Dates and Origins of Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day Parade 2011, Torrance, CA
Armed Forces Day Parade 2011, Torrance, CA
(mark6mauno / CC-by-sa)

Armed Forces Day Dates in 2018, 2019 and 2020

Armed Forces Day is celebrated at the following dates:

  • Saturday, May 19th 2018
  • Saturday, May 18th 2019
  • Saturday, May 16th 2020

Armed forces day is celebrated on the third Sunday in May on the last day of armed forces week, which starts on the second Sunday in May.


The holiday was created in August 1949 and first observed on May 20, 1950, to honor Americans serving in the five branches of the military; the Army, the Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard. It was intended to consolidate separate celebrations for each individual branch but is now celebrated in conjunction with each.

The idea behind this was the unification of the five separate branches under the department of defense. This holiday is meant to increase public understanding of duties performed in the armed forces, to show off new, state of the art equipment and to celebrate the men and women in the armed forces.

The first armed forces day

The first armed forces day was celebrated with air shows, parades, open houses and receptions. Washington D.C. boasted 10,000 troops marching past the president and his party, including all branches of the military, cadets and veterans. 1,000 troops in Berlin, Germany paraded through the streets at Templehof Airfield.

New York City held probably the largest celebration of 33,000 participants under the cover of 250 military planes. Old "battlewagons" from World War II, including the Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina and the Iowa were all open to public inspection. Tracking radar was exhibited to the public on the ground as precision flying teams showed off their skills across the skies. Armed forces day was first celebrated at a time of increased international tensions, political volatility, and communist aggression. More information about the first armed forces day can be found at the department of defense website.


Though armed forces day, alongside armed forces week, is always centered around the various branches of the military, various themes have been chosen such as:

  • Appreciation of a Nation
  • Arsenal of Freedom and Democracy
  • Dedication and Devotion
  • Deter if Possible, Fight if Necessary
  • Freedom
  • Freedom Through Unity
  • Guardians of Peace
  • Lasting Peace
  • Liberty
  • Patriotism
  • Pillars of Freedom
  • Power for Peace
  • Prepared to Meet the Challenge
  • Professionalism
  • Protectors of Freedom
  • Realistic Deterrence
  • Representatives of the World's Mightiest Democracy
  • Security
  • Special Opportunity for Thanks
  • Teamed for Defense.

All information comes from the Department of Defense website.


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