In recent decades military parades outside of holidays such as Veterans Day, the Fourth of July or Memorial Day have stopped becoming typical in the U.S., but there is a history of them.
While the left is losing their minds over president Trump’s desire to have a military parade on the 4th of July, in the early days of the American presidency it was common for a president to review a military parade on the Fourth of July.
According to a timeline established by American University librarian James Heintze, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Martin Van Buren, and James Polk all reviewed military parades on America’s independence day.
1798 – President Adams is in Philadelphia for a military parade with a reception later in the afternoon for guests.
1812 – Madison is at the Capitol for a ceremony, military parade before entertaining guests a the White house.
1848 – President Polk has guests at the White House, including former first lady Dolly Madison. Later he witnesses the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument with future President Lincoln in attendance followed by a military parade.
However, this tradition stopped with President James K. Polk.
Outside of those 4th of July parades, there have been quite a few. Let’s take a look:
Grand Review of the Armies
Held on May 23 and 24, 1865, President Andrew Johnson declared that Civil War hostilities over on May 10 and called for a formal review of the troops, according to the nonpartisan Civil War Trust. “The event, huge in scale and pageantry, generated a near-carnival atmosphere that did much to diminish the pall that had settled on the city following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln,” an article about Lincoln’s funeral and the Grand Review explains.
Army Day Parade in 1942
More than 30,000 men and women marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City for Army Day Parade in 1942, an occurrence The New York Times heralded as the “first big military display” of the war. Victory parades also celebrated the war’s end, including a display led by the 82nd Airborne Division under General James M. Gavin down the Fifth Avenue in New York City.
End of the Persian Gulf War parade
In 1991 more than 8,000 troops marched down Washington D.C.’s Constitution Avenue in a victory parade celebrating the end of the Persian Gulf War. Stealth fighter planes passed overhead while tanks and Patriot missiles rolled by a crowd of 200,000, according to William J. Eaton and Beth Hawkins of the Los Angeles Times. The attendance was below the 1 million-plus spectators predicted to turn out to view the $12 million event. But by that evening’s fireworks display, the turnout swelled to 800,000.
That parade was the largest military celebration since the end of World War II.
Parade for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
On June 8, 1939, Washington and President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a welcoming parade for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Their procession was led by a small group of tanks.
President John F. Kennedy military parade
The inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961 included a parade featuring dozens of missiles as well as soldiers and sailors aboard Navy boats towed along Pennsylvania Avenue, writes Nicole Chavez for CNN.
By the time John F. Kennedy held his inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961, tanks had become a staple of the presidential festivities.
President Dwight Eisenhower’s military parades
Eisenhower had multiple tanks rolling on Pennsylvania Avenue at not only his first (Jan. 21, 1953) inauguration but his second (Jan. 21,1957) as well.
By then, tanks had become familiar components of parades thanks to the numerous victory celebrations following World War II. President Harry S. Truman’s inaugural parade in 1949 featured tanks too.
President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1953 inaugural parade included 22,000 military service members. The marchers were joined by a cannon capable of firing a nuclear warhead. It was “the most elaborate inaugural pageant every held,” according to the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.
There weren’t any national parades commemorating the wars in Korea or Vietnam, or parades to honor veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Trump’s Salute to America event will be unlike anything Washington D.C. has ever seen, with army tanks to be stationed on the streets, military flyovers by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, F-22 fighter jets and possibly other military aircraft.
The annual fireworks display will be held near the Lincoln Memorial instead of its usual location by the Washington Monument.
4th of July “Salute to America”
- Date: Thursday, July 4, 2019
- Time: Gates open at 3:30 p.m. Show set for 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
- Location: Washington, DC, Lincoln Memorial – National Mall
How to watch the 4th of July celebrations
- Free online stream: Watch here on our Facebook page for live coverage of the 4th of July festivities
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