What is Memorial Day and why is it celebrated on May 30?

(CNN) — Memorial Day, or Memorial Day, honors Americans who died serving their country in wars. It is commemorated annually on the last Monday of May.


Several cities claim to have instituted Memorial Day, but in 1966 Congress declared Waterloo, New York, the birthplace of the holiday.

Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).

Today, it honors all those who have died in war in the service of the United States. It was also called Decoration Day.


May 5, 1866 – Residents of Waterloo, New York celebrate a Memorial Day to honor all those who died during the Civil War. Businesses closed and soldiers’ graves were decorated.

1868 – General John Alexander Logan officially proclaims May 30, 1868, as Memorial Day in honor of Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. Until after World War I, southern states held a separate Memorial Day in honor of the Confederate dead.

1971 – Congress declares Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

December 28, 2000: President Bill Clinton signs the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” which designates 3:00 pm local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance.

When is Memorial Day?

This 2022, Memorial Day or Memorial Day is commemorated on May 30.

American casualties in wars

Civil war

Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

First World War

116,516 Americans died, more than half from the disease.

Second World War

405,399 Americans died.

Korean war

36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam conflict

58,220 Americans died.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm

383 service members died.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

4,410 service members died.

Operation New Dawn

73 service members died.

Operation Enduring Freedom

2,347 service members died.

Operation Freedom’s Sentinel

69 service members have died as of May 2019

Operation by Inherent Resolve

76 service members have died as of May 2019



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