Armed Forces Day is a special holiday for people all over the world to come together and thank the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. First conceived by President Harry S. Truman, the holiday was established in 1949. The creation of a single day celebration for all five branches of the United States military made sense due to its recent unification under the Department of Defense. Today, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of every May, this year falling on May 18. Be sure to mark your calendar & support our military!
When is Armed Forces Day 2024?
America’s revered uniformed heroes serving under five branches of the U.S. Military are celebrated on the third Saturday of May, falling on May 15 this year.
History of Armed Forces Day
The history of the United States Armed Forces spans over two centuries. The United States rapidly evolved from being a new nation fighting for independence against Great Britain between 1775 and 1783, to fighting in the landmark American Civil War from 1861 to 1865, to proving their valor and strength during World War II, and finally emerging as a world superpower towards the end of the 20th century. The U.S. armed forces comprise five branches of the military: the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard.
The origin of the United States Army dates back to 1775 when the Continental Congress established the Continental Army, Continental Navy, and Continental Marines, commanded and led by General George Washington. This newly assembled military force fought the British during the American Revolutionary War with French soldiers by its side, leading to the Treaty of Paris and its independence. In 1789, the new Constitution delegated the president as the commander in chief of the military, with the authority to create laws, levy taxes, and declare war.
Ever since its formation, the primary responsibility of the Army division of the Armed Forces is to fight battles on land and deploy the military for takeover. The United States Army Corps of Engineers mainly control the rivers of inland America. Following the war against the British Army, the U.S. Army was still relatively small and operating in peacetime. This changed in the 1940s when the Air Force became a completely separate unit outside of the Army Air Forces. In 1947, control of the U.S. Army switched over from the War Department to the Defense Department.
The major wars that the U.S. Army participated in were the Indian Wars of the 1790s, the War of 1812, the American Civil War in 1861, the Spanish-American War of 1898, World Wars I and II in 1917 and 1941 respectively, the Korean War in 1950, and the Vietnam War in 1965. The U.S. military also took part in the Gulf War in 1991 and the war in Afghanistan.
As of 2019, the Armed Forces of America fall under the command of the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard, which is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security.
The President of the United States is the commander in chief and they exercise their authority through the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who supervises combat operations.
Armed Forces Day timeline
United States Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announces a single holiday to celebrate all branches of the military.
Armed Forces Day is celebrated for the first time.
President John F. Kennedy establishes Armed Forces Day as an official holiday.
President Trump sends out a statement supporting the holiday and its almost 70 years of tradition.
Traditions of the Day
Many events take place in cities across the U.S. to pay homage to those who serve on this day. These include military service displays for the public such as air shows, parades, open days, educational exhibits for children, and ‘Support the Troops’ motorbike rallies.
Many people also go on picnics to celebrate this day with family members and friends who are veterans. There are several shopping discounts available on this day. Some throw military dress-up parties or war-movie marathons, with so many classics to choose from like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Fury,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “American Sniper,” and “Unbroken.”
By the Numbers
1950 – the year when America first celebrated Armed Forces Day.
30 – the number of American presidents who served in the U.S Army.
2 – the number of presidents who became five-star generals, Dwight Eisenhower and George Washington.
1 – the number of presidents awarded with the Medal of Honor — Theodore Roosevelt.
1,760 – the number of PlayStation 3s used to assemble a supercomputer for the Department of Defense.
30 million – the acres of land owned by The Department of Defense.
800 – the number of military installations overseas by the United States.
1817 – the year when bell-bottom trousers were introduced for the Navy men.
4.6 billion – the gallons of fuel used by the U.S. military annually.
95% – the percentage reduction in the ripping noise on soldiers’ uniforms achieved by the U.S. Army by using a silent type of Velcro.
Armed Forces Day FAQs
What day is National Armed Forces Day?
National Armed Forces Day is every year on the third Saturday in May, falling on May 15 in 2021.
What are the seven branches of the U.S. military?
The Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard make up the armed forces of the United States. The Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are reserve components of their services and operate, in part, under state authority.
What is the difference between Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day?
Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Armed Forces Day honors those who are currently serving in the U.S. military.
How to Observe Armed Forces Day
Go to a parade
National Armed Forces Day is traditionally celebrated with parades honoring military service. Open houses, air shows, and other local celebrations usually accompany a parade. There are numerous local parades across the United States; there is sure to be one near you!
Visit a public military display
Military or government personnel will routinely set up historical or educational displays for the public. Visiting a showcase like this can be eye opening as well as fun. This also gives civilians an opportunity to interact with military personnel face to face.
Visit a military memorial or cemetery
There are often special ceremonies at military memorials or cemeteries on National Armed Forces Day. Buglers perform the memorial song “Taps” in honor of fallen soldiers. This is a great way to show respect and appreciation for members of the military.
5 Fun Facts About Military Uniforms You Never Knew
The army changed from green to blue
Current army troops wear blue instead of green as a tribute to George Washington and the men in his first command.
The Marine Corps wanted their uniforms to be unique
The Marine Corps went to the extent of including the letters “USMC” when designing their uniforms so that other branches wouldn’t be able to use their design.
Stripes on Navy uniforms were a fashion choice
It turns out there’s no significance to the three pin-stripes on the Navy jumper other than the fact that a majority of the men were decorating their collars with various types of white stripes — so it became part of the uniform.
Sailors wear bell-bottoms for a reason
The wide-bottomed pants that sailors famously wear are constructed that way so that they can easily be folded up when performing duties that involve them getting their feet wet.
The flag patch is backwards on purpose
The American flag patch on military uniforms has the stars on the right and stripes on the left in order to give the effect that it's blowing in the breeze.
Why Armed Forces Day is Important
The armed forces deserve our respect
Joining the US Armed Forces is an incredibly selfless act that deserves recognition. Soldiers and other military personnel risk their lives every day to keep citizens safe. This holiday is an opportunity for the average person to show support for that sacrifice.
It helps spread awareness and understanding
National Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to educate yourself or others. The holiday was originally designed to help citizens better understand the military and its role in our society. We can all do our part by spreading knowledge and understanding.
It is for all five branches of the military
The military is made up of five branches — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. This holiday is intended for members of all five of these branches. Originally it was meant to replace separate branch appreciation holidays, but these are also still celebrated today.
Armed Forces Day dates