Memorial Day 1955 — And Today

Three years ago, I posted this piece for Memorial Day. In 2022, the U.S. finds itself in a proxy war in Ukraine versus Russia, and of course U.S. troops are still deployed around the world at roughly 750 bases. Troops remain in Syria as an occupying force; and President Biden recently recommitted U.S. troops to Somalia for reasons that few Americans can comprehend.

In 1955, Ike spoke of peace. Today, war is all we hear; soaring spending on weapons and war is our unquestioned reality. We’ve come to expect a state of permanent war, which means we must also expect more dead troops, a grim reality indeed for any Memorial Day.

Bracing Views

wall The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

W.J. Astore

How far we’ve come as a country.  Consider the following proclamation by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for Memorial Day in 1955:

“Whereas Memorial Day each year serves as a solemn reminder of the scourge of war and its bitter aftermath of sorrow; and Whereas this day has traditionally been devoted to paying homage to loved ones who lie in hallowed graves throughout the land… I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, Monday, the thirtieth of May, 1955, as a day of Nation-wide prayer for permanent peace.”

Permanent peace?  What was that hippie peacenik president smoking?

I find it remarkable that talk of peace in America has almost completely disappeared from our public discourse.  Permanent war is instead seen as inevitable, the price of confronting evildoers around the world.

Yes, I know Ike’s…

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12 thoughts on “Memorial Day 1955 — And Today

  1. Respectfully Lt.Col, it always seems a little incongruent to me in a Nation that has an Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment stating that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion………that the President can proclaim a day to be a Nation-wide day to pray for something. Maybe as an atheist I’m being overly sensitive here.

    The same with on Thursday, May 5th, 2022: President Biden issued a proclamation declaring it a National Day of Prayer – another time this kinda irks me! For me the officially sanctioned National Day of Prayer — goes against the spirit of the US secular Constitution. With a quarter of the US population today identifying as nonreligious, the National Day of Prayer Task Force and evangelicals have hijacked the Constitution. Congress and the President has no business telling Americans when or whether to pray, or much less what to pray about, or to set aside an entire day for prayer every year.

    At worst Ike’s choice of words were unfortunate. I certainly agree that Memorial day is appropriate for paying homage to and mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States armed forces, (and also the brave soldiers of our enemies BTW), but as an atheist I don’t want to be made to feel less patriotic, or less worthy, for not wanting to pray for permanent peace. Again maybe I’m being to sensitive here.

    BTW I feel the same way about ANZAC day in NZ and Australia being hijacked by evangelicals to push their religion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. According to a Pew Study, Dennis, nowadays 90% of Americans believe in some kind of higher power. It may have been a higher % in 1955. So you could argue Ike was speaking directly to the hearts of the vast majority of Americans.

      While atheists don’t believe in gods and may reject the idea of prayer, I think most (if not all) atheists could and would support the idea of an “affirmation” or a solemn pledge to work for permanent peace.

      So perhaps Ike could have said: “prayer and affirmation.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep…I like “affirmation” much better.

        From the Pew Study… https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/. You need to read the whole study!

        In the body of the report it says:

        “Looked at another way, only 54% of U.S. adults think of themselves as religious – down 11 points since 2012.”

        Barely a majority in 2012 – and dropping rapidly. Your 90% number is cherry picking the report!

        It has been proven by sociologists/anthropologists that in polls asking “Are you Religious?”…. a disproportionate majority will answer ‘Yes”. Telling a big fib – because they think its the right thing to do, and they don’t want to be stigmatized.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. an insightful and excelsior response, den. i unwaveringly agree w/ your restivity about the religious crwth, particularly the evangelicals, who have managed to commandeer the aussie and US political zeitgeist in their concerted effort to perpetuate their own narrow-minded, nescient, and ludicrous mythologies.

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  2. Memorial Day remembers America’s War Dead.

    Unless and Until we remember that there are other War Dead [both military and, increasingly, civilian and non-combatant] besides just American, there will be new American War Dead to be remembered with every new Memorial Day.

    And more non-American War Dead to be forgotten.

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    1. How many civilians and other non-combatants have United States armed and other forces killed, maimed, orphaned, widowed and widowered, and/or rendered homeless, helpless, and hopeless since 9/11?

      And how many before that in Operation Desert Storm, and in Central America, and then in Vietnam and Korea before that?

      It would be interesting to see how those numbers compare to Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and Mao’s.

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  3. THE HUMAN COST OF AMERICA’S FOREVER WAR

    At least 929,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan. The number of people who have been wounded or have fallen ill as a result of the conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.

    Thousands of United States service members have died in combat, as have thousands of civilian contractors. Many have died later on from injuries and illnesses sustained in the war zones. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors have been wounded and are living with disabilities and war-related illnesses. Allied security forces have also suffered significant casualties, as have opposition forces.

    Far more of the people killed have been civilians. More than 387,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting since 2001.

    Millions of people living in the war zones have also been displaced by war. The U.S. post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 38 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. This number exceeds the total displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.

    https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human

    Liked by 1 person

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