1955 3¢ Armed Forces Reserve
US #1067 honors America’s Armed Forces Reserve

On May 20, 1950, the US first celebrated Armed Forces Day. Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May, near the end of Armed Forces Week.

US Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson first introduced Armed Forces Day on August 31, 1949. The Department of Defense (DoD) had been created two years earlier to unite all of the Armed Forces into one department. The department conceived of the holiday to replace the individual days honoring each of the branches.

1945 American Armed Forces, collection of 6 stamps
US #929/940 – Set of six stamps honoring the Armed Forces’ role in WWII.

In the announcement of Armed Forces Day, Johnson requested each of the military leagues to stop sponsoring the individual service days and instead celebrate the unified Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy, and Air Force agreed, but the Marine Corps League refused to end its support of Marine Corps Day. However, they would offer their support to Armed Forces Day as well.

1957 6¢ Airmail Air Force
US #C49 was issued for the 50th anniversary of the United States Air Force as a part of our National Defense System.

On February 27, 1950, President Harry Truman signed a Presidential Proclamation officially announcing Armed Forces Day to praise “the work of the military services at home and across the seas.” He went on to say that Armed Forces Day “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 parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”

Celebrated on May 20, 1950, the first Armed Forces Day had the theme of “Teamed for Defense.” This was intended to honor the new unification of the military forces in one governmental department. The celebrations were also intended to help educate civilians on the importance of the Armed Forces and their role in civilian life. The military also used the day to show new “state-of-the-art” equipment off to the public.

1997 32¢ Women in Military Service
US #3174 honors the role of women in the US military.

The first celebrations in 1950 included parades, open houses, receptions, and air shows. A total of 10,000 troops from all the military branches marched through Washington, DC. The celebration in New York City included 33,000 marching troops with 250 military planes flying overhead. World War II battleships visited many American harbors and several towns were treated to aerial displays. Across the nation, Americans embraced the celebrations, honoring the important role the Armed Forces played in their lives.

Over the years, Armed Forces Day has adopted different themes. These have included “Appreciation of a Nation,” “Dedication and Devotion,” “Freedom through Unity,” “Liberty,” “Patriotism,” “Power for Peace,” “Prepared to Meet the Challenge,” “Security,” and “Special Opportunity for Thanks.” Each year on Armed Forces Day, presidents, secretaries of defense, or other leaders speak out about the importance of the day. Read parts of their moving speeches below:

1999 33¢ Honoring Those Who Served
US #3331 was issued to honor protective service workers, firefighters, police officers, veterans, and other Americans put their lives on the line each and every day.

“It is fitting and proper that we devote one day each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world.”  – President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

“Close understanding between members of our Armed Forces and members of civilian communities is most important to preserve the high level of national readiness necessary for safeguarding the free world.” – General Nathan F. Twining, 1959

2001 34¢ Honoring Veterans
US #3508 was issued to honor all of America’s veterans.  

“Armed Forces Day, above all, honors the dedicated individuals who wear the uniforms of their country. Each serviceman, wherever he may be, whatever his task, contributes directly and importantly to the defense of the nation. The task of each one is the task of all the Armed Forces: to protect the freedoms which underlie the greatness of America.”  – General Earle G. Wheeler, 1967

Click here for lots more stamps honoring the military.

FREE printable This Day in History album pages
Download a PDF of today’s article.
Get a binder or other supplies to create your This Day in History album.  

Discover what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
4.8/5 - (51 votes)
Share this Article


  1. Say a prayer today for all who serve and a rememberance for all who have gone before us.

  2. I am grateful for all the men and women who serve in the military. They are an asset for the U.S.
    We are so lucky they are willing to serve and do a damned good job of it too!

  3. Long before the Continental Congress called together an Army and its Commander, this country was protected by a civilian reserve called the “militia”. This was the “posse” drawn from the civilian surroundings to protect against any form of aggression to the community. My ancestor came to this country in 1630 and accepted the responsibility when the militia was called out. Before Lexington and Concord, the militia needed quick response so they appointed single men between 18 and 26 who could respond quickly until the militia could get there. This group was called the “Minutemen”. Those Militia are the precursor of today’s Armed Forces. Every parade, as a young, was filled with military units. Sadly, we do not see that or them today. Out of sight is out of mind. Thank you to those that stepped forward.

  4. Let us never take these brave men and women for granted. God Bless them and the United States of America.

  5. Proud to have served and proud to live in a country where we are protected by the best military doting the world today. GOD BLESS OUR UNITED STATES OF AMERICA MILITARY

    Freedom still AINT FREE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *