On Memorial Day, the United States commemorates all those men and women who have lost their lives while serving with the country’s armed forces. Here are some important facts about the American Memorial Day.
It was wasn’t always called Memorial day; originally it was called Decoration Day. Memorial Day became its official title in the 1880s. Since its very humble beginning on May 5, 1866, Memorial Day was celebrated on 30th of May every year.
However in 1971 US Congress announced that Memorial Day would now be celebrated on the last Monday of May.
More than one town claims to be the originator of Memorial Day but in 1966, Congress declared that Waterloo, New York, was the birthplace of the holiday.
Civil War Only, at first
Initially, memorial day only commemorated U.S. personnel who died during the American civil war from 1861 to 1865, but later it came to be a day of remembrance for all those who died for the country, at any time.
A deadly civil war
A total of 620,000 Americans perished in the civil war, while 644,000 Americans lost their lives in all the other conflicts since then. The American Civil War is still the single most deadly conflict in American history.
First Memorial Day
On May 30, 1868, Civil War General and the Congressman James A. Garfield addressed the people who gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for an hour and a half. “If silence is ever golden,” Garfield said in his speech, “it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.” About 5,000 people attended this first-ever Memorial Day ceremony.
National Moment of Remembrance
The ‘national moment of remembrance’ was set at 3 pm on Memorial Day. This was made possible by ‘the national moment of remembrance Act’, signed by President Clinton on December 28th, 2000. It is now legally required to observe this moment of remembrance.
Confederate memorial day
Nine states observe Confederate Memorial Day; Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. This is a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War, who numbered at least half a million lives.
Red poppies have been associated with the remembrance of the dead soldiers since the First World War. People wear poppies to pay respect and tribute to those who made sacrifices for the nation.
It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half-staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.
The cost of war
Most of the deaths that took place during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 were as a result of a smallpox outbreak. The total number of deaths is estimated to be around 620,000 – 365,000 Union while 260,000 Confederate soldiers died.
Following is the estimate of the total number of American causalities since the Civil War:
- In the Civil War 620,000 Americans died
- The First World War cost the lives of 116,516 U.S soldiers
- In the Second World War 405,399 Americans died
- In the Korean War 36,574 Americans died
- 58,220 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam War
- In Operation Desert Storm 383 Americans died.
- 4,424 Americans died in the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- In Operation New Dawn 73 U.S Army personnel were killed
- 2,349 Americans perished in the Operation Enduring Freedom.