Memorial Day endures as a holiday which most businesses observe because it marks the unofficial beginning of summer. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) advocated returning to the original date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in 2002:
In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember at 3:00 PM.
On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
The National Memorial Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the United States Capitol. The concert is broadcast on PBS and NPR. Music is performed, and respect is paid to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.
Across the United States, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities. Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard and Veteran service members participating along with military vehicles from various wars.
During World War II, more airmen died in combat than Marines.
Operation Tidal Wave was an air attack by bombers of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) based in Libya and Southern Italy on nine oil refineries around Ploiești, Romania on 1 August 1943, during World War II. It was a strategic bombing mission and part of the "oil campaign" to deny petroleum-based fuel to the Axis. The mission resulted in "no curtailment of overall product output."
This mission was one of the costliest for the USAAF in the European Theater, with 53 aircraft and 660 air crewmen lost. It was proportionally the most costly major Allied air raid of the war and its date was later referred to as "Black Sunday". Five Medals of Honor and 56 Distinguished Service Crosses along with numerous others awards were awarded to Operation Tidal Wave crew members.
Here is the story of John C. Waldron:
June 4, 1942. The 15 Douglas TBD-1 Devastators of VT-8 launched from Hornet's flight deck in search of the enemy. Before takeoff, LCDR Waldron had a dispute with the Hornet's Commander, Air Group, Stanhope C. Ring, and Hornet CO Marc Mitscher about where the Japanese carriers would be found. Despite having a contact report showing the Japanese southwest of Hornet, Mitscher and Ring ordered the flight to take a course due west, in the hopes of spotting a possible trailing group of carriers. Waldron argued for a course based on the contact report, but was overruled. Once in the air, Waldron attempted to take control of the Hornet strike group by radio. Failing that, he soon split his squadron off and led his unit directly to the Japanese carrier group. Waldron, leading the first carrier planes to approach the Japanese carriers (somewhat after 9:00AM local time, over an hour before the American dive bombers would arrive), was grimly aware of the lack of fighter protection, but true to his plan of attack committed Torpedo 8 to battle. Without fighter escort, underpowered, with limited defensive armament, and forced by the unreliability of their own torpedoes to fly low and slow directly at their targets, the Hornet torpedo planes received the undivided attention of the enemy's combat air patrol of Mitsubishi Zero fighters. All 15 planes were shot down. Of the 30 men who set out that morning, only one—Ensign George H. Gay, Jr., USNR—survived. Their sacrifice, however, had not been in vain. Torpedo 8 had forced the Japanese carriers to maneuver radically, delaying the launching of the planned strike against the American carriers. After further separate attacks by the remaining two torpedo squadrons over the next hour, Japanese fighter cover and air defense coordination had become focused on low-altitude defense. This left the Japanese carriers exposed to the late-arriving SBD Dauntless dive bombers from Yorktown and Enterprise, which attacked from high altitude. The dive bombers fatally damaged three of the four Japanese carriers, changing the course of the battle.