The last surviving member of Doolittle’s Raiders is Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot. Cole is now 101 years old. Click here to read about Cole and Doolittle’s Raid on Japan that helped the U.S. launch the War in the Pacific.

The first recorded organized public recognition of the war dead occurred on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. On that day, Freedmen (freed southern slaves) celebrated the service of the 257 Union soldiers buried at the Washington Race Course (now Hampton Park). They labeled the gravesite “Martyrs of the Race Course.” African Americans continued that tradition and named the celebration Decoration Day.

Southern states began their own commemoration to honor their soldiers who died during the war. No specific date was used but occurred in late April through June. By 1880, there was a more organized Confederate Memorial Day. These celebrations honored specific soldiers to commemorate the Confederate “Lost Cause.” By 1913, a sense of nationalism saw a commemoration of all soldiers that have died in battle.

1995-S Civil War Battlefields Commemorative Silver Dollar

Memorial Day took on national significance following World War I when the nation began to recognize all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during all conflicts. By the end of World War II, most of the celebrations were renamed to Memorial Day. Memorial Day did not become an official holiday until 1967 with the passage of the Uniform Holidays Act in 1968. Under the law, Memorial Day was set to the last Monday in May, changing it from the traditional May 30th.

Memorial Day is the national remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. Please take a moment and honor the memories of those who have died for without them who knows where we would be today.

Visitors are reflected in the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, May 27, 2016. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo via ABC News)


  • Medal image courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
  • Vietnam Memorial Image by Susan Walsh/AP Photo via ABC News.

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