Remembering the Fallen in Photographs

One of the most enduring traditions of Memorial Day is the decoration of the graves of fallen service members with such items as flowers and American flags. This annual day of commemoration was at one time referred to as Decoration Day because of this practice.

My grandmother grew up in the deep South, where tradition held that you took an annual pilgrimage to your family cemetery, which in their case required a road trip to southern Arkansas, to clean and decorate the graves of all of your ancestors. This tradition may have inspired the post Civil War movement to decorate the graves of those who died in military service. While the holiday was referred to as both Decoration Day and Memorial Day for decades, Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971 and is now celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Gestures of respect and commemoration on Memorial Day are made in acts both small and large, personal and ceremonial. Gratitude for the sacrifice and service of millions of American men and women takes place in all parts of the world, in countries where service members fell fighting as well as at memorials in the United States. Journey to the graves in Arlington National Cemetery, in small rural cemeteries and in foreign lands, and travel to battlefields and memorials where many are named and remembered through the images below.

Scenes in Arlington Cemetery. Decorating the graves of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. Photo by National Photo Company, 1929 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c00028

Scenes in Arlington Cemetery. Decorating the graves of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. Photo, National Photo Company Collection, 1929 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c00028

Grave decorated on Decoration Day. Photo by Arthur S. Siegel, 1943 June. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d30357

Grave decorated on Decoration Day. Photo by Arthur S. Siegel, 1943 June. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d30357

 

In far off Serbia. Graves of Americans who died while carrying on relief work of America were not forgotten on Decoration Day even in far away Serbia. This picture shows the grave of Capt. Harold V. Aupperle of the American Red Cross, formerly of Junction City, Colorado, who died at Nova Varosh, Serbia on June 14, 1919, while engaged in relieving the suffering of that country. Red Cross workers and Serbians united in placing flowers and flags upon the grave. Photo, American National Red Cross photograph collection, 28 August 1920 [date received]. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.11898

In far off Serbia. Graves of Americans who died while carrying on relief work of America were not forgotten on Decoration Day even in far away Serbia. This picture shows the grave of Capt. Harold V. Aupperle of the American Red Cross, formerly of Junction City, Colorado, who died at Nova Varosh, Serbia on June 14, 1919, while engaged in relieving the suffering of that country. Red Cross workers and Serbians united in placing flowers and flags upon the grave. Photo, American National Red Cross photograph collection, 28 August 1920 [date received]. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.11898

Memorial Day, Arlington, 5/30/24. Photo, National Photo Company Collection, [19]24 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.11495

Memorial Day, Arlington, 5/30/24. Photo, National Photo Company Collection, [19]24 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.11495

 

Graves, U.S. NURSES HONOR JANE A. DELANO. Tributes to the memory of Jane A. Delano, head of the Nursing Service of the American Red Cross who died on duty in France in 1919, were laid on Memorial Day on the spot where she sleeps in Arlington. Miss Clara D. Noyes, National Director of the Red Cross Nursing Service (on left), with the wreath from the American Red Cross; Miss Ida Butler, Assistant National Director (on right), with the wreath from the Alumnae of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, of which Miss Delano had been Superintendent of Nurses, and Mrs. Annie Humphrey (centre), Director of Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick, Washington Division, Charter member of the Jane A. Delano Post No. 344 Nurses of the American Legion, New York, with the wreath from that Post. Photo, American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, 1924. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.15198

Graves, U.S. NURSES HONOR JANE A. DELANO. Tributes to the memory of Jane A. Delano, head of the Nursing Service of the American Red Cross who died on duty in France in 1919, were laid on Memorial Day on the spot where she sleeps in Arlington. Miss Clara D. Noyes, National Director of the Red Cross Nursing Service (on left), with the wreath from the American Red Cross; Miss Ida Butler, Assistant National Director (on right), with the wreath from the Alumnae of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, of which Miss Delano had been Superintendent of Nurses, and Mrs. Annie Humphrey (centre), Director of Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick, Washington Division, Charter member of the Jane A. Delano Post No. 344 Nurses of the American Legion, New York, with the wreath from that Post. Photo, American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, 1924. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/anrc.15198

Gold Star mothers at Tomb of Unknown Soldier. Among the thousands of tribute paid at the Tomb of the Unknown Solder in Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, none was more touching than the placing of a wreath by the Country's Gold Star Mothers. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1927 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.34485

Gold Star mothers at Tomb of Unknown Soldier. Among the thousands of tribute paid at the Tomb of the Unknown Solder in Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, none was more touching than the placing of a wreath by the Country’s Gold Star Mothers. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1927 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.34485

Heroes of battle of Gettysburg paid tribute by surviving brothers-in-arms. Washington, D.C., May 30, Although there are only a few of the boys in blue and gray left, two of them were strong enough today, Memorial Day, to drop flowers from the air on the Gettysburg battlefield to honor their comrades who lost their lives in this historic battle of the Civil War. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1938 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.24682

Heroes of battle of Gettysburg paid tribute by surviving brothers-in-arms. Washington, D.C., May 30, Although there are only a few of the boys in blue and gray left, two of them were strong enough today, Memorial Day, to drop flowers from the air on the Gettysburg battlefield to honor their comrades who lost their lives in this historic battle of the Civil War. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1938 May 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.24682

Memorial Day, Vietnam Memorial, Washington, D.C. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2006 May 29. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.04895

Memorial Day, Vietnam Memorial, Washington, D.C. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2006 May 29. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.04895

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2 Comments

  1. Virginia A Rebyak
    May 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    My last known relative that died in war was my great-uncle Peter Schlick who was killed in action in France in WWI. Prior to that family was lost on both sides during the Civil War.

    What an honor to have family serve in every war and conflict and we humbly pay service to those who gave their lives.

    My life would have been different had my father’s destroyer been hit by Kamikazes as his ship was in most of the major battles of the South Pacific. He developed a tic that remained with him the rest of his life. I can’t imagine the fear of fighting and possibility of losing one’s life but we should always be grateful for them as we wouldn’t be the safest and freest nation in the world.

    May God bless all our vets especially our fallen this Memorial Day.

  2. Ed Coffer
    May 26, 2018 at 12:14 am

    On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th, 2018. We will recall our fallen heroes sacrifice for our country. Those that fought and died for freedom’s cause never to look back or retreat from their duties. Many of those in WWI and WWII are interred overseas. Military cemeteries from Manila to France will also observe Memorial Day. Veterans and families will fill our cemeteries pay respects, decorate graves and reflect. Small U.S. Flags will be placed next to many gravestones. The short version:

    Bivouac Of The Dead By Theodore O’Hara

    The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat The soldier’s last tattoo; No more on Life’s parade shall meet That brave and fallen few. On fame’s eternal camping ground
    Their silent tents to spread, And glory guards, with solemn round The bivouac of the dead. No rumor of the foe’s advance Now swells upon the wind; Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts Of loved ones left behind; No vision of the morrow’s strife The warrior’s dreams alarms; No braying horn or screaming fife At dawn shall call to arms.

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