Armed Forces Day. It was a type of “educational program for civilians,” one in which there would be an increased awareness of the Armed Forces. It was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job is performed and the role of the military in civilian life. It was a day for the military to show “state-of-the-art” equipment to the civilian population they were protecting. And it was a day to honor and acknowledge the people of the Armed Forces of the United States.

According to a New York Times article published on May 17, 1952: “This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces … to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won’t be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty.”

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 pass the President and his party. In Berlin, 1,000 U.S. troops paraded for the German citizens at Templehof 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.” In the harbors across the country were the famed mothballed “battlewagons” of World War II, the Missouri, the New Jersey, the North Carolina, and the Iowa, all open for public inspection. Precision flying teams dominated the skies as tracking radar were exhibited on the ground. All across the country, the American people joined together to honor the Armed Forces.

—from a Department of Defense press release—