History of Memorial Day: Which War?

Arlington National Cemetery

Civil War

Following the American Civil War or the “War Between the States,” as it was known in the South, various locations began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags, as I’ve written previously. This began in the mid to late 1860s across the country, as almost every community had been touched by loss from the country-wide conflagration. Over 600,000 men and women had died, more than any war that Americans were involved in, including the combined losses suffered in WWI and WWII — because we were both sides of that war.

World War I

20th Century

It became a federal holiday only as recently as 1971 when its date was moved from May 30 — originally chosen for the day flowers optimally bloom — to the last Monday in May, to create a 3-day weekend. Some have claimed that this change along with the addition of golf tournaments and car races have eroded the remembrance of the holiday’s original purpose.

World War II

Most people think of WWII in reference to Memorial Day, it remains in the memory of those still living from the time of that war. And for good reason: more people, American and otherwise, died worldwide in WWII — military and civilian — than another war in history. This is depicted in the video linked below.

Writer and technologist. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, and pop culture. billpetro.com @billpetro

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store