Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have diedarlington in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.

During the first national celebration, General James Garfield  made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants  helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate  soldiers who were buried there. This event was inspired by local observances of  the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three  years since the Civil War. By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities  had begun to observe Memorial Day, and after World War I, it became an occasion  for honoring those who had died in all America’s wars.

Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Venezuela, China and Russia . . . stay out!

President James Monroe’s 1823 annual message to Congress contained the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

Understandably, the United States has always taken a particular interest in its closest neighbors – the nations of the Western Hemisphere. Equally understandably, expressions of this concern have not always been favorably regarded by other American nations.

The Monroe Doctrine is the best known U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Buried in a routine annual message delivered to Congress by President James Monroe in December 1823, the doctrine warns European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or puppet monarchs. The doctrine was conceived to meet major concerns of the moment, but it soon became a watchword of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.

The Monroe Doctrine was invoked in 1865 when the U.S. government exerted diplomatic and military pressure in support of the Mexican President Benito Juárez. This support enabled Juárez to lead a successful revolt against the Emperor Maximilian, who had been placed on the throne by the French government.

Almost 40 years later, in 1904, European creditors of a number of Latin American countries threatened armed intervention to collect debts. President Theodore Roosevelt promptly proclaimed the right of the United States to exercise an “international police power” to curb such “chronic wrongdoing.” As a result, U. S. Marines were sent into Santo Domingo in 1904, Nicaragua in 1911, and Haiti in 1915, ostensibly to keep the Europeans out. Other Latin American nations viewed these interventions with misgiving, and relations between the “great Colossus of the North” and its southern neighbors remained strained for many years.

In 1962, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked symbolically when the Soviet Union began to build missile-launching sites in Cuba. With the support of the Organization of American States, President John F. Kennedy threw a naval and air quarantine around the island. After several tense days, the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw the missiles and dismantle the sites. Subsequently, the United States dismantled several of its obsolete air and missile bases in Turkey.

(Information excerpted from Milestone Documents [Washington, DC: The National Archives and Records Administration, 1995] pp. 26–29.)