memorial Day, the annual federal holiday that honors this nation’s war dead, falls Monday, May 25.
The observance, initially named Decoration Day, was first held on May 30, 1868, when Union Army Gen. John A. Logan declared the day an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers.
Twenty years later, its name was changed to Memorial Day, and in 1971 Congress and President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday to be observed the last Monday of May to honor the men and women in uniform who died in all U.S. wars.
It is a custom on the holiday to visit the burial sites of service members who lost their lives in combat, and the day features the placing of wreaths, flowers and American flags on the graves. The president or the vice president delivers an address at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, veterans’ organizations conduct ceremonies and concerts are held where this poem by Moira Michael is often read:
“We cherish the Poppy Red that grows on fields where valor led. It seems to signal to the skies that the blood of heroes never dies.”
Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and it is celebrated across the country with military displays and flyovers and family gatherings that include picnics, barbecues and excursions to lakes, ocean beaches, mountains and national and state parks.
Here in Northern Nevada, residents will have the unique opportunity immediately following Memorial Day to attend flyovers and displays of three iconic World War II military aircraft in Minden and Reno.
The Minden event will be held at the Minden-Tahoe Airport from noon until 5 p.m. on June 1 and 2 and from 9 a.m. until noon on June 3. The planes will then fly to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport where they will displayed the afternoon of June 3, all day June 4 and the morning of June 5. Admission for both shows will be $12 for adults and $6 for children aged 12 and younger.
Coordinated by the non-profit Collings Foundation of Stow, Mass., and named the “Wings of Freedom Tour,” the shows features a Consolidated B-24J “Liberator,” a Boeing B-17G “Flying Fortress” and a North American TP-51C “Mustang.” All three aircraft have been restored to their original flying condition, colors and markings and will fly to Minden and Reno following visits to eight locations in Southern and Northern California during their post-Memorial Day Western tour.
Photos of the aircraft that accompany this story were taken last weekend at the Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana, Calif., by freelance photographer Dave T. Henley.
The U.S. Army Air Force “Liberator,” according to Hunter Chaney of the Collings Foundation, participated in combat in the European and Asian theaters of WWII, later was transferred to Britain’s Royal Air Force, and was discovered in the 1960s abandoned in an aircraft bomber “boneyard” in India. The Collings Foundation bought the aircraft, transported it by ship to the U.S., and restored it to flying condition.
The “Flying Fortress” bomber served as a WWII Army rescue and transport aircraft, was used to fight Western forest fires following the war, was later scrapped and then purchased by Collings and fully restored.
The single-engine Army “Mustang” was brought into service in the early 1940s, served in the Pacific in WWII, and is the only two-seat Mustang ever manufactured, Chaney told the Lahontan Valley News.