Father’s Day

Grace Golden Clayton

Father’s Day is a relatively modern holiday, so different families have different traditions. These can range from a simple phone call or greeting card, to large parties that honor all of the “father figures” in a particular extended family.

The first observance of a day honoring fathers was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father and suggested that her pastor Robert Thomas Webb honor all of the fathers killed in the Monongah Mining Disaster. This disaster occurred in December of 1907, and killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children.

Clayton’s event was never promoted outside the town itself, and no proclamation of it was made by the city council.

On June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Smart Dodd. Her father, the civil war veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. She was also a member of Old Centenary Presbyterian Church (now Knox Presbyterian Church), where she first proposed the idea. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909 h, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday to honor them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city”.

In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity. In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She gained the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday. By 1938, she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the holiday’s commercial promotion.

Americans resisted the holiday for its first few decades, viewing it as nothing more than an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes.

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak at a Father’s Day celebration and he wanted to make it an officially recognized federal holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.

In 1957, Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father’s Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two parents”. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

D-Day – “Thank God for the United States Navy!”

NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER PICTURE

“Thank God for the United States Navy!”

That quote comes from a very grateful Major General Leonard Gerow, commander of V (5th) Corps, which consisted of the 1st (Big Red One) and 29th infantry divisions that landed on Omaha Beach.

Much has been written about Operation Overlord, the invasion of mainland Europe on D-Day, June 6th,1944, but little has been said about the Multinational Naval involvement (Operation Neptune) and the destroyers that may have saved the invasion.

Omaha Beach was one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during World War II. It was an open beach, some 8,000 yards wide and 400 or more yards deep, and the most heavily defended portion of the Normandy Coast. Unfortunately, landing here was necessary to link the British landing to the east at Gold Beach with the Americans landing to the west at Utah Beach.

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong and inflicted heavy casualties on the landing U.S. troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles, and later landings had to bunch up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits to get off the beach.

Half an hour before the landing, Naval ships sitting 12 miles offshore started shelling the German installations, but the 100 plus American bombers sent in to soften up the area for the landing were hampered by fog. Instead of bombing the German installations overlooking the beach, they bombed further inland, leaving the German beach installations fairly intact.

General Omar Bradley, the commander of the ground forces, sensing the possibility of defeat on Omaha Beach, directed naval destroyers to sail to a point a thousand or less yards off the beach and shell German installations with their 5-inch guns.

This tactic was not new having once before been used during a landing on a Japanese-held island in the Pacific. The landing craft carrying the Marines were grounded on a reef several hundred yards offshore making them “sitting ducks” for Japanese guns. Moving into the shallows, destroyers protected the Marines while they made their way to the beach.

As the destroyers cruised back and forth in the shallows just off Omaha Beach, they took fire from the German artillery, mortars and small arms. They were successful in not only destroying many German emplacements, but also distracting the Germans, thereby reducing the amount of fire the troops were getting, allowing them to move forward off the open beach.

This is why, when General Gerow went ashore to set up the V Corps headquarters, his first message to General Bradley was: “Thank God for the United States Navy!”

Memorial Day

The first commemorative Memorial Day events weren’t held in the United States until the late 19th century, however the practice of honoring those who have fallen in battle dates back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans held annual days of remembrance for loved ones (including soldiers) each year, festooning their graves with flowers and holding public festivals and feasts in their honor.

At the end of the Civil War, the country was still divided and many people tried to think of a way to bring it back together. In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, came up with an idea that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. On Decoration Day, as Logan dubbed it, Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead on both sides “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

American’s embraced the notion of “Decoration Day” immediately and by By 1890, every former state of the Union had adopted it as an official holiday. But for more than 50 years, the holiday was used to commemorate those killed just in the Civil War. It wasn’t until America’s entry into World War I that the tradition was expanded to include those killed in all wars, and Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, with America deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War.

Although the term Memorial Day was used beginning in the 1880s, the holiday was officially known as Decoration Day for more than a century, when it was changed by federal law. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 finally went into effect, moving Memorial Day from its traditional observance on May 30 (regardless of the day of the week), to a set day—the last Monday in May.

Despite the increasing celebration of the holiday as a summer rite of passage, there are some formal rituals still on the books: The American flag should be hung at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, then raised to the top of the staff. And since 2000, when the U.S. Congress passed legislation, all Americans are encouraged to pause for a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.