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Armed Forces Day

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Observed the third Saturday in May, pays tribute to the men and women who serve in the United States military

Photo of representatives from various branches of the military during a GPO Veteran's Day celebration

Photo taken during an observance held at the Government Publishing Office.

"The first Armed Forces Day celebrated service unity, honored those in uniform, and reassured Americans that our military was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead."

Armed Forces Day 2020 will be celebrated on Saturday, May 16th. This holiday pays tribute to men and women who serve across all six branches in the United States military. Read on to find out more about the history of this observance and see suggested searches and related resources.

Armed Forces Day Historical Timeline

July 26, 1947 – President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act into law (*Statute Compilation, codified in Title 50 of the U.S. Code: War and National Defense). This Act unified the four branches of the military under a single executive authority, the Secretary of Defense. This decision leads to the creation of the National Military Establishment.

August 31, 1949 – Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announces Armed Forces Day as a unification of the separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force celebrations, a reflection of the unification of the forces under the National Security Act. Armed Forces Day was intended to replace the separate days of celebration, but some branches maintain their own celebration in addition to the joint observance. (Source: ) Read remarks from Senator Lodge on Secretary Johnson's announcement as printed in the Congressional Record on April 7, 1949.

February 27, 1950 – The first Armed Forces day was proclaimed by Presidential Proclamation 2873, but not observed until May that year. President Truman declares, "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 formal procession of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense."

May 20, 1950 – Armed Forces Day is first celebrated.

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*Asterisk indicates link to a Statute Compilation. This is a compilation of the public law, as amended, is an unofficial document and should not be cited as legal evidence of the law. Learn more.

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