Hold everything. We know you are anxious to get to those Memorial Day sales, fire up the grill, and begin the festivities. But somewhere in the back of your mind we hope you know that this holiday is not about festivities…it is about sacrifice. Our Memorial Day facts should bring that to light and put a perspective on what this weekend and holiday is really about.
Memorial Day Facts you may not Know
In the Beginning
The first official Memorial Day is widely noted to have been in 1868 and declared by Commander in Chief John A. Logan. His declaration was for decorating the graves of his comrades who had perished while defending the country. This first Memorial Day took place at Arlington Cemetery. A less known fact is that for two years prior, before the end of the Civil War, women in the South visited the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers and placed flowers on their graves.
How many soldiers actually died in the Civil War?
It has long been reported, from an 1889 study by Thomas Leonard Livermore and William F. Fox that 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. What you may not realize is that all of the deaths were not from combat. Some of these soldiers died from starvation, diseases, or accidents. A more current study, by a Binghamton University professor, increases that number dramatically – to as high as 850,000 deaths.
It’s the Law
Let’s hope on Memorial Day afternoon you are not too knee-deep in hot dogs and beer to stop at 3:00pm to take a moment to honor those who gave their lives in service to our great country. President Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance into law on December 28, 2000.
…designates 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance, in honor of the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace.
The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and World War I
As World War I was coming to an end in Europe, a devastating flu quickly spread. It has been estimated that 675,000 American soldiers died from influenza. This flu was unusual because unlike most flus that prey more on the young and old, this influenza claimed those aged 20 to 40. According to Deseret News, half of the soldiers that lost their lives in Europe had died not from the enemy but from the influenza virus.
Japanese Prison Camps and the Bataan Death March
The Japanese held 36,260 prisoners of war. 13,381 died.1 In April of 1942 the Japanese forced Americans and Filipinos to march 65 miles. They began at the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula to San Fernando. Although exact numbers are not known, it is widely believed that the brutal treatment by the Japanese caused the death of thousands of troops. They were beaten, starved, and those that were too weak to walk were killed with bayonets. Those that survived were taken to POW camps. Thousands more died in the camp from starvation, torture, and disease.
[Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu] was held responsible for the death march, a war crime, and was executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946.
Those are just a few Memorial Day facts that should bring the reality of war and sacrifice front and center. Know these sacrifices were made so we can all enjoy our freedoms today.
1Mansell.com. Sourced 5/28/2016